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Ride the Colton train

Colton Band builds its career by touring nonstop

Times Correspondent

This story ran on on Friday, April 8, 2005 12:50 AM CDT

Pairings with the likes of The Wallflowers, Dave Matthews Band, Guster, John Mayer and Counting Crows on past tour packages seem logical given the earthy college rock Americana groove of the Graham Colton Band's music.

That is why their current run across America as the supporting act for "American Idol" pop princess Kelly Clarkson seemed like an odd pairing, even to Colton when he first heard about it.

Signed to Universal Records and having released a handful of moderately aired singles -- "Don't Give Up on Me" and "Cigarette" -- the band has built their career on the road. That said, Colton sees his run with Clarkson as another great opportunity to play his brand of original pop-rock in front of yet another captive audience, and win them over.

The Dallas, Texas-based Colton Band has a strong fan base in Chicagoland, because the Midwest is at the crossroads of every tour. A recent headline tour run last brought the band here on March 4, where 1,000-plus fans welcomed them at the House of Blues.

Colton and his boys bring their guitar-driven, melodic pop-rock and ardent work ethic to the Rosemont Theatre when Clarkson's entourage arrives April 14.

"I know it sounds like a weird mix of music at first, but I think this tour is going to work out very well and I'm honestly excited about it," Colton said, just days before his first date opening for the pretty pop icon.

"The coolest thing about the Kelly Clarkson thing is that she picked us. We later found out that a lot of (artists) with high reputations were up for consideration on that tour and she picked us. It was not only flattering for that reason, but I've been reading up on her and I really have come to respect her very much, seeing how she has evolved from her beginnings to where she is now. She and I are about the same age and, while everyone takes different paths to get where they are, there are a lot of comparisons to what she and I have done artistically in our creative paths."

Colton is clearly very thankful that so many artists have taken him under their wing as they have, and he sees Clarkson as the next one to do so.

"She evidently must like our music and believe that we are a band her fans will enjoy," he said.

"We're not getting a whole lot of radio play with our music, we're not on MTV or VH1, and I don't have my own TV show," he said with a laugh.

"People only know my music because we've had the good fortune to go on the road with some really great artists," he said. "Being out on the road and having the opportunity to play night after night in front of their audiences, is what's gotten us to this point."

Aside from getting to tap into the fan bases of these artists, Colton has learned much about his craft and keeping ahead of the curve from some of the artists with whom he has shared stages.

"Working with these kinds of experienced bands made us realize it takes a lot of dedication and hard work," said Colton, who counts Bob Dylan and Tom Petty among his favorite artists. "Look at those guys, they are always on the road. I find a lot of inspiration in artists who stay out there like they have."

Though born and raised in Oklahoma City, before relocating to Texas in the 1990s to attend Southern Methodist University, Colton feels virtually homeless these days, due to having spent an average of 300 days on the road for each of the last three years.

"We've been out on the road so long, that it feels like I don't have a 'home' anymore," he concluded. "That's OK though, because every day is a new adventure in a new place. We've made some good friends in some of the places where we play often, like Chicago, so there's a little feeling of home in those places."