By Steve Wildsmith (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Singer-songwriter Graham Colton never forgets the early days of his
career, those nights playing for a handful of people at a Mexican
restaurant when touring with bands like Counting Crows and Better
Than Ezra and artists like Kelly Clarkson seemed like a distant dream.
Since that time, he’s made those dreams come true. He’s
fronted a band that carried his name, been on a major label and written
a song (“Best Days”) that many fans have come to feel
a particular attachment to as an anthem of hope and promise. He’s
heard his songs played on television show soundtracks and in film.
But he won’t forget that restaurant, he told The Daily Times
during a recent phone interview. And his most recent album, “Pacific
Coast Eyes,” is inspired by that time as much as it is the West
“Every album is different, and every project is different, and
for this one, I just knew I needed to get back to basics and think
small again,” Colton said. “It reminded me of before I
was signed, when I was first writing songs and was trying to get as
many people to come out to my shows on a Saturday night as a kid.
These days, I try to treat every person who writes to me on Facebook
or Twitter the same. I just want to connect with these people.”
From the outset, Colton has managed to do just that. In high school,
he was a star quarterback; in college at Southern Methodist University
in Texas, he started out on the coffeehouse circuit, making a name
for himself as a heartfelt singer-songwriter before putting together
the Graham Colton Band. A self-titled demo album caught the attention
of fans and peers, and Colton was invited to open for the Counting
Crows on that band’s 2002 tour. Signing to Universal Records,
the band released “Drive” in 2004, a roots-oriented pop-rock
record that took the group to the next level.
During the band’s tour with Kelly Clarkson, he wrote the bulk
of the material for “Here Right Now,” an album that was
released as a solo effort in 2007 after the breakup of his band. It
was a success — the album debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard
New Artist/Heatseeker chart and No. 4 on the Pop Albums chart; the
song “Best Days” was selected as an iTunes single of the
week and earned him accolades as “Top New Pop Artist”
of 2007 by iTunes editors; and Colton found himself making the rounds
as the musical guest on a variety of late-night talk shows.
“Ironically, I wrote ‘Best Days’ during one of the
darkest times I’ve ever experienced,” Colton said. “We
were still on Universal Records, and most of that time was spent on
the road — about three years of non-stop touring, and while
it was great in so many ways, it was definitely difficult at times.
Going five years and playing almost 250 shows a year is very tough
on each individual guy’s personal life.”
The arduous process of making “Here Right Now” prompted
Colton to break free for his subsequent releases, a handful of EPs
and a full-length released earlier this year, “Pacific Coast
Eyes.” The album’s title comes from the miles he’s
driven over the past several years, and of his precious down time,
when he’d often head toward Malibu and the cobalt waters of
the Pacific to calm his mind.
“The album really became a California-inspired album; even songs
inspired by Oklahoma (his home state) were filtered through California,”
he said. “It was written about characters I’ve never met
before, characters than live in Anytown, USA, and it really brought
me back to where I came from.
“I’ve experienced so many things I never dreamed in a
million years would happen to me, thanks to my music — all these
big career milestones, but I’ve really learned to appreciate
things at the ground level. I’ve really learned to appreciate
the intimacy I get to experience every single night when people in
the room are singing my songs back to me.”