Gavin DeGraw is a talent, who in just a few short years has become one of today's premier singer-songwriters. He's done it the old-fashioned way, on the merits of his creative abilities, perseverance and a healthy, homegrown perspective, establishing himself as a magnetic, new voice in music. Now, Gavin DeGraw adds a new chapter to his celebrated narrative with the release of his second studio album, the self-titled, Gavin DeGraw.
DeGraw broke through in 2003, with the release of his debut album, Chariot, which awakened music fans across the country to a charismatic, vibrant young artist who connected with audiences in a way other contemporary musicians did not. Selling over a million copies and earning platinum certification, Chariot yielded three hit singles - "I Don't Want To Be," "Follow Through," and the title-track, "Chariot." But it wasn't just the numbers that confirmed DeGraw's popularity. The song, "I Don't Want To Be," was chosen as the theme song for the hit TV show, "One Tree Hill." DeGraw made numerous appearances on television shows like The Late Show with David Letterman, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Live with Regis & Kelly, Last Call with Carson Daly, and others. His songs have often been sung on "American Idol." DeGraw has toured tirelessly, selling out to bigger and bigger audiences every time around.
Gavin DeGraw is a collection of impassioned, emotionally resonant songs about the joys and rigors of love and life. The temptation for anyone who has experienced early success is to mimic that formula for success. But in recording his second album, DeGraw resisted. Instead, he made the bold creative choice to give the album a decidedly more rock-oriented sound, which was rendered with the help of famed producer, Howard Benson (My Chemical Romance, Daughtry Motörhead). DeGraw wrote all of the album's songs, played guitar and piano throughout, and helped in the songs' arrangements.
"My first main love of music was classic rock, and that's always remained my foundation," explains DeGraw, who trained at the Berklee School of Music, before leaving to pursue his music career. "I felt like I had satisfied a lot of the sweeter stuff on my first record, and I want the Yin and Yang of it. I wanted to put a little more edge on it this time. You don't want to always be pigeon-holed as the 'sweet and nice' guy singing 'sweet and nice' songs."
Gavin DeGraw may have more of a rock flavor but it isn't a hard-rock album. It still reflects DeGraw's musical ability to photograph feelings and emotions and deliver it poetically to his audience. Part of DeGraw's appeal is the way he submits to those emotions in his songwriting, and it's one of the reasons why fans love him: his music is the soundtrack to their lives. "I'm so appreciative of the way my fans are with me," he says. "It's funny because when I used to play in bars when I was younger, it would bug me sometimes if people would sing along. Then I thought to myself, 'What?!?' That's when you know they appreciate what you're doing so much, they're willing to sacrifice their own self-consciousness to be in it with you. That's a great thing."
It was at the request of his fans that DeGraw, in 2004, would record a stripped-down, acoustic version of his major label debut - entitled Chariot Stripped - which would endear himself even more to his fans.
Much of Gavin DeGraw is about the ups and downs of being in love - all its enveloping emotions, its pangs, its yearnings, and all its nuanced terrain. "Just to set the record straight, this album isn't about one girl," DeGraw says, knowing he will inevitably be asked the question. "It's about different relationships, my mindset in those relationships and just a poetic reflection of the stuff I've gone through."
The album's first single is the bold, rocker "In Love With A Girl," which finds DeGraw crooning sweetly about the security of being in a relationship. "It's about being with someone who you feel confident in, who feels confident in you, who knows you really well and loves you for what you are," DeGraw says. A quintessential rock jam that amplifies DeGraw's ubiquitous themes of romance, the song is a perfect introduction to the new sound of his latest album.
From the bluesy "Young Love" to the sing-song playfulness of "Next To Me," Gavin DeGraw reveals the singer's remarkable songwriting talents. "Let It Go," is a slower, more mellow but still rapturous love song that, DeGraw says, is about convincing a woman to find comfort in you. "She can let all that's bugging her, let all those stresses disappear," he says. "It's musical comfort food."
On "I Have You To Thank," against the backdrop of a dancing piano riff, DeGraw, in pop balladeer mode, channels some of his longtime influences - soul music, specifically the songs of Sam Cooke, Smokey Robinson and The O'Jays. "When I listened to Sam Cooke for the first time, it changed my life," DeGraw remembers. "He was a master vocalist, and those kinds of songs, the emotional love songs, they bring out the 'singer' in a singer, you know? This was my tribute to that feeling. It's about how you feel when you're totally in love with someone - it feels like new love. That feeling of butterflies and the giddiness - but it's not that I just met you. It's every time I see you, it feels like new love again."
Not everything on Gavin DeGraw is devoted to the positive aspects of relationships. On "Cheated On Me," he sings about the complexities of distance. He sings about the worry that goes through one's mind when a lover is not around. "You can't love and not get jealous. I think jealousy is a natural human emotion. The first verse of this song is about, when someone's not around, is the other person just looking to hold anybody? The second verse wonders whether someone who acts jealous can drive someone else into another's arms."
With this new album, DeGraw hopes to continue the success he's had and, more importantly, continue to connect with his ever-growing audience. "The most challenging part of songwriting for me, and the part that I find the most fun, is trying to write in a way that is personal to me, but also is personal to the audience," he says. "You want people to hear a song and say, 'You know, I feel like I know what he's going through.' To me, that's the art - not just writing something, not just writing something personal, but writing something personal that people can feel." Gavin DeGraw is just that kind of album.