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