Q&A with Gin Blossoms lead guitarist Scotty Johnson

With Gin Blossoms in town this week following an extensive summer tour, amNewYork had a chance to chat with lead guitarist Scotty Johnson and get his thoughts on touring with Sugar Ray, his early experiences with the group and the “classic rock” label.

Lead singer Robin Wilson refers to you guys as a classic rock band. More than 20 years later, does it feel like that?

I hope it turns into that! Most of the classic rock groups go on forever. I’m friends with Alice Cooper and he totally survived being played on classic rock stations.

You found your way into the group at a tough time in the band’s early career. What was that like?

It was definitely bad for the band. They were making “New Miserable Experience” in Memphis and all of a sudden the rumors starting swirling around that [guitarist] Doug [Hopkins] had gotten kicked out. I got in there and they said, “Look, if Doug sobers up, you’re out.” So it was a little rough. Then, a year later, “Hey Jealousy” [and] “Found Out About You” were big singles and Doug committed suicide. … We’d be on the bus having therapy sessions.

Did you guys get to actually enjoy any of the early success?

A little bit. It wasn’t as hard for me because I wasn’t best friends with Doug, but to see the other members of the band go through it was tough. That’s why we named the second record “Congratulations, I’m Sorry.”

What’s it like touring with Sugar Ray and Smash Mouth?

Steve [Harwell] from Smash Mouth is totally Frank Sinatra. He’s large and in charge. … Mark [McGrath of Sugar Ray] is a TV star. So he’s one of those guys that if we’d be at a café, everyone is staring.