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Artist Interview: Graham Colton
By Elizabeth ChoiPosted: 11/01/2011

Viewers of American Idol can hear his song, “Best Days,” play in the usually, tearful, eliminated contestant’s video reel. Or fans of the television series, Kyle XY, heard his song on the season two finale. Or maybe you caught a glimpse of his performances on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, Today Show, or Live with Regis and Kelly. No matter where his songs are heard, it is no argument that Graham Colton’s influential and heartfelt songs have made their presence in television.

Having recently released his newest album Pacific Coast Eyes Vol. 2, Colton is celebrating by going on tour. But this isn’t just any kind of tour; it is a Go Natural tour. Colton and his band will be traveling across the Southeast in an eco-friendly Chevy Tahoe that runs on compressed natural gas (CNG), which produces 90 percent fewer emission particles than gasoline. Through the Go Natural tour, Colton hopes to entertain, inspire, and educate his fans about the benefits of CNG.

What inspired you to go on a Go Natural tour?

Graham Colton: You know, I would be lying if it didn’t start with my pocketbook. It’s really hard for musicians like me to get the band together and tour the country with the price of gas the way it is. So I started to research what it would cost for me to do that. And in the process of doing that research, I started exploring alternative energies on how I can marry the two ideas… I just got really involved with the natural gas movement, the CNG movement, and I just sort of found out how cost effective it is and how much better it is for not only our environment but for the United States.

How does CNG help the environment?

GC: Well, it’s much cleaner honestly. And it burns much cleaner. And a cool way to think about it is…we have 100 years supply at the very least at the very least scientists’ say [of gas]…The emissions are much better and it really helps our economy. The biggest statistic that was really super staggering to me was that our dependence on foreign oil is equal to one million dollars a minute that goes out of the United States to other countries… What I hope to do is I hope to have musicians who have a voice to kind of be the front runners of supporting this movement.

Your childhood friend is, New England Patriots, Wes Welker, and you were both very accomplished high school football players. It seems like you had a football career ahead of you, what drew you to music?

GC: Well first of all, I was too small and too slow to play at the next level. But honestly, music was always my first love. I used to play every Saturday at a Mexican food restaurant in Oklahoma. I always liked to play on Friday nights but I hated practice. I never had a passion for it the way Wes did.

Where do you get inspiration for your music?

GC: Anywhere and everywhere. I started writing songs from my high school experiences and even when I went to college. You just kind of follow whatever has been happening in your own life. But recently I’ve been starting to write outside of myself which is a really difficult thing for me to do. But it’s been kind of fun…I find myself kind of in the story.

Who are your biggest music idols?

GC: Counting Crows are a huge one, Tom Petty. I was just really lucky because right from the start I was able to go on tour with a bunch of my musical heroes. I became kind of like a musical little brother to my musical heroes.

You’ve toured with some big name bands like Maroon 5, Dave Matthews Band, and John Mayer. What was it all like?

GC: It was a whirlwind just because it was so new and exciting. And I literally watched every single show from all those bands night after night just to pick up anything I could. From then on, I kind of adopted and absorbed a lot of what they do into my own music. So I think forever you will hear an element of those bands in my music.

Unlike many celebrities on Facebook, you respond to every comment left on your wall from fans. Is it important to you to interact with your fans?

GC: I feel like I’m still playing catch-up in the world of Facebook and Twitter, I mean I kind of feel like the last one in the party. From the beginning I thought it kind of “cheapened” the music initially, but I think the most important thing that I’ve learned about it is that if you can use it in a real honest and organic way…the most important thing is to be yourself and the way I be myself is I use it to interact with anybody that write me a message I write them back, or at least I try to. I think it’s only fair if someone takes the time to write me a message I want to write them back and let them know how much I appreciate them. So it’s not necessarily a strategy, it’s just me being myself and it’s just me being real appreciative of people taking the time and want to let them know.

You recently released the album Pacific Coast Eyes Vol. 2, what is the story behind this album?

GC: Well I released the original album in April and I’m an independent artists and I was signed to universal records for about seven years and released two records for them. And you know it was a really great experience but it’s a completely new landscape now for the music business. There are so many opportunities for any artists to do really exciting things. It’s not just, “Hey you got 12 songs, put it into an album,” and you did it. Now it gets to right where I started, like Napster stuff. And I just found myself with three new songs…and now that I’m an independent artist again I was just kind of like, “What the hell”…and it seems like people really appreciate it.

I love your music video for “Pacific Coast Times” but it seemed like a pretty grueling shoot! How was it?

GC: It was the most fun I’ve had but also the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do…I was just very, very clear about not wanting, this time around, to make a typical singer songwriter music video. So, I hired my friend, found a director, myself and my uncle were the executive producer, my wife was the leading lady, my best friend was in the video, my brother was in the video. It was just a really honest, organic was to do it and it just made it a lot of fun.

So how do you feel about your song, “Best Days” being the exit song for eliminated American Idol contestants?

GC: It was just one of those things that’s happened that I never thought in a million years would happen. To be honest that’s usually all of the luck I’ve had playing music over the past ten years playing music… You never know when the stars are going to align for a certain opportunity and your song that you wrote in your bedroom is going to cause it… But the coolest thing that I think as an example is a song on my new album called, “Love Comes Back Around,” which is going to be in a new movie in 2012 called, “The United States of Autism,” and it’s just one of those things that makes what I do so validating and I’m so humbled by having my little song be connected to this amazing movie for this amazing cause. So stuff like that’s incredible and really makes what I do worthwhile.

You’re performing in Atlanta soon. What can concert-goers expect from your show?

GC: Expect the unexpected, because we really try to make things different and unique to each city every night. That’s what I picked up from the Counting Crows and Better than Ezra. You keep it unique every night and that’s what makes it special….We’ll have a set list, but usually I don’t stick to it [laughs]. We’re taking requests.

The Go Natural tour is three months long. What do you miss most about home?

GC: My wife and my dogs. When it’s time for me to go on the road I’m so excited to be out there. I sort of have my mind set on what I want to do and it’s usually so much fun that it does make going home so much better.

Graham Colton performs this Wednesday at Vinyl in Atlanta on November 2. Doors will open at seven p.m. Tickets at $10 in advance and $12 at the door, but Colton will be offering one Emory student a free pair of tickets. These are the two easy steps to win these tickets: Be the first Emory student to like Graham Colton’s Facebook and write “I go to Emory University and I want to have the “Best Day” at your concert!”

— Contact Elizabeth Choi.