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
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
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
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
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.