Artist Interview: 1-on-1 with Graham Colton

Artist Interview: 1-on-1 with Graham ColtonThe first time I saw Graham Colton perform was when he was with the Graham Colton Band. I saw them perform at The Patio in Broad Ripple, and I remember it like it was yesterday. It was one of my first concerts as an adult (well, as an adult meaning over the age of 21) and I still have the ticket from that show. I even remember where I sat… anyway, moving on. I have been listening to his stuff ever since, and have been dying to see him perform again. A few months ago I got the idea… let’s contact him regarding an artist interview! I connected with him on Twitter, and before I knew it we were on the phone together chatting about love, life, and the pursuit of happiness. Graham is a very passionate individual, and I am thankful to have had the chance to share a conversation with him. He is one of my favorite musicians out there, and I look forward to seeing him on the road again in the very near future. I am truly honored to introduce you to Graham Colton.

I have been listening to you for a LONG time. I was actually listening to you when you were the Graham Colton Band. What made you decide to just be Graham Colton?

To be quite honest, I started out as Graham Colton back in college; and in high school when I was first writing songs, just because I didn’t really have a band. I didn’t know any guys around town that played bass, drums, and electric guitar. So I always wrote the songs. When I moved to Dallas to go to school, I just found myself wanting to take songs that I had already written and play in a band. My first indie CD was in 2001… I have gone back and forth a few times, but the way it started was just moving. Then I came full circle.

When you age a band on the road, we played over 250 shows for a few years from ’04, ’05, ’06, and you have 5 different personalities. It’s the age-old thing; I’ll just put it this way… I love those guys, we still talk often, and after a certain amount of time we didn’t end up being whom we started. We had some replacement members, and it just didn’t feel like it was the original cast. There was an opportunity for me to make a solo album and I just ran with it.

I LOVE the video for Pacific Coast Eyes. Who is that girl?

That girl is my wife. It was kind of cool. Since I am indie again, I made my first video for Best Days for the last album, and that was on Universal Records. Nothing against that, I think it was totally fine for what it was, but I think this new video is an example of what you can do by yourself with a good creative vision. We spent ¼ as much money as we did on the Best Days video. We hired a great director, a great crew. My uncle is in TV in LA, he produced it. My brother was in the video and my wife the lead lady.

Quite honestly, I was at a place I was tired of seeing all these other videos, including my own, “okay, there’s a guy lip syncing looking at a camera.” As cool as those can be, I didn’t want to do that. I wanted something fun and light. You are making a video for YouTube these days. You don’t have to think about VH1 or MTV. I wanted something entertaining, and make people want to watch to the end… and then tell their friends about it.

You are on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube… how do you have time for all that?

Honestly, the number one thing is I am not that popular yet. It’s not that difficult. When you make it a priority… certain artists overuse it. Certain artists underuse it. Hopefully I am somewhere in between. I do think it’s critically important in the way you use it. I think that my goal with this album, the way I use it, is quality over quantity. I think it’s much more about interacting. I need to have honest and objective conversations.

Do you write all of your own lyrics?

Everything. I do every single thing.

You have played a ton of shows over the years. Does any one show stand out over another?

Oh man, that’s just so tough. I’m still at the stage where even sometimes the bad ones are memorable in someway. The funny thing, and I don’t know why this is, if I am sort of reminded of someone, like you seeing me at the The Patio in Indianapolis, in the thousands of shows that I played I can remember every single one if I am just taken back there. I have had some incredible opening experiences. I don’t think there is anything like that first Counting Crows tour. Going from a college dorm room to opening for my favorite band in New York City. That was pretty spectacular.

I’d say Chicago is one of my favorites, and the crowd is always incredible. Some of the shows at the House of Blues… there is something about Chicago.

What’s the most embarrassing thing that has ever happened to you on stage?

Oh man, too many to count. I have been known to fall off the stage. I have defiantly fallen down or fallen off stage. Fortunately I come from an athletic background and play it off. Hopefully not that many people have recognized that I fell 6 feet off the stage and tumbled to the ground.

I really like Pacific Coast Eyes… but I’m not sure you will ever write a better album than Here Right Now.

I always like hearing what people think about the albums. There is all this talk now, among people in the business that albums are archaic and are going to not going to exist anymore. People are writing and saying that pop culture and the general public don’t want to sit through an album.

Everybody likes different stuff, I have a fan base… if I don’t make a single new fan I have a fan base that appreciated listening to an entire album and it’s a body of work. Getting back to your question, I didn’t want to make Drive Again. I didn’t want to make Here Right Now again. You want to make a new album, a new statement. I have never wanted to sway too far from my previous work. You want to challenge your audience.

I think the difference from my first record, with Drive… it was the band and we were touring. We had 11 songs and 11 songs went on the album. We did that album in 3 weeks. With Here Right Now, I was in the midst of a complete record label shift. I had brand new people that didn’t know me, didn’t know my history, and I was going to make an album with them. They just wanted me to write. What was interesting, with the last album, the songs started to become life-oriented. I was in this place where I didn’t know what was next. I didn’t know what people were going to think; it was my first solo album technically. I was not in a great place, not only with my band but another relationship in my life. I was just in a really weird place.

Where do you get inspiration, in both music and in life?

Anything and everything… anywhere and everywhere. Pacific Coast Eyes came from… I was in LA and I was staying at my brother’s place. He had this bulletin board. The drummer from the Beach Boys made a solo album called Pacific Ocean Blue. His album cover, which I still think is one of the coolest album covers I have ever seen, he looks like a homeless person… but it’s so rock and roll. I was just, in some weird way, inspired by that. I got in my rental car and started humming that first part.

Usually it’s not sitting down with a guitar, light a candle… dim the lights, light some incense and write a song. It doesn’t happen like that.

You seem to post a lot of content on Twitter. How do you think social media, and the Internet in general, has changed the way people absorb music?

I think everyone has his or her own personality. You have to realize, if you already have a fan base, I have to realize that I am going to use social media different than the next guy. Let it remain within your personality. My friend Wayne, who lives here in Oklahoma, he’s the lead singer of the Flaming Lips. He posts crazy, weird stuff that he sees in airports. Or he will post paintings that he will draw with his own blood. That’s the way he uses it. He offers content to his fans that is reminiscent to his personality. With my music, and my personality, that’s the challenge. You want to offer this content.

Whether it’s silly, a blurb, announcement of a tour date, it needs to remain you. You can’t overstep those boundaries. Whether you post ten times a day, or once every ten days… it needs to be you.

You are constantly on the road. Do you ever get bored moving from one city to the next?

Yeah, I have done so much touring. If I am out on the road too long, it’s too much. If I am home too long, that’s too much too. As long as I keep a good balance, that balance is really important to me.

I was looking at your tour schedule, and I don’t see Indianapolis on there. What do I have to do to get you to the Circle City?

We are working on it right now. We have a run in the Midwest. I just sent my guy; we are driving from Oklahoma to Wisconsin. It’s not one of my best markets around.

One of your singles Best Days was featured on Kyle XY. I really enjoyed that show. (It was also featured on American Idol.) When something like that happens, do they contact you or are you pitching your songs to them?

They found it. A lot of those shows that use my songs are all about being in the “right place at the right time”. We are always actively looking for opportunities to get my music out there. But oftentimes they present themselves organically.

You toured with NeedToBreath. How good are they? I think they sound a lot like Kings of Leon, but are better!

They are some of my best friends. We toured together really early on as well. When they were just getting started. I think it’s an amazing thing that our music is so different and our fan base is so similar. We come from the same spot, touring around and playing our music to as many people as we can. It’s come from an organic grounded place.

Football? You don’t look like a football player. But you have a pretty impressive history with the game. Are you still a fan? Do you think there will be a season this year in the NFL?

Especially college football.

Now that I think about it… you have toured with some pretty big names. Do you ever get nervous opening up for these bands?

No, it’s never nervous opening for that group, I’m nervous opening for their fan base. Quite honestly, the most nervous I was before the tour was Kelly Clarkson. I assumed it would be so different. Keep in mind I went from Counting Crows, The Wallflowers, to Dave to Kelly. Some of the harshest critics can be young kids. We are just four dudes playing some pretty simple songs. She was the biggest pop star in the world.

You have released a few EPs over the years. You actually released three of them between Here Right Now and Pacific Coast Eyes. Why focus on an EP and not a full album?

The EPs were a way, a window in to see what I was up to. So many times, like this album, I wrote over 100 songs for this album because I just wanted to keep going. I just wanted to write and write. Sometimes you have to try anything and everything. You have to write four or five songs to get that fit. Those four or five before, usually, no one ever hears them. I just felt like now that I was independent again, I can have an outlet for whatever I want to write for people to listen to and hear it. To hear the stuff that usually lives on my computer.

I think it’s a way to offer that stuff, but also have it be behind the scenes. That’s why I didn’t put them on iTunes, press up hard copies; I’m very aware of those songs needing to exist in a certain way. I want my fans to find those songs and realize that this is behind the scenes, special b-sides.

I know it’s a long time from now, but where do you see yourself in five years?

I think the greatest thing… everything that has happened has really been a surprise. It never happened the way I thought it would. I just hope five years from now there is another surprise. I hope that my music continues to surprise me. I will definitely still be doing it. I am so thankful and thrilled to have the support that I have had over the last seven, eight, nine years. If I can just make my music for my core fans, I’m good.

When this is all said and done, what do you want to be remembered for? What’s the Graham Colton legacy?

Defiantly honest. I think that’s the hardest thing. I want to be known as an honest songwriter. I am getting into that place in my life and career being a songwriter in all sense of that term, being honest is so critically important to me. I have needed to understand the ebbs and flows of being a songwriter. In my opinion you have to be honest. If you want to write a song about this, or that… you just have to do it, in order to put yourself out there.

I think that people… there’s something about music and there’s something about writing a 3:30 song… people are able to sniff you out if you’re not being honest, even if they don’t know you. A true music fan can listen to that song, and I’d be willing to bet in 30 seconds they can sniff out someone who is not being genuinely honest.

I feel like I have made a few missteps, and ways in which I have performed and recorded that I wish I had done differently. I am also really confident that I don’t regret any decisions I have made in any songs that I have written. I just want to be remembered for being an honest songwriter.

In all of the interviews I write I always let the artist get the last word. Go.

Even though I am a pop singer, pop rock, roots rock… whatever you want to describe me as. Recently I have allowed myself to show different sides of my music. Sometimes when you are making a 12-song album, you think, “How does this song go with that song?” If it’s honest, I have allowed myself let the songs be what they are. I believe in them, and if they are honest they coexist. I have been really surprised. A lot of people will come to learn about me. I am not just the Best Days guy. I am not just the guy that opened for Counting Crows.

What I hope people take away is give it a second. Digest the music, and there is something there for everyone. I like to do a lot of different things. I like Ryan Adams, Bob Schneider… they have been able to maintain these incredible careers. They have some that you wouldn’t even think are coming from the same guy. Give my music a chance. There’s something in there for everyone.