BINGHAMPTON PRESS SUN-BULLETIN

Back to Graham Colton Band

As opener or headliner, Colton stays true to his music
BY SARAH D'ESTI MILLER
Press & Sun-Bulletin

Singer/guitarist Graham Colton wasn't long for his college career at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, where he was majoring in "I have no idea."

The now 23-year-old Oklahoma City native met up with a fellow guitarist known only as Turtle, followed by guitarist Drew Nichols and drummer Jordan Elder, who in turn brought in bassist Ryan Tallent. The Graham Colton Band started to get a following that was boosted by the Internet. One day the call came asking the band to open for Counting Crows, and Colton dedicated himself full time to music.

"I was pretty much going to drop out of college anyway," Colton said. "I was hardly ever there. I played every bar and coffeehouse in Texas."

It was a very different route to success, marked by grueling hours on the lonely road, from the one taken by American Idol winner Kelly Clarkson, who took the fast track to fame as a competitor on reality TV. Colton, however, said that opening for Clarkson on her current tour was the right decision, however unlikely, considering the Graham Colton Band's influences.

"I think that possibly whether we chose to or whether it was planned or unplanned, we definitely surrounded ourselves with acts that have been around a while, I guess," Colton said. "I always considered myself such as fan of early '90s roots rock. But there are so many
things that happen with being on a label. I mean, we definitely hit every bar, every coffeehouse, every theater and every club known to man across the country for the last three years and when we were asked to do this at first, obviously I knew who Kelly was and the
American Idol thing is what it is and I am not around that scene enough to really know what it's all about.

But when we found out that Kelly had a stack of our CDs when she was in Europe and she listened to a bunch of bands and ours was the only CD that she liked, obviously that was very flattering. Then later I got her record, and her vocal ability and her talent speak for themselves."

So Colton and his band got to thinking and came to a business decision.

"I thought to myself, we can continue to play small clubs and have this 'credibility,' or we can go play for 10,000 kids every night who have never heard of the band," he said. "That was kind of a selling point. We can really take our album to an audience who only listens to MTV or the radio. We were given an opportunity to not change a thing that we do. But we are going to be able to play for these kids who are never going to be able to see us in a local bar or club.

"It's the MTV audience without being on MTV. Whether that makes us credible or not, I don't know, but we haven't changed a thing."

Colton has also had a few surprises since his band started touring with Clarkson this spring.

"Once we got on tour we realized from talking to the fans that these kids are the kids that are going to see Dave Matthews and Green Day and Maroon Five," he said. "It's worked out really well. I am proud to say I am on tour with her and she has been beyond generous
to us, and I think that it's weird because from the first day we were on tour with her, nobody talks about the American Idol thing.

"It's one of those things where we have done the club things for so long and we'll continue to do the club thing, but I am one of those artists where I don't give a (crap) what people think. We're playing the same set we did with Dave Matthews last summer and
that's basically what we are doing with Kelly, and that's working out equally well on both sides. And whatever that pigeon-holes us, I'm just trying to play my music."

That music was recently made into a debut album, Drive, in which the band got an assist from producer Brendan O'Brien (known for his work with Pearl Jam and Bruce Springsteen).

"We had so many influences and so many different experiences on the road," Colton said. "Brendan kind of put it all together."

In addition to opening for Clarkson, the Graham Colton Band still headlines its own shows, albeit on a smaller scale -- for now, at least.

"I'm still learning how to be a headliner because we have been openers so long," Colton said. "We've played for two drunks at a bar and for 10,000 people at an arena and everywhere in between, and I am proud of that. Whatever people say about us, whatever they say we are -- because we get a lot of comparisons to (other people or groups) where I just scratch my head ...

"But I don't think anybody can deny how many miles we've put on our band, how many girlfriends we've lost and girlfriends we've made -- it's all part of the process of just trying to get a small piece of this thing that is the music life."

For the time being, Colton has been fielding softball questions from the press.

"Right now I'm getting 'What's your favorite soda?' from the teen magazines," he said with a laugh.

(It's Dr Pepper in case you wanted to know. )