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Friday, July 29, 2005

Graham Colton Band hopes new gig drives up fan base
BY BRAD HUNDT, Staff writer

For their debut album, the Graham Colton Band pulled off a seriously good coup: They landed the services of A-list producer Brendan O'Brien.

O'Brien's resume includes time behind the boards for Pearl Jam, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, Rage Against the Machine, the Black Crowes and Stone Temple Pilots. Without a doubt, that puts the Graham Colton Band in pretty exalted company.

"It's kind of like everything else that's happened, it's really good luck," the 23-year-old Colton said, calling Tuesday afternoon on a cell phone from Norfolk, Va. "Brendan, to an extent, doesn't care where the music is coming from or who tells him what to do what. He picks his projects and he connected with us."

The 11-song disc, called "Drive," is appropriately named, since the five-piece group wrote and developed the material on it in the midst of almost non-stop touring. During the last three years, they've opened for Counting Crows, Maroon 5 and John Mayer, and tonight they'll be kicking off the show for "American Idol" winner Kelly Clarkson at the A.J. Palumbo Center.

Pairing Colton with Mayer, Maroon 5 and Counting Crows isn't too unlikely, since they all, to varying degrees, play earthy, unadorned American rock. But opening for Clarkson initially seems a bit incongruous, since she specializes in fluffy pop for a mostly-teenage audience.

But Colton is glad to have the chance to expose his music to an audience that would otherwise be totally oblivious. He explained: "We're playing to kids who are just hearing music on MTV and VH1 or on the radio. We're not on MTV or VH1, but we're getting to play before 10,000 kids each night."

A native of Oklahoma City, Okla., Colton counts bands like Oasis and the Wallflowers as influences, and wrote his first tune while in high school. A quarterback on his high school football team, he attended Southern Methodist University in Dallas with the intention of playing on the university's team, but set it aside after music became his all-consuming preoccupation.

"I never had the passion for sports," he said. "In Oklahoma, you're kind of required to play football."

Then, he added, "It's probably the same in Pennsylvania."

As for the future, there are plans to record a follow-up to "Drive" in the fall, followed by, you guessed it, yet more touring.

"Two vans, four trailers and about 30 flat tires later, a lot has happened to us," according to Colton. "We've lost girlfriends, we've lost friends, we've made friends, we've made girlfriends. But it's all part of the process."