By Richie Frieman
From the start, I knew
I liked Graham Colton. He’s the singer-songwriter type of artist
I’m into. What I didn’t know, is how much BIGGER of a
fan I would become following our conversation just last week. Besides
the fact we had our talk as he paced around the field before the Pac-12
Championship Game (he played “Best Days” during the trophy
presentation of the title game), the guy not only loves football (he
won a state title as QB in high school) but he has unmatched taste
in music… much like myself!
He says “I’ve
always loved the classic artists like Petty, The Beatles and The Eagles,
but I really didn’t get the writing and singing bug until the
post-grunge era, with Oasis, Counting Crows and Better than Ezra…
I was playing the guitar in the garage and the basement with my friends
like every other wannabe musician, but it wasn’t until Oasis
and The Verve and bands like Travis and The Wallflowers that I thought,
this is the kind of music that reminds me of the 60’s and 70’s.
That was when I figured out this is what I want to do, and I will
not stop until I do it.” Excellent.
You know Graham from records like “Here Right Now” and
his hit “Best Days”, but you gotta check out the new offering,
“Pacific Coast Eyes vol. 2”. It’s a great ride in
a new direction from the first volume, and certainly worth your time.
You’ll find a few new tracks in addition to some alternate versions
of existing songs, so check it out. We’ll be following up with
Colton early next year after his latest round in the studio, and likely
catching a few shows on the Spring tour. You should do the same. For
now however, read on for so much more in the answers to the XXQ’s.
XXQ’s: Graham Colton
PensEyeView (PEV): Hey Graham, how’s it going?
Graham Colton (GC): Great Walter, how you doing man?
PEV: Good, good. Thanks for taking the time to answer a few questions…
GC: Thank you – I appreciate it.
PEV: So, where are you
GC: I’m in Eugene, Oregon right now – I’m playing
at the Pac-12 Championship Game tonight. I’m pacing around the
practice facility right now.
PEV: How did I not know that?? That’s awesome! Are you performing
at half time or something?
GC: I’m actually performing when they do the trophy presentation
– I’m going to play one of my songs at the very end. It’s
pretty crazy. Definitely one of those “can’t believe this
is where my music has taken me” kind of moments.
PEV: Wow – this gives me an easy link to a question I wanted
to ask later because it’s not a question I always get to ask:
I’ve read about your personal experience with football (both
laughing)– is tonight the kind of opportunity you look out for,
or did this just kind of fall into your lap (Colton set several passing
records at Heritage Hall School in Oklahoma City, throwing to current
New England Patriots Wide Receiver Wes Welker, eventually winning
the class 2A state title)?
GC: To be honest, I really don’t look out for anything that’s
sports related; I’ve just been lucky to have been asked to do
stuff that, in a roundabout way, incorporates sports. Having done
a lot of stuff like this, I think it may be subliminal or something.
With my background being a high school football player and growing
up in Oklahoma and having that sort of All-American high school experience
– I do feel that all of that finds its way into my songs, even
now. I still write about that time in my life and maybe subliminally,
it connects and puts me on these great adventures. It’s pretty
PEV: I saw that you went to school with Wes Welker, and as soon as
I saw that I was…
GC: Yeah – it’s amazing how my football background comes
up as Wes continues to dominate in the NFL.
PEV: He’s killing me. I don’t have him in any of my fantasy
GC: (laughing) I know, I get a lot of text messages from people saying
“I have your boy on my fantasy team” and all I can say
is keep him.
PEV: Let’s get into some of the music – what were your
inspirations growing up? What was your first concert?
GC: My dad was in a 60’s cover band – he’s actually
still in a 60’s cover band, since college. So that music was
always around the house. 60’s and 70’s I should say –
you know, The Beatles, Petty, The Eagles. It’s a lot cooler
than if my dad was in a disco cover band (laughing). My first concert
was Paul McCarthy at Aarowhead Stadium in Kansas City, during his
world tour. I think my second one was Janet Jackson though, so that
kind of brought me back down to normalcy (laughing).
I’ve always loved the classic artists like Petty, The Beatles
and The Eagles, but I really didn’t get the writing and singing
bug until the post-grunge era, with Oasis, Counting Crows and Better
than Ezra. I remember when I heard “Wonderwall” –
I was like, wow. This will forever change the way I view the acoustic
guitar. I loved Nirvana and I respected Pearl Jam, those kind of hard
rock grunge bands – I just never wanted to do that. I was playing
the guitar in the garage and the basement with my friends like every
other wannabe musician, but it wasn’t until Oasis and The Verve
and bands like Travis and The Wallflowers that I thought, this is
the kind of music that reminds me of the 60’s and 70’s.
The songs are just three and a half minute gems. That was when I figured
out this is what I want to do, and I will not stop until I do it.
PEV: I couldn’t agree more – I maintain that the mid-late
90’s was one of the best times for music.
GC: I hear people tell me all the time that I have a very mid-90’s
sound, and that it would be appropriate for that period. I’m
always like “You’re damn right – that’s a
PEV: You have “Pacific Coast Eyes vol. 2” out now –
what should fans expect from this? Some of that mid-90’s influence?
GC: Vol. 2 is definitely going in the opposite direction of the studio
album. It’s like anything else – it’s a snapshot
of where I am. I have this opportunity now as an independent artist
again to release whatever I want whenever I want and that’s
exactly what I did. I had 3 new songs and 3 alternate versions that
sound more of how we perform them live, and I’ve never had a
chance to do that.
I’ve been doing this close to 10 years and I feel like Vol.
2 is a bridge to what’s next for me. I’m so proud and
fortunate to be where I am but I have this feeling in me that isn’t
quite sure of what’s next for me, in a good way. It could be
a left turn or a right turn or maybe I’ll be exploring a different
sound, and that’s exciting to me. The biggest milestones in
my career have always come from an unexpected place – I mean,
look at where I am now. I would have never expected I’d be on
the 50-yard line singing this song about my life. It’s pretty
crazy. As a writer, you can sit down and write a song, and have no
idea where it’s going to take you.
PEV: Tell us about your creative process to make a record like this.
What kind of environment do you have to be in to make music?
GC: Whenever I’ve tried to sit down with a pencil and paper,
drink in hand or a candle or whatever the hell people do (Walt laughing),
it rarely works out. The song I’m performing tonight, “Best
Days” and “Pacific Coast Eyes” are ones that I didn’t
have the instrument in hand to write them – they were recorded
by cell phone in a rental car. They just kind of fall out of the sky.
I’ve been lucky enough to sit down with some of my heroes and
capture some inspiration with them but rarely does it happen when
it’s planned. It always surprises me.
PEV: One of the members of PEV, Richie Frieman, is a gigantic fan
of Counting Crows and I would be remiss if I didn’t bring up
your history with Adam Duritz. How did that history happen –
going on tour with Counting Crows and more?
GC: It was 2002 – it was a one-of-a-kind sort of experience
where I was lucky to fall into Adam Duritz. I have to give it up to
Better than Ezra as well – they were a band that really adopted
me along with Counting Crows. Adam had his own label for a while and
he’s really, really into finding new music and adopting it and
nurturing it and I think I was in the right place at the right time.
I had some stuff floating around the internet while I was a sophomore
in college. I did one tour with them and then didn’t stop for
a couple years. That has been the backbone for what I’ve done
since then. I remember getting my license when I was 16 and putting
“August & Everything After” in my CD player for my
first drive. To be on tour with them 5, 6 years later was quite surreal.
PEV: We’re really into Counting Crows as well – we were
lucky enough to be back stage during a show they did at Merriweather
GC: I played there one time, actually with Counting Crows.
PEV: Awesome, awesome. We’ve talked a bit about being on the
road – do you have any really good stories from playing on the
GC: I definitely have a bunch of stories from playing with those guys,
of course. All good… of course. We behaved ourselves all the
time like perfect angels (Walt laughing). I remember one of the most
memorable moments with Counting Crows was Halloween night in Atlanta.
We had the worst tour prank pulled on us by them. They put hot sauce
seeds in my microphone so when I went to sing, I was… on fire
PEV: That’s awful!
GC: There was flour or sugar on the drum snare so the minute my drummer
hit the first snare, it was like a big poof (Walt laughing). There
were some other things… let’s just say there were some
other pranks that will have to remain unspoken. It was quite a night
– sold out at the Tabernacle. One of those “how did I
get here?” kind of moments.
PEV: Is there a dream city that you’d like to play in?
GC: There are certainly markets I wish were geographically easier
to get to. One being the Pacific Northwest, the west coast in general
– the mountains are always tough but I’d love to play
in Colorado. I definitely make an effort to play most markets twice
PEV: Moving in a different direction, what can we find you doing in
your spare time, aside from playing/writing music?
GC: I’m definitely a sports fanatic. College football and now
pro football of course is always on in the background. Not being able
to really compete in a sport now, I play tennis a lot now which is
one of those things like golf. I’ve always wanted to enter one
of those celebrity tennis tournaments, so if you hear of one…
PEV: I’ll definitely keep an eye out.
GC: I’m usually just hanging out. There’s definitely a
necessary time away from music that’s much needed to just kind
PEV: You have a favorite college team – Oklahoma?
GC: Of course. Always has been, always will be. I didn’t go
to school there but my family did and being from Oklahoma City, it’s
kind of a religion. And of course, I gotta be bandwagon Patriots fan.
PEV: You’ve played with some amazing people, from John Mayer,
Counting Crows, Maroon 5, Dave Matthews Band– Is there one artist
or group out there that would be your dream collaboration? Why?
GC: Tom Petty for sure. The greatest American rock n’ roll band.
PEV: Is there an up and coming band or artist you think we should
all be looking out for?
GC: I feel like I’m the last to know what the freshest thing
is, but there are some amazing artists out there like Ryan Lindsey
out of Oklahoma. He had a side project that’s now becoming the
main project called Bruncho that is a complete throwback to The Ramones.
Unbelievable songs. The kind of songs I wish I could write. Steve
Moakler, who is currently on tour with me is a great one too. I got
to sing a little bit on his record. I’ve known him for quite
a while now and I think he’s going to be a superstar.
PEV: So, what is next for Graham Colton?
GC: I’ll definitely be out there. I have some recording sessions
in January and February that I would call experimental with a couple
different artists I’ve been working with. I’m not fully
prepared to chat about it yet, but let’s definitely schedule
a follow-up phone call. I have all this stuff floating around in my
head, including a couple songs that scare the living shit out of me
(laughing). But they also excite me, which is a really good combination.
I’ll do that in January and February, but definitely an early
PEV: We’ll definitely schedule that. Well, I really want to
thank you for taking the time.
GC: Thank you man. If you get a chance to make it to a show, please
say hello. Send me a tweet, we’ll get a drink.
PEV: Sounds awesome. Thanks again.
For more information on Graham Colton, check out: http://grahamcolton.com/