Graham Colton somehow escaped the standard country music calling of his native Oklahoma, making his way, instead, into the wild world of rock. Regardless of the genre, he’s done well enough for himself to make the home crowd proud. After all, though it’s a far cry from throwing long on the field of Heritage Hall School, performing on The Tonight Show (and The Late Show and The Late Late Show and The Today Show and…) is a pretty big deal. Where once he was a quarterback, now he’s a full-fledged rock star.
During college at Southern Methodist University, Colton started gigging around Dallas. He found an eager audience both locally and otherwise, courtesy of the world wide web. Colton’s self-made recordings showcased enough of his talent to land him an opening slot with Counting Crows in late 2002. It seems Adam Duritz caught an earful of his catchy tunes and the rest, as they say, is history… though still in the making. More tours followed with the likes of Dave Matthews Band, John Mayer, Maroon 5, Train, and so on.
Along the way, his albums – including Drive in 2004 and Here Right Now in 2007 – kept building some major momentum thanks to the aforementioned television appearances and some key promo placements of his songs. Once you can count Oprah among your listeners, you’re pretty well set. (She used his “Telescope” tune on The Big Give.)
In 2009, Colton issued a series of EPs in Twenty Something, Pictures on the Wall, and Dashboard Memory. Because NoiseTraders flocked to his page when he offered Twenty Something, he recently decided to put his latest effort, Pacific Coast Eyes, up on the auction block for a very limited time. That seemed like the perfect opportunity to hit him with some questions.
NoiseTrade: How does playing music differ from – or relate to – playing football?
Graham Colton: Wow! You guys really did your research. Hopefully there are no photos floating around. Ha ha! Playing football is way harder because if you mess up, you could lose the game and some of the greatest moments in performing happen when you mess up.
NT: Most of the artists who come out of Oklahoma go into country music (Reba McEntire, Garth Brooks, Carrie Underwood, et al). How did you plant your roots so firmly in pop/rock?
GC: Well, I do have to say we proudly call The Flaming Lips our best band and the guys from the All-American Rejects are awesome. I think Oklahoma has and will always play a major role in my music because it’s where I call home and where I remember my fondest memories. Most of my songs are about young life and love. And growing up in the middle of America, experiencing them both, has had great effect on me.
NT: Your songs are about as radio-ready as they come, and I mean that in a good way. What muses and influences do you draw from in order to craft such accessible little ditties?
GC: I honestly rely on anything and everything. I used to have a bulletin board in high school with photos and notes that I would always look at when writing my first songs. Now, it seems my best ideas fall out of the sky and I’m scrambling to record them into my phone or voicemail. I rarely can sit down, light a candle, and write a song that’s worth a damn.
NT: With all the big tours and television appearances you’ve enjoyed, how does it feel to be living the dream? Does your experience line up with what you read in So You Wanna Be A Rock & Roll Star?
GC: Ya know, I just feel very content in having a slow burn, and I cringe to think of what might have been if I’d done things differently. I’ve been so lucky to have so many great bands take me under their wing (Counting Crows, Better Than Ezra, the Wallflowers) and was able to take away something from each of them. I have said before that I feel lucky to be a product of the old ‘music business’ and still have fans/friends that support me in this new age in music. I’m in a place now as a newly independent artist feeling so inspired and confident in what I can do alone… with the help of great fans and friends.
NT: As an independent artist, which tactics – film/TV licensing, touring, television performances, music giveaways, etc. – do you credit with being the most successful for you in terms of building your fan base?
GC: Honestly, I feel they all have helped equally and I really look forward to the next chapter. Every opportunity I’ve been given has been a surprise. I never thought I’d be anywhere close to where I am now back when I started at 18, but here I am and there’s another mountain to climb.
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