'Hitch A Ride On Rock's Breath Of Fresh Air'
'Rock and Roll for a new generation' has been the coined phrase that so many agree best describe the Graham Colton Band. A phrase that lead singer/ songwriter/ guitarist Graham Colton jokingly admits is flattering yet ironic considering his inspirations. “I always felt that our band fit more as a part of the mid- 90’s revival of roots-rock,” says Colton.
The band’s major label debut, Drive is a collection of songs that instantly conveys that undeniable rock and roll appeal. With memorable melodies and earnest lyrics, GCB has drawn comparisons to artists ranging from Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers to Oasis. Produced by Brendan O’Brien (Bruce Springsteen, Black Crowes, Train), Drive, reflects a sound that seems to have been absent for so long.
Chatting recently with Graham Colton himself, I first wondered what those early days like when he would perform his songs in and around the Dallas pubs and coffee houses? ”Well, I gave college a shot, I’ll say that, but I didn’t really make a decision to be a musician. It just kind of happened. I was born in Oklahoma City, Dallas to me was about 180 miles South, so it seemed like a nice fit. It was a big enough city and close enough to home. I actually started dabbling and playing music live when I was in high school which was right around the on-set of the Internet. And that was when it just caught. I mean, I came to Dallas and I already had fans there and I didn’t even know!”
How did it all come together for you there in Dallas? ”Well, I couldn’t afford a band. All the earlier stuff was me and my guitar traveling around the Texas area. And, on the one hand I loved it ‘cause I think I’ll never write such pure songs as I wrote when I was seventeen and eighteen. I just think that I’ll never match the purity of those songs ever again ‘cause I didn’t have all the shit in my head from what was on the radio clouding everything.”
So when did Graham Colton become the Graham Colton Band? ”The band came in when we first left Texas to go on tour with the Counting Crows. I was a sophomore in college at that time. In my freshman year in college I played around town, coffeehouse stuff, but never caught myself wanting to be the latest young singer-acoustic-guy! It just happened, you know! But, I do miss playing alone. There’s something about it that’s inspiring and it would be nice to go back and do that sometimes.”
OK, so you have a self-titled demo, and now your band name is relatively self-titled too … did you ever have any other names for a band that didn’t include your own name?! ”We tried,” he laughs. ”I never wanted it to be this name. I HATE this name! We did try to get certain other names, but they were all taken. But I had already generated some buzz with Graham Colton and so they said to not confuse people and just put ‘Band’ on the end of it! And so, that was that, but I think it’s a really terrible band name,” he laughs again, with a slight pained grimace.
Describe in one short sentence what was going through your head when you were writing these songs:
'Don’t Give Up On Me’ - ”For this song I was thinking of a music video for it as I was writing it. Some songs you just see it happening and if we ever did do a video for that song, I’d want it to be gritty, and grainy, and dirty! It’s like my coming-of-age song!”
’First Week’ - ”It started out as a joke, this song. It’s kind of my only idea song that I’ve ever written. Usually, the music will come first and the idea will come from the inspiration of what that music’s trying to tell me. But for this, I really wanted to write a happy, yet sarcastic song about my really pathetic love life!”
'Cigarette’ - ”I liked the lyrically content of it just because it says ‘you make me wanna smoke a cigarette’ – which is kind of rock ‘n roll, I think – but yet it has nothing to do with smoking a cigarette! I don’t even smoke and I’ve never touched a cigarette in my life, not even once!” [Editor’s Note: The subject of ‘medicinal’ cigarettes is touched upon, but not delved into due to a sudden, and perhaps all too convenient, lapse of memory on Mr. Colton's part!]
Tell me more about your first band paycheck and what you spent it on! ”I know I paid some bills, but I also bought a ’98 Range Rover. I sold it a couple of months after ‘cause it was just pointless as it just sat there. It had a bunch of miles on it, ‘cause trust me, our quote-unquote pay checks are not that large,” he laughs. ”We put most all of it back into keeping us on the road. But yeah, I sold it four months after I’d bought the damn thing.”
What is your game plan for recording your follow-up album? ”This one I really want to experiment with. I wanna just see what happens. The first album was so straight forward, but now we just have a million different ways that we can go. I mean right now I’ve got 40 songs written for it, but a lot of these songs were half finished when I went into the first album. And so we’ve kinda reconnected with them and finished them, but we’re kind of a band that grows, develops and hopefully matures as our fans love to hear B-sides and unreleased stuff. I mean, some of our most famous songs are not even on our CD!”
What cheesy '80s song would you love to cover if asked ... and why?! ”I would say that it probably have to be something from Bryan Adams … or Bon Jovi! It’s just that I get it all the time: ‘You’re the next Bryan Adams!’ I even had one guy say ‘You’re the next Bryan Adams because what music needs now is another American rocker!’ And I was like but he’s from Canada, you idiot!”
If there were just 3 words that described Graham Colton, what would they be? ”Tenascious, honest and sarcastic!”
Finally, if you were asked to record a single for charity, and had to choose 3 other musicians to aid you in the project (using no one from your band!), who would they be, what instruments would they play, and what would the name of the song be?! ”Definitely Adam Duritz from Counting Crows on piano, Tom Petty on guitar ‘cause he’s amazing, and Paul McCartney on bass. And the name of the song would be, well, for some reason ‘We Need Some Help’ comes to mind,” he laughs, one last time.
Interviewed by Russell A. Trunk