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Graham Colton’s going natural with a new tour and CD

October 26, 2011

Graham Colton has not only put out three LPs and six EPs, toured with pop superstars like Maroon 5, Dave Matthews Band and NeedToBreathe, but also considers Birmingham to be a second home.

I spoke with him about his new tour, newfound interest in advocating causes and his newest CD (Pacific Coast Eyes) before he played a sold out show at WorkPlay with Ben Rector on Sept. 23. He will be stopping in Birmingham again on Nov. 5 to play WorkPlay, with Matthew Mayfield opening. Tickets are $12 in advance or $15 on the day of the show and are available here or at the box office.

Clair McLafferty for Birmingham Box Set: Last time I talked to you, you were anticipating your newest album dropping and you were touring. What’ve you been up to since then?

Graham Colton: That’s right! I’ve really just made a point of reconnecting the dots as much as I can and getting back to basics. It’s just felt like an album I wanted to push and support and reinvent for the next couple years. I don’t know why I feel that way, it just makes me feel like when I started doing this, so I’ve just been playing anywhere and everywhere I can, hence playing two shows then coming back on November 5. But I’ve been so fortunate to do lots of other things with music, with songs on TV shows and things like that. I still write a bunch and collaborate, so I’ve just been doing what I can to get it out there.

BBS: How has the new material impacted your performances?

GC: The new material, I think it’s a little bit different vocally for me. Some people might not notice, but there are different spots in my voice I’ve been trying to explore, so some songs are a bit lower, some songs are falsetto, and it just takes the performance into different areas. A song like “Twenty Something,” for example, is super intimate in the beginning and kind of rock in the chorus. It’s a lot different from when I first started out.

The first record we made as a band got me so used to five guys on stage with amps blaring and drums super loud. All of my songs were way up here [raises hand above head]. So I wrote songs thinking about them from the perspective of playing them live with the band, and having to sing louder than everyone else on stage.

Now, I definitely think it’s a mixture of styles. I wanna rock, softly of course, but there are also some moments that I think are a bit more intimate than moments I’ve had in the past. Songs like “Love Comes Back Around” is super important and definitely in the spot in my heart that needs to be intimate.

BBS: You said that during this tour with Ben Rector you’ll be playing fully acoustic sets. How has that impacted your performances?

GC: It’s been a good way to try out new songs. Performing them acoustic really forces you to get to the heart of the song. You can only do so much with an acoustic guitar and a voice. So I think it’s been a good experience for me to play about half full band shows and half acoustic. I think it keeps me kinda sharp. Songs take on different dynamics when they’re acoustic and when they’re performed with a band.

BBS: Absolutely. How has touring with Ben [Rector] affected you as a musician?

GC: You take a little something from every artist you tour with. Ben and I really connect, with both being from Oklahoma, but I think that Ben is super interactive with his fans, and that’s something I strive for, and I think that’s something that he does well. Whether on a Facebook page or live in person, we’re both guys who really care about our fans. It’s nice to notice that he is deeply passionate about making sure everyone has a good time and making sure we connect with them one on one after each show.

BBS: Tell me about the Go Natural tour.

GC: Being from Oklahoma, with one grandfather [being] an oil man, and the other grandfather a car salesman, and me being a touring musician, I just had this idea of what it takes and what it costs and the eco footprint we musicians make when we’re on tour. It’s a lot. I approached a company in Oklahoma City called Chesapeake Energy, which is a natural gas company, about sponsoring my tour and traveling in an all natural gas van. I’m going to basically be releasing blogs, tour diaries, information on the road talking about how much money I save, for one, and the ways I’m trying to do my part not only for the environment but for our dependence on foreign oil, which is a big thing in Oklahoma.

Even a small artist like me can do my part. The statistics are staggering what with America using a very large percentage of the world’s resources. If I can shed a little bit of light to ways we can fix that while still doing music? Awesome. In the process, I’m gonna re-release Pacific Coast Eyes with new material and some alternate versions.

It just felt like it was appropriate to say that while I’m doing this new tour that’s meant to be organic and natural, I went back into the studio to record some more organic versions of existing songs. It gives the fans more stuff, you know?

BBS: How has it been different working with a corporation versus a label?

GC: Totally the opposite. A label controls everything you do, [but] this has been a way more organic process. This corporation out of Oklahoma City is all about doing good for the community and really producing change. We don’t expect to make any money off of this. It’s not the type of venture where they expect me to make them tons of money and vice versa. This is about a message. Tour buses, airplanes, cars—all [those] have a negative effect on our dependence on foreign oil and our eco footprint. I was just like man, it’s in my own backyard, Oklahoma is such an oil-rich place. I’m in this van, it’s super cool.

BBS: What do you hope your fans will take away from the tour?

GC: I definitely want them to leave with a little bit of information. Nothing more than a bit more education than when they got here. I’m not going to be up there preaching, but I also hope that they think I hope they know I want to stand for something. And I want to stand for lots of things. This is just one of them.

BBS: So is this a footstep into working more with causes you feel strongly about?

GC: Yeah, as I get older, I realize more that it’s not about the twelve songs that get put on an album. I do have a responsibility, and I feel like my songs that I write in my bedroom can go off and do these amazing things and can help people. I have stayed pretty neutral, I don’t talk politics, I don’t talk religion, but this and the autism campaign, that one of my songs, “Love Comes Back Around,” is connected with, this is really one of the first things that I’ve proactively gone to someone and been like “This is what I want to do.” That’s a cool feeling. Having this little brain child in my head [and] getting over the fact that I may be a small artist, I may not be selling out arenas, but I can make a difference.