Uncle Kracker, aka Matthew Shafer, joins this summer's Under the Sun tour with Sugar Ray, Blues Traveler and more. (Sheila Springsteen / Special to The Detroit News)
When putting together this year’s version of the ’90s nostalgia outing Under the Sun, Mark McGrath turned to an old friend: Uncle Kracker.
McGrath and Kracker go back to the late ’90s together, when Kid Rock was first signed to Atlantic Records — which was home to McGrath’s band Sugar Ray — and Kracker was Rock’s DJ. They quickly became friends, and McGrath made a cameo in Kracker’s first music video, for his hit “Follow Me.”
They later toured together and stayed in touch over the years. So when McGrath reached out to Kracker over the winter to do this year’s tour, “I said, ‘Well, sure,’ ” says Kracker, who grew up in Mount Clemens and now calls Harrison Township home. “It just sounded like fun.”
Fun — with a heavy dose of reminiscence — is the name of the game at Under the Sun. The lineup includes ’90s hitmakers Sugar Ray, Smash Mouth and Blues Traveler, and even though Kracker’s hits came in the ’00s, his wistful, sun-baked pop fits the light, good-time mood of the evening.
“He’s a guy I’ve always wanted on this show,” says McGrath, on the phone last week from a tour stop in Alton, Ill. “He was the first phone call I made this year, and fortunately we were able to grab him.”
When Sugar Ray and Kracker toured together in 2001, “it was crazy every night,” McGrath says. “When we showed up to work there were three cases of beer and two bottles of booze, and we made sure everything got drank.”
Partying aside, “he’s really one of the nicest guys I’ve ever met,” McGrath says of Kracker. “When we get together, we have such a good time.”
Kracker (real name: Matthew Shafer) has turned to country music in recent years, and is slated to release a new single titled “Endlessly” later this month, which he describes it as a mellow, “kinda-country” ballad. “I think it’s a smash,” says the 40-year-old. “I’m a little biased though.”
While the Under the Sun dates just started, Kracker says he’d be up for another run next summer.
“I wouldn’t pass that up,” Kracker says. “... Any chance you get to play with good people, friends, why wouldn’t ya?”
with Uncle Kracker, Sugar Ray, Blues Traveler and Smash Mouth
7 p.m. Friday
DTE Energy Music Theatre
7774 Sashabaw, Clarkston