Name: Gavin Shane DeGraw
Date of birth: February 4, 1977
Raised in: The Catskills (South Fallsburg) in New York
Family: Just as his hit song 'I Don't Want To Be' states, Gavin's father, Wayne, was a prison guard, and his mother, Lynn, was a detox specialist. He has a sister and an older brother, Joey, who is also a musician. Gavin and Joey own a music club in NYC named The National Underground.
Marital Status: single
Official Biography (March 2011):
Beloved by fans for his blue-eyed soul vocals, freewheeling melodies, and earthy charm, singer, songwriter, and musician Gavin DeGraw has enjoyed success since breaking through in 2003 with his debut album, Chariot, which sold over a million copies, earned platinum certification, and yielded three hit singles: "I Don't Want To Be," "Follow Through," and the title-track, "Chariot." He followed that up with his self-titled second album, which debuted at No. 1 on the digital sales chart and at No. 7 on Billboard's Top 200 album chart in 2008 (earning Gavin his first Top 10 album and spawning the hit singles "In Love With A Girl" and the gold-certified "We Belong Together." After releasing 2009's Free, a gift to die-hard fans clamoring for recorded versions of his live favorites, Gavin decided it was time to shake things up. "Not only do I love a challenge, but I also wanted something new to sing," Gavin explains. "I've listened to my favorite songs 5,000 times, and I love them, but sometimes it's hard to go home and put on that album and listen to it for the five thousand and first time. I needed to write something I found interesting both melodically and rhythmically and that meant stepping outside my wheelhouse."
On Gavin's new album SWEETER, the New York native experimented with new sounds, thanks, in part, to collaborating with a host of top-notch producers he'd wanted to work with for a while, including fellow groove-minded piano player OneRepublic's Ryan Tedder (Beyoncé, Adele), Butch Walker (Weezer, Avril Lavigne), Eric Rosse (Sara Bareilles, Tori Amos), and Ron Aniello (Barenaked Ladies, Matt Nathanson). "The creation of every song began with an interview to select the right producer," Gavin says. "It was like speed-dating. I'd play them the songs I was working on and ask which ones they liked the best, and then ask them to produce those they were most passionate about."
Gavin took another departure from his usual way of working, enlisting co-writers for the first time, such as Tedder, who co-wrote and produced the album's vigorous first single "Not Over You" (about the struggle to let go of an old flame) and its title track "Sweeter," as well as Andrew Frampton, who has worked with The Script and Natasha Bedingfield. "Co-writing with other people changed everything for me," Gavin says. "Not only did it open my mind to new ideas, but it changed the way I wrote on my own. Playing all these different styles with other musicians led me to think about things differently when I was working by myself. I was able to tap into things I do live, dabbling with some of that late '60s, early '70s R&B stuff, and record all the styles of music that I like and put them on one album. It was great to take the leash off and experiment. Although it doesn't stray too far from what I've done, I think SWEETER is the first album I've made that has caught my true sound, and that was the result of taking risks."
Recorded in several locations, including Tedder's studio in Denver, Blackbird Studio in Nashville, Walker's space in Venice, CA (where Bob Dylan recorded some tracks in the '70s), and the legendary Henson Recording Studios in Hollywood, SWEETER finds Gavin in a provocative mood, which infuses several songs with a potent, swaggering strut on sexually charged songs like "Sweeter" (on which he sings about wanting to hook up with another guy's girl) and one of his favorite tracks, "Radiation" (about knowing a lover is bad for you, but every now and then, you can't resist making that late-night call). "Those songs are designed to be fun while also being truthful. I think a lot of people can relate to the lyric, ‘If you get an invitation, I'm probably drunk,'" Gavin says with a laugh.
"This is the first album I've made where I felt ready to explore the more sexual side of my nature in my music," he continues. "It's not only about my feelings of being in love, although I do tap into those elements on this album on songs like ‘Soldier' and ‘You Know Where I'm At.' This is the funkiest, sultriest record I've ever made. It satisfied a lot of things for me that I wanted to have satisfied musically."
SWEETER's racier moments are balanced out by more emotionally transparent moments, like "Run Every Time," which addresses a reluctance to commit to a relationship, as well as romantic, uplifting songs like "Soldier" and "You Know Where I'm At," which convey a vulnerability while still managing to feel distinctly masculine. "The question for me became, ‘How do you expose your vulnerability without seeming like somebody who gets kicked around, and, at the same time, describe your ability to get past something without sounding cocky," Gavin says. "That's always tricky, because you know you're being judged on the lyrics and they're all very personal." That willingness to explore what's meaningful to him and express it in a universal way is what has made Gavin a compelling artist, one who connects with listeners not only through his recordings, but also through his live appearances. Gavin has toured the globe, performing sold-out headlining shows as well as festivals with a variety of artists. This summer he will hit the road with TRAIN and Maroon 5 for an extensive North American tour in support of SWEETER, and is looking forward to playing the new songs. "I want to take people from the beginning to the end of their emotions, for however long they're with me," he says. "I want to woo people. I do. I want both women and men to love it, because I feel this album satisfies in a masculine way while still having a feminine touch."
Official Biography (March 2009):
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 over-thinking 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, Motorhead). 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."
Official Biography: (2004)
Chariot, Gavin DeGraw's J Records debut, introduces the world to a vital, magnetic young artist whose
abundant talent and charisma are already well known to New York clubgoers. The
11-song collection is a remarkably accomplished and compelling first effort,
offering the same combination of raw emotion and eloquent songcraft that
originally drew hometown fans to the singer/songwriter/pianist/guitarist's live shows. In a remarkably short time,
DeGraw's effortlessly intimate, emotionally intense live performances have made
him the toast of Manhattan's downtown music scene, building public anticipation
for the release of his first studio album.
Gavin DeGraw has maintained a
close and abiding relationship with music for most of his life. Growing up in a
musical family in the Catskill Mountains region of upstate New York, he was
raised to regard music as part of the fabric of everyday life rather than a
remote show-business ideal. He began singing and playing piano at the age of
eight; as a teenager, he experienced a personal epiphany when he discovered Ray
Charles and Sam Cooke, whose combination of personal charm and emotional
commitment struck a chord in the budding musician. In his teens, Gavin played in
cover bands with his older brother Joey, and it was at his brother's urging that
he first attempted writing his own songs. Gavin attended Ithaca College on a
music scholarship, but found himself spending more time in his dorm room writing
songs than attending classes, and dropped out after one semester. He then moved
to Boston, where he attended the prestigious Berklee College of Music while
singing in a rock band and playing solo gigs on the side. Still feeling
restricted by the regimentation of institutional education, he left Berklee
after a year and returned home, where he worked various manual jobs while
hatching plans to follow his muse to New York City. After relocating to
Manhattan in March 1998, Gavin almost immediately began making substantial
career inroads, gradually and organically laying the groundwork for a musical
career. "I kept having small successes," he recalls, "just things like applause
from small audiences, or people saying they'd heard about me. Those tiny bits of
recognition were fuel for me to continue, and made me feel like I was on the
right track." Within a few months of his arrival, Gavin made his way into an
open-mic night at an Upper West Side ballroom, and wowed the
audience to such a degree that the club's owner signed on as his
manager the following day. Almost immediately, word of the talented newcomer
began to spread through New York's music community, and the quality of his
performances lived up to the buzz. Alternating between playing solo at the piano
and playing guitar in front of a rocking band, DeGraw augmented his impressive
originals with impassioned covers of classic tunes like Sam Cooke's "A Change Is
Gonna Come," Marvin Gaye's "Let's Get It On" and Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah."
"When I first heard Gavin perform, after the first song which was ‘More
Than Anyone,' I turned to his manager and said I need to sign this guy
right now," says Randy Sabiston, Senior Director of A&R at Warner Chappell.
"Gavin is a truly special songwriter and as a publisher I didn't need to mull it
over in my head; it was instant, a no brainer." Early on, Gavin was offered a
deal by a major label. Rather than succumb to the obvious temptation, he chose
to decline the offer and continue his development as a songwriter and performer,
while paying the rent by working as a waiter and newsstand clerk. His reputation
- and his audience - continued to grow, and he augmented his club shows
with higher-profile appearances at larger venues like Irving Plaza (where he
opened a special Valentine's Day show for Jonatha Brooke). He eventually signed
the major publishing deal with industry giant Warner/Chappell and released a
homespun six-song indie CD, Gavin Live, recorded on stage at his frequent
In the spring of 2002, following a sold-out showcase
at New York's Joe's Pub, Gavin signed with J Records and began work on
Chariot with producer Mark Endert, whose extensive resume includes work
with the likes of Fiona Apple, Tonic and Ours. Recorded far from DeGraw's East
Village stomping grounds at Los Angeles' legendary Sunset Sound studio, the
album finds Gavin fronting a solid, inventive studio band consisting of
guitarist Michael Ward (Wallflowers, John Hiatt), drummer Joey Waronker (Beck,
R.E.M.) and longtime DeGraw cohort Alvin Moody on bass. Chariot's depth
and focus attest to Gavin's clear vision of his identity as an artist. "I wanted
to create something that was timeless rather than fashionable," he explains. "I
was really concerned with developing a sound that wasn't disposable. I didn't
want to have too much glitter on me." The adjustment from the immediacy of the
live stage to the discipline of the recording studio was an educational process
that gave DeGraw new insight into his own work. "It definitely made me think
about making records differently," he says. "At first I felt out of my element,
because you have to learn the language and the science of making a record. It's
a real process to get to the point where it doesn't sound like it's a process.
We really worked at making it breathe."
Looking past the buzz that's
currently swirling around him, the level-headed artist is keeping his eye
squarely on the big picture. "I'm not that interested in being liked for the
wrong reasons," he states. "I'm more concerned with just getting something
positive out there. And hopefully people will recognize that it's honest and
respond to that, rather than feeling like it's something they've been told is
supposed to be cool. I'd rather be judged by how it makes people feel when they
hear it. Writing and playing songs and making a connection with people - those
things make a lot more sense to me than trying to be the Next Big Thing."