Interview: Gavin DeGraw Talks Sweeter Album And Jokes About His Pre-Show Rituals

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Gavin DeGraw’s new album Sweeter came out in September and it has been on constant repeat ever since. The musician who many were introduced to with “I Don’t Want To Be” showcases memorable hits on this new album and I recently got the chance to talk with him about it. For those who loved “We Belong Together” and “Follow Through,” you will without a doubt love Sweeter. The beginning of “Radiation,” “Candy” and overall sound of “Sweeter” and “Soldier” are just a few of the songs that you won’t be able to stop listening to.

During our talk Gavin detailed on his collaboration with OneRepublic’s Ryan Tedder, his favorite songs, his writing process and Gavin also poked fun at himself for his pre-ritual shows. Or maybe I did, but either way it just makes you love the guy even more. So check out the scoop here. He caught me off guard at first asking what songs of his I was listening to at the time (failed to mention I also love his cover of “Jealous Guy”) but diehard fans out there are sure to enjoy what else he had to say. After all, he’s “Ready for round two!”

Your new album Sweeter came out in September. How’s the tour been going?

GAVIN DEGRAW: Touring has been great. We’ve done quite a bunch of shows since about July. Now since of course it’s November there’s a lot of holiday type shows and Christmas shows. And a lot of cool type celebrity show events that Ryan Tedder did and Mary J. Blige.

That’s awesome. You’re going overseas in February right?

Yeah. We’re actually going to go overseas in January to do some promo. And then February after we get started will be the tour.

How is it touring overseas compared to the states?

Well, I love to travel. [Laughs] I’m at the point where I think I’m going to have to develop my own thing where I can just live on the road verse just going on vacation. We’re going to need more drawers and compartments. I spend a lot of time finding clothes that look good but having the underwear at the bottom of the bag. [Laughs] I’m like, “Oh, I’m going to wear a shirt but it’s pretty well wrinkled now.”

[Laughs] Do you have any rituals before you head on to stage?

No, we haven’t done any of those in awhile…But in all honesty there really isn’t a pre-show thing. I’m not much of a pre-show ritual guy. I like to do two things. I’ll have a cough drop before I go onto stage. [Laughs] It’s very Rock and Roll.

Sounds it. [Laughs]

Yeah! I drink tea, a cough drop, a couple of dirty jokes. [Laughs] And then I yodel for about a minute and a half.

Oh, stop. Do you really?

Yeah! These are my rituals. And then I don’t really like to do much of a set up before because I look at a pre-show–if I’m backstage before I go on stage–it makes me nervous. And I don’t want to take the enjoyment out of anything. So it’s almost like shooting a foul shot. You know you have to shoot a foul shot, you get up there on the line and you dribble a few times, then you skim the rim, and you think, “You have to make this, because everyone’s watching me, right?” And then you dribble a couple more times and then you throw up a brick, you know? So I don’t like to do too much of that setup before a show. We discuss what the shows going to be and I go backstage literally a just few minutes before I head to stage. I don’t like that anxiety.

I think that’s what’s so nerve-racking about doing television performances is that TV is so well-organized and there’s so much money on the line that every minute on TV is so valuable. And you always have to get there much earlier than you actually are needed. Sometimes you’re there two hours, four hours, five hours before you actually have to go on stage. And the whole time all that’s happening is that you’re getting more nervous about performing.

Definitely. I can see why you’d just want to head straight to the stage. Now your new album is amazing. What’s your process like when it comes to writing a song? Is it the lyrics first? The melody?

I think it definitely goes both ways. As far as the approach to figuring out which one you are, are you a verses first? Or are you a composing music note first? Never sure which is first, which is which. It’s very transgendered. So it’s hard to figure out what’s what. You know what I mean? You just kind of go at it the way however you’re being inspired to go about it.

As far as the creative process is concerned. Sometimes I’ll start it with just a voice note and just a couple of lines. Like I’m writing a poem, but I wouldn’t call it writing a poem. I write lyrics not poems mostly. I’d be afraid to proclaim that I’m a poet. [Laughs] The critics would like that very much. Yeah, but sometimes you just leave yourself a note with the melodies or something. Sometimes I’ll just write myself a note with a couple of catchphrases or a line. Or even just one word. Anything that’s going to help you inspire this creative idea. And sometimes a song happens in 15 minutes. That’s happened a couple of times in my life. Or sometimes I’m still writing songs that I created as a teenager. I write that right away or some of them take longer to finish.

But this particular album creatively processed was a bit different in that I had a co-writer on the songs of this album. So I wrote a couple of songs with Andrew Frampton who’s worked with The Script, Natasha Bedingfield and I wrote a couple of songs with Ryan Tedder, who’s the lead singer of OneRepublic. He’s worked on a lot of other really huge, huge hit records…There’s a lot of ways that people would have heard of him. [Laughs] Writing with somebody else was really a very, very sort of foreign type experience for me. I hardly ever permit myself to be in a room at any point with anyone else creatively. It got me really gun-shy being in front of everyone.

Well now that you have, is there anyone else you would want to collaborate with?

Oh, yeah of course. I mean the music industry…there’s a lot of people who are there that aren’t necessarily the artist. There’s some really great, great writers walking about. In places like New York City–chill, Nashville, Los Angeles.

What are some of your favorite songs you’ve done? Whether it be from Sweeter or your past albums.

Well, it’s hard to say. I go through moments where I’m most proud of as a writer. For me some songs are–it’s hard to pick favorites–I’ve got some moments I’m proud of as a writer. On the self titled record there’s a song called “Young Love.” I’m really proud of as a writer. There’s that. “We Belong Together.”

Absolutely love! One of my favorites.

Thank you so much. And this album I’m really stoked about songs like “Radiation,” “Soldier,” “Sweeter.” I mean it’s hard for me. They’re my babies.” [Laughs]

And what would you say are your three passions besides music?

My three passions–I love history. Like history of the world and developing cultures. I love night life and martial arts.

Awesome. And just wanted to say I hope you’re feeling better. It was scary to hear about the attack that happened back in August. Hope you’re doing well. 

So good. Thank you. I appreciate it. Ready for round two!

So great to hear! Thanks so much for talking with me. 

No problem. I appreciate it! Thank you, Stephanie.

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