Jordan McGraw on Tattoos, Staying Fit on Tour, and Playing ‘an Unreasonable Amount of Golf’

American Airlines and Mastercard Presents the Opening Show of the Jonas Brothers 'Happiness Begins' Tour, Miami, USA - 07 Aug 2019
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Maybe Jordan McGraw looks a little familiar to you. The 33-year-old singer and guitarist is the son of Phil McGraw, also known as Dr. Phil. But the younger McGraw is making a name for himself: He recently released a self-titled EP, he’s in the midst of a massive North American tour, and a new video for his song “We Should Still Be Friends” drops Nov. 21 at midnight (check out the official video below). If he’s not on your radar, he should be.

We wanted to learn more about what makes this rising star tick. So, we sat down with him to talk about life on the road, his fitness routine, and more. Check out the full Q&A below:

Men’s Journal: Your first solo, self-titled EP just dropped, which is a huge deal. Tell me about the process of making it and which songs you’re most excited for fans to hear.

Jordan McGraw: It was a pretty long process. Not because it was any more difficult than it normally is, but we just did it over a long period of time. And then we were able to test the songs out on tour and let the fans react and pick which ones they wanted. So we got “Lose Your Cool” on there, which I wrote with some guys right at the beginning of the process, which is cool to have on there. And then “Bread and Butter,” which Joe Jonas wrote. He played it for me and I just kind of held him hostage until he gave it to me. It’s been one of the really fun ones to play live. But my favorite one is the single, fortunately enough, called “We Should Still Be Friends.” It’s a crowd favorite. It changed the whole course of my sound and how we reproduced the other two songs—kind of added more of that organic rock vibe. I didn’t know when I heard the song the first time, but you know some of my best friends actually wrote it. They’re in the band called All Time Low. It just sounded right up my alley. As soon as they said, ‘Oh yeah, it’s Alex and Jack from All Time Low. They wrote this song.’ I called them on the phone and I was like, ‘Guys, guess what song I just heard?’

That’s pretty incredible. And I read that you started playing the guitar at age 15. Would you say that’s when your love for music started, or was this something that’s always been of interest to you?

Well, I always grew up with music in the house. Nobody could play it. My parents and my brother can barely turn the radio on. But we always had Led Zeppelin and Tina Turner and, for this time of year, Kenny G’s Christmas album on repeat. That was my mom. I always had music surrounding all the biggest memories in my life. And then when we moved to L.A. when I was 15, I had no friends. So I saved my 500 bucks that I had and went and bought the Tom DeLonge Edition Strat, locked myself in my room, and learned every Blink-182 song that I could. And then as soon as school started, I met a couple of guys that also liked shitty pop-punk music and we got in a room and made as much noise as possible. That’s when I was like, okay, bands and performing: that’s it. No other options.

How would you describe your look? What’s your personal style?

It’s just me. I grew up listening to certain types of bands, which turned into other types of bands. And I think all of my taste in music has kind of influenced my style. I’m not afraid to wear anything, really, as long as I feel comfortable in it. And I think the most important thing about style is just that you feel as good as possible in whatever you’re wearing. So sometimes I just wear sweatpants and a T-shirt, and sometimes I wear a suit with a whole roll of tassel wrapped around it. But either way, man, it’s just whatever the mood feels like.

Do you have a favorite piece from your wardrobe? 

I have a leather jacket from McQueen that you’ll see in the video for “We Should Still Be Friends.” And I’ve started wearing it on stage a little more here and there. But I think that’s probably my favorite piece right now.

Why is it your favorite?

Well I wore it a lot during the video shoot, you’ll see. It got very, very wet on the set. So it’s just one of those things that will always take me back to filming that video and having that much fun—and being that cold. It’s already got some memories attached to it.

What outfits make you feel like you’re most connected when you’re performing in front of a crowd?

I think it depends on the day. Sometimes I’ll just do blue jeans and a white tank and some days I’ll put on a full suit and go out there. It depends on what happened earlier in the day, and what city I’m in, and what the crowd seems like, and all of that. I think the crowd kind of indirectly picks what I’m going to wear that night.

You have two full sleeves of tattoos on your arms. What inspired those, and how many do you have?

I don’t think I can count. People will ask to see a certain tattoo and I’ll pull the pant leg up on the wrong leg. I’ve got so many. I got my first tattoo when I was 18 from a guy called Mr. Cartoon. He’s an absolute legend. And we’ve gotten to the point where I’ll show up without an idea, and just tell him to do whatever he wants and pick a good spot. And it’s just turned into a different form of self-expression, and it has always made sense to me. And I spaced them out. I don’t have any that I’ve just rushed into. They might not have a deep meaning, some of them, but they’re all special to me. They all have a memory attached to them, and they’re all their own snapshot of when I got them.

How do you stay fit?

It’s a little hard to do it on tour as consistently as I would like to. But I use the show as my cardio. I never hold back jumping around and running around in circles on stage. And then other than that, I have a trainer. He sends me workouts to do anytime that there’s a good hotel gym. And I try to do that at least three times a week to keep the weight gain in check. But other than that, this tour, we’ve been lucky enough to have a lot of good weather. So there’s been a lot of sports. There’s a big group of people around, so we’ve been able to put together football games, soccer games. Me and the brothers play an unreasonable amount of golf. We played 81 holes in 24 hours the other day. So it’s not exactly the most leisurely version of golf, but I think the most important thing for me is just getting outside and running around and keeping that excitement so when I do find a gym, it’s a change of pace and another take on staying healthy.

When you’re in the gym, do you typically focus on cardio or weight training?

If I have a gym, I definitely like to take advantage of the fact that there are weights. So I just try to do that three to four times. I don’t want to get too big, so it’s more of a maintenance thing. And I usually do arms and legs—beach muscles. If you do get spoiled enough to have a good gym around you, it comes as a treat. So I just go in there and take my time, and put on good music.

When you’re on the road, sometimes it’s hard to make healthy eating choices. Are you mindful of that?

I do intermittent fasting pretty hardcore. I started doing it for this tour, and I think that has been the most useful change in the way that I approach dieting on tour because you don’t have to worry too much about what you’re eating, if you’re eating it when you’re supposed to. It really just sets that schedule and that and keeps you in check. Intermittent fasting is one of those things where you’re supposed to be able to eat a little bit more of whatever you want, but when I do get to eat, I don’t want to waste that with something trashy or greasy. It actually has made me crave healthier foods. So it’s something that I don’t think I’ll ever not do on tour.

Can you tell me what’s next for you and where do you see yourself in five years?

I will still be on this tour, I think. It’s like the world’s longest tour of all time. But yeah, just more music, more touring. My favorite thing to do is be on stage. We’re already working on new music, and any crowd I can get in front of, I will.

This interview has been edited for concision and clarity.

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