Graham Colton Interview
Author: Chad Bowar
Graham Colton is a name you'll be hearing a lot more from in the future. The talented young musician was discovered by Counting Crows frontman Adam Duritz in 2002, who heard a demo and brought Colton and his Graham Colton Band on tour. Their debut release, Drive is a diverse collection of catchy rock and roll songs. It was produced by Brendan O'Brien, who has worked with some of the biggest names in music including Pearl Jam, Rage Against The Machine, Stone Temple Pilots, Bruce Springsteen and Train. I saw Colton open for Kelly Clarkson, and even though probably 95 percent of the audience had never heard of the Graham Colton Band, by the time they left the stage 95 percent of the audience were Graham Colton Band fans. He has a great stage presence, a lot of musical talent, and to top it off is a really nice guy.
Chad Bowar: You've been on the road nonstop for a while. Does the road life get old?
Graham Colton: It's been about four years. It's all I know. It's how songs happen, it's how I spread my music around. I don't think I could be one of those guys who sits at home on my ass.
You've toured with a very diverse group of bands. Has playing in front of such a wide spectrum of fans helped increase your band's visibility?
Yes. We've been the poster child for openers. It's crazy. Luckily I've been asked by my idols to be an opening act. Counting Crows, Dave Matthews Band, The Wallflowers, the list goes on and on.
Since you've been on the road so long playing the same songs, have they evolved over time in the live setting?
Yeah. When we made the record, Brendan our producer said it was going to be an album that's going to age gracefully with you. I didn't really know what he meant, but now I get it. I don't think of our album as one piece of time, I think of it as an introduction to the band, and you're going to hear something different when you hear us live. You're going to hear an evolution, you're going to hear spontaneity. It's been a fun ride.
How were you discovered?
It's was all the internet. I started writing songs in high school, right about the time of the onset of Napster. I went to college in Dallas, and when I'd get back from class I'd have fans emailing me from different areas of the country asking when the album was going to be out and when I was going on tour. It was crazy, because I didn't even consider myself a professional musician. I just had a couple of songs that I had written in my bedroom when I was 17. I still play those songs live today.
How did your songs get on the internet? Did you upload them to someplace like MP3.com?
I never put them on there. I don't know how they got on the internet. I burned a couple copies of a CD for my friends one night after I played a gig, and that was it. It's amazing to go from four track recorder to being available all over the world.
How were you able to work with such a well-known producer as Brendan O'Brien for your debut album?
He said he was interested, and we said let's go. We didn't talk to any other producer. It all happened so quick. We were on tour at the time. We did it really fast.
How was he to work with?
It was quite amazing, a great experience. He's the sixth member of our band. That's exactly what we needed. We have so many influences, so many different experiences and so many different songs. We needed somebody like him with an outside perspective to put it all together.
Once you got in the studio did a lot of things get changed?
Nothing got changed. A lot just got stripped down. He's famous for making a band sound on tape the way they do live. That's what turned me on about Brendan. It was very honest. It didn't even feel like we were making a record, it felt like we were just playing.
Your debut album has been out for a while now. Do you have a timetable for the second record?
I don't know. I have enough material for a couple albums already. We'll see. The first one happened so quick, I imagine this one will be the same way. It will be soon though, I think. I can feel it coming on. It's time.
When did you realize you wanted to have a career as a musician?
In college, when I realized I could put words down on paper and have people connect with it. That made me want to work harder on my songs. That was when I knew. School wasn't for me.
Do you ever wonder where you'd be today if Adam Duritz had never heard your CD?
Yeah. We don't shy away from who has really helped us out. The Counting Crows especially took a chance on a young band. I could say they let us open for them, but it was more than that. They took us under their wing, he showed me how to write, he introduced us every night, he sang with us every night, we sang with them every night. It was beyond gracious. He was a mentor and a friend.
Are you going to try to do the same thing in the future with other bands?
I would love to if I'm in that position. Even now I get calls from people asking for help, and I don't feel worthy. I don't feel like I've done anything special. But any help I can give anybody I will.
Your music seems to have a lot of different influences, from Brit Rock to classic rock.
I think you mix it all together and it's us. We never tried to reinvent the wheel. I think it's something that I'm still trying to pinpoint as to what I do and who I sound like. It's a work in progress. Every day I have a new influence. Every day I hear something I like. Every day I'm inspired by something.
What are some of those new influences?
A lot of the stuff I like now is alternative country, more roots rock like Ryan Adams and Wilco. I really am inspired by that. I continue to like the British stuff as well. I love the new Coldplay. It's kind of cliché to say that, I realize.
In the four years you've been touring you've played everywhere. Any places you really enjoy?
We love San Francisco, we love Chicago, New York, the south has been great for us. Playing Texas is great because it's our home state. We've played some of these cities 20 or 25 times.
Where haven't you played that you would like to go?
Europe. I really want to go to Europe. With our kind of music I think it's got a European feel to it and would be well received. I think it would be good for us.
Do you have anything strange on your tour rider?
We require a picture of Ethel Merman, just to be kind of weird. We're not cool enough to have some things, and we don't want to ask for too much. We've got some interesting photos of her.
Any tour horror stories?
We've been through 2 vans, 4 trailers and about 30 flat tires. We've missed gigs, we've broken down in the middle of West Virginia. I've almost knocked my teeth out with a microphone and split my lip. I've slipped, I've fallen, all of that stuff.
The Final Five
My parents, just for letting me do this. Not just music, but for supporting me in everything I do. There are so many outside circumstances and variables that have to line up to go after a dream. They've been a huge inspiration to me. I'm a real family-oriented person, which is tough for me on the road.
2. If you could witness any moment in history in person, what would it have been?
The Beatles in Shea Stadium or on the Ed Sullivan Show.
3. Not including family or pets, what is your most prized possession?
I won a bunch of money gambling in New Orleans and went to a pawn shop. I bought a guitar that I now play on stage. It’s a Gibson 330 from the '60s.
4. What is your biggest fear?
Not being able to do this. I've given up so much and sacrificed so much to do this. I've lost relationships, I missed my college experience, stuff I can't ever get back. I would hate to have something happen that would prohibit me from at least trying, like if I lose my voice or get my hand cut off or something. I just want to keep doing this.
5. What is the biggest misconception people have about you as a person?
That I'm not as nice as you think I am. It's a business out here and it's tough. I've grown up a lot. It's not a big party. We do our business first and work hard.
Drive is in stores now. For more information visit the band's official site: http://www.grahamcoltonband.com