Jay Blakesberg Photogrpahy
First car bought
Harwell's dad bought him an old Ford Courier pickup truck, and Harwell traded it for a 1960 Volkswagen Beetle ragtop, which was also the first car he painted. "My father bought me an old Ford Courier, which I chopped the top off and made it my little mini truck. My friend was really into it and he traded me my Volkswagen and that's when I got into Volkswagens. Back in 1989 and '90s, I had the biggest Volkswagen club in Northern California. It was called Club V-Dub."
His VW club would go to all the shows and they wore club shirts and would meet at the bowling alley on Thursday nights. "That's when I started working with metal and stretching fenders and smoothing out dashes in cars," he says. "That's when I first started learning how to weld and my bodywork skills came into play."
Jay Blakesberg Photogrpahy
When Harwell was a kid, he'd take apart his dirt bike and rebuild it. "One of the most interesting aspects of me being a motorhead, my neighbor Joe Wilhelm, he's in the Hot Rod Builders Hall of Fame, would sit there and work the metal, no Bondo," he says. "Joe is really one of the keys to me loving cars. I would walk to school and I'd see him pounding metal. He really inspired me to love cars. Unfortunately he passed from a brain tumor, which a lot of people thought was brought on by using lead on cars instead of Bondo."
Favorite road trip
"My father had a Lincoln Continental, suicide doors, white on black interior, electric windows, all the amenities, and we used to travel every summer to Colorado to see my mom's sister," he recalls. "You'd have five kids and my grandmother and my mom in the car. I think I grew up smoking a pack in the day, by secondhand smoke. Nobody thought about lung cancer."
His father later sold that Continental for $600. "What that car would be worth today. My dad always had cars. We had an old MG. My first hot rod we built was an old '23 T-Bucket with a small-block Chevy in it, black with yellow flames on it." Harwell used to drag race the T-Bucket on the nearby El Camino Real. "Music pays my bills but motors make my life," he says.
Smash Mouth's cookbook and new album
During the interview, Harwell is at his stove making homemade pasta sauce, and he's talking about finding a place with a man cave so that he can fix cars and have friends over at a barbeque pit. "I'd rather have a little shop separate from my house and have my toys. Working on cars is my therapy," he says.
He also enjoys cooking and has written a new cookbook called "Recipes from the Road." The foreword is written by good friend and former Celeb Drive Guy Fieri. "I'm a foodie, that's why I'm cooking spaghetti right now. When I met Guy, Guy was catering a party that I did, and if you ask Guy, he totally ripped my second look off, he'll tell you straight up," he says. "If I still had my spikey blond hair, him and I could be brothers standing next to each other. Guy always wanted to be the rock star and now he is."
The cookbook isn't just recipes from chefs. It also has stories from Harwell's many years on the road. "What I love about the cookbook is with every town and city we've been over the past 20 years, there's a story," he says. "There's some funny-ass shit that happened in those towns. That's what made the book special and that's why Guy was so into it. He was like, 'Dude, I've never seen nothing like this.'"
Smash Mouth's 1997 debut was the hit "Walkin' on the Sun." In recent years the band has also focused on entertaining the troops at bases in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Guam. The new album "Magic" features the band's signature sound. For more info and tour dates please visit www.smashmouth.com.