Thursday, November 10, 2011

Graham Colton Interview Part 2

Photo by Josh Welch
After a number of years of doing the whole “major label” thing, artist Graham Colton has returned to his independent roots where he began. Colton’s most recent release, Pacific Coast Eyes Volume 2, includes all of Pacific Coast Eyes Volume 1, plus several new songs and remixes. I had the chance to sit down with the singer/songwriter before his recent sow in Atlanta to discuss a number of things including his latest release, embracing social media and future plans for his music. Also, please check Graham's special acoustic performance of "Everything You Are" below! 

For the latest news on Graham, including tour dates, check out

How has the tour with Matthew Mayfield been thus far?

Colton: The tour has been good. It definitely feels like I am kind of re-connecting the dots in a sense, but also there is definitely a new audience that is coming out. Which kind of makes me feel old, but I realized that when I first started I was super young. It’s going really good man.

So is it kind of a younger audience?

Colton: No, you know it’s weird because it is such a wide range of people that come to the shows. Some people know me from my first album, some people know me from the stuff that is floating around the internet and some people know me from the new record. It’s been cool, because I feel like every night when I play, it kind of feels like that whole group is kind of coming together.

Have you heard any specific feedback from the people that first heard about your music via social networking and sites like

Colton: Yeah, for the last six months it definitely feels like I’m sort of reaching people through social media in the right kind of way. I feel like I’ve been late to the game with the whole Facebook/Twitter thing, because I always thought it was cheap. But, when I started really using it and trying to be myself when using it, which is the hardest thing. Some people use Twitter and Facebook, and they are really funny, while others write motivational sayings and stuff. I just never felt like I was either one of those things, and I think I have found a good way to be interactive using social media, but still make it be about the music first. I feel like a lot of people are really responding to that. I really get a kick out of talking to everybody. Anybody who writes me on Facebook or Twitter, I make sure to write them back. If they are going to take the time to write me, I definitely think I should write them back. Which is awesome, because when you are on tour you have the iPhone with you all day and so you get to interact with people constantly.

Has anyone come up to you at a show and thanked you for writing them back on Facebook or Twitter?

Colton: Yeah, I don’t know how cool it makes me. I think it makes me less cool, but that’s okay. I will be less cool to show my appreciation for people that write me all of the time (laughs).

Right now you have Pacific Coast Eyes Vol. 2 out, so the obvious question would be why a second volume and not a new EP? What sparked the remixes?

Colton: That’s a good question, being an independent artist again there really aren’t any rules. I have spent the last six or seven years on a major label where one formula exists. You write twelve songs, you release them every two or three years and you tour on those songs, or you try to get those songs only out there. Now it is a totally different landscape. The new songs that I wrote for volume two didn’t feel like a new EP, they felt connected to what I’m doing now. So I didn’t necessarily do a new thing, I still wanted it to be a part of this new album Pacific Coast Eyes and so far it’s working.

Do you think that the album, Pacific Coast Eyes, didn’t get the shot it deserved?

Colton:  I think as an independent artist, because it isn’t getting major marketing, it is never going to get “the shot.” But, I also think that with albums these days, as long as you are moving forward and not trying to re-create things and looking back, albums are like living breathing things. They change, they evolve and it’s this big thing that you are trying to get out to people. To me, whatever you can do to get it out there, do that.

Photo by Lauren Leone
What are some of the bigger advantages of being an independent artist?

Colton: The biggest thing is that you are in control of everything. You get to call the shots and you have complete creative control. That was certainly instrumental in making the album and writing the songs. There isn’t a person(s) looking over your shoulder saying “well, we really need this to be a single” or “this song needs to lean more towards ‘top 40’,” or “this song needs to be in this certain radio format.” For the most part, it has given me the opportunity to think “small” again. Which I know that sounds counterproductive, because I have been doing these ten years now and I think the idea is to get bigger, and bigger and bigger. Really, I’ve found that the last six months for me, since I have released the album, now that I’ve started to think small and began interacting with people on the ground level, touring more and meeting just one person at a time(Facebook, twitter and in-person). That has really served me well. When you are on a major record label, you’re just forced to think big. You are forced to think about things like “how many radio spins did we get this week?” or “how many albums did we sell across the country. Being independent, you are just focused on the city that you are playing in tonight. How many people can I meet and become friends with tonight. That’s one of the great things about being an independent artist.

Is there anything you really miss, in terms of working with a major record label?

Colton: (laughs) I mean you certainly miss big album budgets. I was nice to have a bottle of wine in the studio every night that I could expense. But to be honest, I do think that the way that I made this album I can kind of hear the passion that I put into this album, not to sound too corny. I really pulled every favor that I could. I sang a lot of the vocals in my friends’ living room and put guitar amps in the closet. There was no big studio and there was no big budget, and I hope that comes through. I hope people really hear that I did it myself. I really did.

How does the writing process pan out for you now, after ten years plus years? Do you have a set process, or is it all over the place?

Colton: It’s all over the place. That is the most exciting thing about where I am. Everything that has happened to me in a good way, I never thought in a million years those things would happen. Now that I have achieved those things, there’s kind of always another mountain to climb. The exciting part about sitting down and writing songs, playing shows, or being a musician in general is that you never know where those songs and that music is going to take you. There’s such a cool feeling about that the phone could ring tomorrow and someone could say “he guess what? your song…” That really is cool.

Are you a continual writer?

Colton: I write all the time. I do find myself kind of having seasons where I just don’t want to write anything, and nothing’s coming out. I’m not inspired by anything.

So it’s never forced…

Colton: Every time I’ve tried to write where it’s pencil, paper, light a candle, glass of wine, or whatever, it just doesn’t work. It always seems to fall out of the sky. I have dozens of memos on my iPhone where I am just singing. “Pacific Coast Eyes” was written in my rental car and I just had most of that idea and I just sang it to my phone.

Did the idea for “Pacific Coast Eyes,” come together in clumps or did it all come together at one time?

I had the girl from the story in my head, before anything else. I just kind of saw her. I saw her packing up her care and driving to the west coast. Then I kind of had the instrumental part and the vocal part, the “ba ba ba” part(laughs) if that makes sense. It is amazing when you try and write songs without an instrument. It kind of forces the melody to be honed it. It has to be good. A lot of what I think are my best songs were made without an instrument.

After this tour what do you have lined up?

Colton: This tour goes until December 17th, so there will definitely be a break for Christmas and the holidays. In January, I have a couple of possibilities lined up. I find myself in this spot of not really knowing what’s next which is really exciting. There are songs that I’ve written that are very, very different…

Different in what sense?

Colton: I don’t know, it’s weird. Different instrumentation, a different spot in my voice, totally different themes that I am writing about and that’s scary and exciting all at the same time. So I don’t know, but I know January is a month where I am definitely going to catch my breath and look at these songs and figure out if they are “Graham Colton” songs, or if they are maybe songs for another project, or whatever that means. It is the first time really ever in my career, where I have thought to myself “these songs are coming from a totally different place, and it scares the living crap out of me.” We’ll see.

Have you ever flirted with the idea of setting up another project?

Colton: Yeah, I have. I’ve just started to flirt with that idea. I’ll just say we’ll see. I just know that the songs that are sticking with me that kind of started out as this exercise, they are just becoming a reality pretty quick. I’m not sure what that’s going to look like yet.

Are the songs looking like they are cohesive?

Colton: They feel like they are all cohesive, they just don’t feel like the songs that I have been writing for the past ten years. I am definitely going to chase it down in January, because that will be a really good time re-examine everything. It’s a good feeling you know.

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