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Graham Colton

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 right now?

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 cool.

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 football leagues.

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 compliment!”

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 Post Pavilion.

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 road?

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 (Walt laughing).

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 a year.

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 of hang.

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 Spring tour.

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.

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