Train's Pat Monahan on Being a Dad, His Grammy Win and Life as a Cartoon Character

Filed under: Celeb News & Interviews

Pat Monahan

Train's Pat Monahan also stars as an animated kid's character. Credit: Kevin Winter, Getty Images

Belting out hit tunes like "Hey, Soul Sister" isn't Train frontman Pat Monahan's only gig.

Since last November, the Grammy winning artist has been dazzling millions of children as the voice of Driver Dan in PBS Sprout's animated series "Driver Dan's Story Train."

"I get so much pleasure making kids happy and entertaining them on a fun and exciting level," Monahan, 42, a father of three (Patrick, 18, and Emelia, 13, from his first marriage to Ginean Rapp and Autumn, 2, with current wife, Amber Peterson) tells ParentDish.

When ParentDish caught up with the performer, we discovered why Monahan is a far cry from the rock and roll guy stereotype. An edited version of the interview follows.

PD: What got you interested in children's programming and starring in "Driver Dan's Story Train?"
PM: When I saw the UK version of "Driver Dan," I was really impressed with the story, the characters and how it involved kids. The network got me involved because it's a story about a train and they were fans of my music.

PD: Do you get a kick out of amusing a young audience?
PM: I love that this program is geared up for kids. I mean, when it comes to art, music and anything visual, I trust children more than adults. Anything that has to do with kids, I am all for. Kids just make it all better.

PD: What's it like being an animated character?
It's hard work, but it is also fun work. It is weird how much fun I have with this job. I am having an amazing time with "Driver Dan."

PD: Would you pursue a role in a big cartoon movie?
PM: I would love to do a Disney or a Pixar movie where I can do a voiceover and even sing in the movie.

PD: Did having a 2-year-old turn you on to this line of work?
Yes. You know, when your children get older you lose touch with how it was when they were younger. Having a 2-year-old changes everything. I mean, we just came back from a week in Hawaii and my daughter made me see the island in a way I never saw before.

PD: When Autumn watches "Driver Dan," does she understand that's Daddy?
PM: Now she does. At first, when the show debuted, she was freaked out and confused. Now she points to the TV and goes, "Dada."

PD: You have had to blend two families together. How would you describe that experience?
PM: Everything is hard. I live a lifestyle where I am away for a long time. As a result, I have to sacrifice control and, for a guy like me, that is incredibly difficult. I want to be the main part for all of my children. However, I credit a lot of our wonderful family to my amazing wife who treats my older children from another relationship like they were her own.

PD: How do your kids handle you being away for so long?
The mom is the biggest part of that equation. My wife supports what I do and makes sure I don't miss a moment in their lives. She'll video tape dance class, take pictures and send them to me and we also Skype.

PD: Would you ever consider recording a children's album?
Yes, I have talked to my manager about it and it's something I would like to do in a few years.

ParentDish: Congratulations on Train's 2011 Grammy win for Best Pop Performance by a duo or group for "Hey, Soul Sister."
Pat Monahan: We really did not expect that Grammy, believe me. It was so not expected.

PD: What was going through your mind when you won?
PM: It was so incredible. We have won a Grammy before, but we never expected this one in a million years. I mean, it was a shock and a thrill at the same time. The funny thing is, we, as a group, have been so busy we almost did not go to the Grammys.

PD: "Hey, Soul Sister" is also nominated for favorite song at Nickelodeons Kids' Choice Awards, airing April 2.
PM: Crazy, huh? That was really fun because we all have children and, because of that factor, we are all so excited to go to that show.

PD: When you release a song that's so successful, how much pressure is there to put out another hit just as big -- if not bigger?
I feel like I need to put out a pretty big record, but it also has to be made in a similar way we made this record. I want it to be made because we love making music.

PD: Many artists tend to write about personal experiences in their music. Was "Hey, Soul Sister" about someone in particular?
It was originally about an event that started in San Francisco, called Burning Man.

PD: You're on tour now.
Yes. The tour will take us to Mardi Gras, South America, Europe and the United States.

PD: Is the band currently recording new material?
We are always working on something. I have written about a third of the new album so far.

PD: When you compose music and lyrics, do you try to make the songs family-friendly?
PM: Since I am a dad, yes, it is important to include everybody. We want to make sure that we are doing it the right way and give families the opportunity to listen to our music together.

PD: True or false: In addition to singing, you play acoustic guitar, mandolin, percussion, saxophone, flute, electric violin, clarinet, trumpet and the trombone, in addition to teaching the ukulele.
PM: (Laughs) I saw that, too, and that is false. I don't know where that came from. I will say I do play a couple of instruments.

PD: You have performed during "Dancing With The Stars," "Dick Clark's New Year's Eve show," the Pro Football Hall of Fame and the Seattle Mariners/New York Yankees game. What haven't you done that is still on your wish list?
"Oprah." I want to be on "Oprah" before her show goes off the air. I want to headline and sell out a concert at Madison Square Garden. I would also love to write a song for a movie and then have it win an Oscar. That would be amazing because then I knew my music made a real impact with audiences.

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.