Musician finds challenge, family on ‘Apprentice’


It’s not often that a local face gets to meet Donald Trump.

However, it probably helps when you’re the front man of Sugar Ray.

Mark McGrath, a Corona del Mar High School alumnus, is one of 12 remaining contestants on NBC’s “The Celebrity Apprentice.

Fighting for his charity of choice, Vh1’s Save The Music foundation, McGrath hopes to help arts programs nationwide.

“I’ve seen it firsthand how it has reinvigorated music programs in schools,” he said. “Now that I have twins, anything that has to do with kids is a big motivator.”

The nonprofit donates musical instruments to public schools. So far, it has donated $47 million and affected more than 1.6 million children.

He wasn’t just excited about raising money. It was also about the challenge, he said.

“They take away assistants and cell phones and it’s like starting over again. We’re like babies again,” McGrath, 43, said with a laugh.

A viable contender on the show, McGrath is quick on his feet and takes initiative when it comes to being an important component to the men’s team, Backbone.

“We worked so well together that we’re thinking about starting a marketing company after the show called Backbone,” he said.

It surprised McGrath how well all the men got along, he said, considering the drama he saw on past shows. However, he asserted, there were some feisty teammates.

“I think the only person that was disruptive on the show this year was Gary Busey,” he said. “His social skills, if you’re not prepared for them, can grate on you after a while.”

One of McGrath’s favorite teammates was Meatloaf.

“Meatloaf is such a patriarch,” he said. “He was so inspirational and motivational.”

McGrath’s father died two months before filming, and he said Meatloaf made him feel like family.

“I don’t think he even knows how much he meant to me,” he said.

Speaking of fathers, McGrath recently welcomed two children into the world. He and fiancé Carin Kingsland had twins, Lydon Edward and Hartley Grace, in April 2010.

To the musician, who still tours with his band after 23 years, they have given him another reason to be grateful for new opportunities that come his way.

“I approach Hollywood a whole lot differently now,” he said. “I’m really appreciative of all the gigs and jobs I have. I’m putting myself out there now.”

On the subject of a wedding, McGrath jokingly said to ask his fiancé, who seems to be delaying nuptials. The two have been together off and on for 17 years.

“She’s my best friend and certainly the love of my life,” he said. “We’ll see what happens in the future.”

Although McGrath no longer calls Newport Beach his home base, he frequently finds his way back to town.

A proud co-owner of A Restaurant on Mariner’s Mile, along with friends McG and Bob Hurley, among others, McGrath never forgets his roots.

“We wanted to make sure they didn’t rip [A Restaurant] down and turn it into a mini mall,” said McGrath, who now lives in Los Angeles. “We wanted to maintain the integrity and the spirit of the Newport Beach that we love.”

He said he also has to make the trip to Newport to let the twins hang out with their grandparents.

As for the show, McGrath is obligated to stay mum about key plot points, but he did have this to say:

“Don’t be fooled by alliances or anyone you think is doing well or not doing well, because the tables can turn.”

That will surely give viewers something to ponder.

“The Celebrity Apprentice” airs at 9 p.m. Sundays on NBC.