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, he has established himself as a magnetic voice in popular music. Now, DeGraw adds a new chapter to his celebrated narrative with the March release of FREE - a raw, organic-sounding collection of songs that showcases Gavin's earthy charm and ever-evolving songwriting talent.
"My intention on FREE was to stay out of the way of the songs," DeGraw says. "We kept the production very minimal in order to get everything that lies between me and the audience out of the way. By removing all the bells and whistles, you really make room for someone to pay attention to the songwriting." As a result, DeGraw's freewheeling melodies, heartfelt lyrics, and soulful, blues-tinged vocal performances are front and center, creating an intimate experience for listeners.
"Lyrically, the collection doesn't really have a theme," DeGraw says. "Just staying artistically viable and being careful not to have any filler material on it is theme enough. But many of the songs are about personal remorse. Others are about how you feel when you're truly in love."
Performed by a seasoned band that includes guitarist Audley Freed (Black Crowes), bassist Andy Hess (Gov't Mule), drummer Charley Drayton (Keith Richards' X-Pensive Winos) and keyboardist George Laks (Lenny Kravitz), the 10-song set ranges from new songs that were completed in the studio, such as "Stay" and "Mountains to Move," to tunes that DeGraw wrote very early in his career that have evolved with him, like "Dancing Shoes" and "Glass." "Those are songs only my die-hard fans would know," he says. "I wanted to properly record them because they're special to the people who've been loyal listeners." There's also a cover of Chris Whitley's "Indian Summer," a powerful number that DeGraw includes on FREE as a way to draw attention to one of his favorite artists. "I wanted to expose Chris' music to my audience," DeGraw says. There's also a new version of "Young Love," which appears on his previous, self-titled album. "I just wanted to do a more acoustic arrangement and take a bit of liberty on the vocal performance," DeGraw says of the re-recording.
To keep himself from overthinking the songs, DeGraw made FREE in less than two weeks at the Brooklyn studio of his producer Camus Celli, who has worked with such artists as Tina Turner, David Byrne and Arto Lindsay. DeGraw and Celli have known each other since working together on an early version of DeGraw's 2003 major-label debut CHARIOT. "I've been in the studio with several different producers so I already knew what I wanted," DeGraw says. "This was my opportunity to be involved in the production and I knew Camus could get the sounds I was going for."
The trust he had in Celli and the collaborative spirit of their partnership freed DeGraw to dig deep and tap into something he hadn't tapped into for a while. "This album reveals the honesty about my love of music," he says. "It isn't about the biggest, the strongest, or the loudest. It's about simplicity in its purest form. It doesn't sound like the big machine. It sounds like where you go to escape the big machine."
The big machine began cranking up for DeGraw after he recorded and pressed his own live CD that sold out at every one of his shows. Shortly thereafter, DeGraw signed with J Records and in 2003 released CHARIOT- an introduction to this charismatic, vibrant young artist who connected with audiences in a way other contemporary musicians did not. Selling more than a million copies, CHARIOT was certified platinum and yielded three gold singles: "I Don't Want To Be," which soared to No. 1 on the Top 40 radio chart, "Follow Through," and the title-track, "Chariot." Thanks to tireless touring, as well as performances on The Late Show With David Letterman, The Tonight Show With Jay Leno and other programs, audiences around the country fell for DeGraw's prodigious songwriting, singing talent and affable personality. In 2004, at the request of his fans, DeGraw recorded an acoustic version of CHARIOT, entitled CHARIOT STRIPPED - which endeared him even more to his devoted listeners.
In May 2008, DeGraw released his second studio album GAVIN DEGRAW - a series 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 repeat that formula, but DeGraw resisted. Instead, he made the bold creative choice to give the album a decidedly more rock-oriented sound, which was created with the help of famed producer Howard Benson (My Chemical Romance, Daughtry, Motörhead). DeGraw wrote and helped to arrange all the songs, and played guitar and piano throughout. The album debuted at No. 1 on the digital sales chart and at No. 7 on Billboard's Top 200 album chart, earning DeGraw his first Top 10 album. It spawned the hit singles "In Love With A Girl," which Billboard dubbed "a rocking homerun" and the gold-certified "We Belong Together."
With FREE, DeGraw hopes to continue his successful run, and more importantly, continue to connect with his fans. To that end, he'll hit the road on March 27th, 2009 for an extensive spring tour he has dubbed his "Where It Began" tour, in which audiences will be taken on a musical journey back to DeGraw's roots for a series of intimate full band and solo performances. "We'll take a similar approach to the live shows as we did on FREE," he says. "This tour is all about creating that very close connection with the audience."