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Graham Colton Band on incline
Opening act learning to be headliners

By Cindy Watts
DNJ Staff Writer

"We're in a big ol' van pullin' a big ol' trailer on the way to Tampa, and I have all the time in the world," says 23-year-old Graham Colton of rock music's Graham Colton Band. "We're still paying our dues."

Colton is a bit modest when it comes to discussing his successes. He may still be paying his dues, but it's a bill that's about to be paid off. During an age when all his friends are graduating college and getting married, Colton says he places his priorities elsewhere.

In recent years, the young Texan enjoyed touring the world with some of the music industry's most recognizable names: Counting Crows, Guster, John Mayer and The Dave Matthews Band. But today, he's learning how to stand on this own two feet as a headlining artist.

He plans to take a few more steps in that direction tonight when he headlines Nashville's Mercy Lounge.

"We're kind of smack dab in the middle of learning how to be a headliner," says the young Colton from behind the wheel of his van. "We've enjoyed being an opener, but hopefully we're on a steady incline."

The singer says he owes much of his current success to the bands for which he spent years opening. Nearly every song on the band's current CD, "Drive," including Colton's current single "Cigarette," was penned backstage at other musicians' headlining show.

"Quite honestly, we were so fortunate and so lucky," he exclaims from somewhere on an interstate in Georgia. "We made so many friends along the way, and it was such a huge learning tool. It gave us a huge creative outlet. We were writing (after shows) and didn't even realize we were writing for an album. We were just sponges, but I guess that's all part of the songwriting process."

However, all the songs on Colton's record weren't conceived in that manner. In fact, one of his favorite songs came about in quite a different way. The singer says he wrote the song at home in about five minutes.

"It's the last song on the record and it's called 'All the World Tonight'," he explains. "It's the only song on the record that wasn't written on the road, and it's kind of questioning what it is that I'm doing. (This career) is definitely strange. It puts a strain on personal relationships, old ones and knew ones, or that's what the song is about to me. It's also one of the first songs I've written that didn't have anything to do with a girl," he says, chuckling.

Colton's struggle with relationships and responsibility isn't an issue he anticipated would plague his fledgling career. Today he tries to find a balance between Graham Colton the man and Graham Colton the singer.

"It's an interesting time for me right now," he says. "It's kind of a coming of age and how I deal with being away from home on this sort of traveling circus. I've been on the road for three years and I feel like I'm 40. I wanna say I've been planning this my whole life, but that sounds kind of corny.

"I think with any kind of self expression it's a process," he continues. "I still don't like hearing my voice on the answering machine. Then people stop me on the street and sing my songs back to me I wrote in my bedroom when I was in high school. I feel like I should be more responsible. They come up and tell me my music changed their lives, that I changed their lives."

As far as his music goes, Colton says it is constantly evolving.

"I think you can hear the rock 'n' roll influence," says Colton. "I've got that middle-America twang. I was born in Oklahoma and I live in Texas, but it's really a work in progress, day by day. People ask me why I'm not on MTV, but I would much rather have a steady growth of career than be a flash in the pan. I'm 23 and I have so much to learn."

Originally published February 10, 2005