"I've never felt more like myself than I have on this album. I found myself, and I finally found my voice," the singer, songwriter and guitarist Graham Colton says of the forthcoming CD, Here Right Now.
Don't call it a simple return. Call it a metamorphosis, a deep progression, an inspired evolution or - perhaps most fitting - a rewarding exercise in self-actualization. Stepping into his own in order to connect to his heart and artistic vision, Graham Colton has emerged with a stunning collection of pop-rock melodies, lyrics and emotions in 12 tracks that swing between love and heartbreak, trials and relief.
"The last album I made with my band was heavily influenced by what we all loved listening to and the artists we toured with. Looking back, it was hard for me to identify who I was as an artist in that situation. I had to learn how to be a performer and a songwriter in my own right before I could find my true self to make the album I really wanted to, which is now completely natural and one-hundred percent honest," Colton explains.
Although it can be said that the power of the story is in the telling, it’s the tale itself that inspires the story to be told. Performance and delivery make up only one half of the equation; the other half is the feeling and emotion that inspires the creation of melodies and lyrics. That substance is the product of lessons learned over hundreds of shows and thousands of miles traveled, and the distance in between.
In the first single, Best Days, Colton sings, "It's a winding road/it's a long way home.” His explanation? "I think that is what the last four years have been in my life, with touring the country and playing everywhere from bars to clubs to theaters to arenas. It was all a great dress rehearsal because I feel like it took that time - and it took those relationships whether they were with girlfriends, band members or meeting other bands on the road - to really find their way into these new songs. They just kind of lived in my suitcase as I was traveling the country, writing the songs, working with people, learning new things and listening to new music. Then it just kind of dwindled down to what I thought were the most honest and pure songs that I have ever written."
Indeed, Colton admits the grassroots elements that run throughout his music harkens back to his humble beginnings in Oklahoma City, where he grew up absorbing tidbits of his dad’s record collection. "My dad was in a 60's cover band, I used to watch them rehearse songs by The Kinks, The Yardbirds, The Beatles. I liked the music, but all I wanted to do was sing with the band," he recalls. He soon got his wish at age 7, when he stood on a chair and belted out “Oklahoma” in front of a packed house. After learning to play the guitar at 12, he started writing his own songs (Colton still considers himself a songwriter first and a singer second), which led to small Saturday night gigs at a local Mexican restaurant, where Colton continued to absorb musical influences such as Counting Crows, Oasis, The Lemonheads, The Wallflowers, and R.E.M
After moving to Dallas to attend Southern Methodist University, a few of the home-recorded tracks from CD’s he handed out at gigs turned up on the Internet via Napster and he started drawing a wider audience to his self-penned acoustic rock. "It was the right time. I didn't even know I had fans let alone songs floating on the Internet. That was the beginning and it was organic. From there more and more people came out to the shows," says Colton, who formed The Graham Colton Band with friends he recruited to play the bigger venues his newfound popularity required.
He soon drew the attention of one of his biggest influences, Counting Crows lead singer Adam Duritz, who got wind of Colton's following and booked the emerging act to open on six weeks of the band's 2002 college tour. A record deal with Universal Republic followed and The Graham Colton Band quickly amped up their tour experience, joining the Crows several more times and hitting the road with the likes of John Mayer, Maroon 5, Train, Kelly Clarkson and Dave Matthews Band.
After three years of constant touring, Colton separated from his band and moved to Los Angeles where he spent a year writing songs and recording with producer John Fields (Switchfoot, Rooney, Semisonic). In the end, he settled on what he feels are the perfect twelve. "Coming off that whirlwind of touring it was very important for me to take a break from all that and literally just retreat with a guitar and it was very necessary for me to just rid my system of any idea, any thought, any possible influence," he explains.
Not included in that purging was life experience he gained from affairs of the heart, including a six-month romance with Clarkson (whom he met while opening her 2005 tour), which landed him in the tabloids. "The whole album is based on relationships, with Kelly and other women who were important in my life," he says.
"Of course, when you have a relationship with somebody how can you not write about that person? Or combine all of them into one super relationship, which is what I basically did. These songs that I have written on this album are not small. These are huge life-changing experiences that have happened to me." Added to this was another split: with his band. On going solo, Colton explains, "I just knew that in order for me to make the kind of album that I needed to make I needed to be one-hundred percent on my own. That is why it is so emotional. Every one of these songs is gut wrenching for me. “ The contents of this emotional epiphany would prove to be the recurring thread that connects all of the songs on the album. Perhaps nothing describes the title of the album, Here Right Now, and this underlying theme better than the chorus of Best Days. ”Don’t wait / for someone to tell you its too late, Cause these are the Best Days, There’s always / something tomorrow so I say, Let’s make the best of tonight, here comes the rest of our lives”.
Besides the recording of Best Days - a "huge moment," Colton says, that defined the entire direction of the album – Here Right Now also includes "Cellophane Girl," written at the age of 17 and which became one of his early Internet hits, as well as the soaring "On Your Side," a relationship-on-the-mend track showcasing Colton's flare for depicting heartbreak through the realm of hope. "The song says that it didn't work but it's okay. I'm kind of moving on and there's no regret and no hard feelings. I think that was definitely a song about everything - from my band members to past managers and every relationship that was involved in my life that is no longer. I have no regrets and no hard feelings whatsoever but it's time to move on." Other memorable tracks following this framework include the anthemic "You Find A Way" and raucous "Always In Love."
Although it took coming back to his roots in all senses, to go forward, he hopes his work on Here Right Now transcends the moments he used as inspiration and reflected upon. "As far as dynamics, there is a great feeling and a quiet sense of confidence that I have done it all by myself," he says. "My plan is to just kind of let it happen. Ultimately it forces me to connect with what I'm saying every time I strum these songs. I feel that I’ve honed in on what my sound is. Hopefully, it’s a sound that’s all my own."