Over the span of 14 years that has included five records, eight EP’s and a live release, Graham Colton has become one of the most respected, yet unheralded song writers in the music industry, crafting songs like Best Days, Sending a Note, All the World Tonight and Wide Open Inside.
His last record titled Pacific Coast Eyes was released in 2010 and won over critics. It was largely considered to be his best work to date so when Colton decided to follow up on the momentum of Pacific Coast Eyes what did he decide to do?
Drop the guitar and hand over his music to outside influences, ad-lib his lyrics and to sing about a serial killer instead of love.
Hey, everyone needs to mix it up once in awhile and sometimes you need to step back and be receptive when someone says “more cowbells.”
Colton’s latest release titled Lonely Ones has gone where no Graham Colton record has gone before and the finished product is as creative as a classic Saturday Night Live skit.
Lonely Ones was released on Jan. 21 and can be purchased on iTunes or at Grahamcoltonmusic.com.
“I think a lot of people that have grown up with my music are close to my age and they have changed their musical tastes,” Colton said. “They’re listening to different music than what they were listening to five years ago and this record, no pun intended, really struck a chord.”
Colton said his goal when making Lonely Ones was to tap into new sounds and styles that would inspire creativity. He realized, after some reluctance, that the only way he could go in a different direction was to take his hands off the steering wheel.
So gone are the acoustic sounds of songs like "Love Comes Back Around" and "Everything You Are".
They have been replaced by newer guitar and keyboard driven tracks that he hopes will please his existing fan base while expanding it.
“It really has been well received but I’ve also heard from a fair share of people who say they don’t understand all of it. There are certain songs that are a pretty big departure from what I’ve done in the past,” Colton said. ”Some people like it the way it was and I understand that way of thinking. For me, it was a necessary step. I needed to try new things and stretch out as far as I could go and I think I’ve done that for better or worse.”
For Colton, who is now 32, the change was needed. In October of 2013 his wife gave birth to their first child. His life experiences and his musical tastes have changed.
“I knew I couldn’t make the same record again,” he said. “When I sat down with a guitar and strummed the chords I didn’t like what was coming out, it didn’t inspire me. Everything just kind of felt like it was in the past. It felt like things I had done before.”
Colton said the new songs are about different characters and not himself, which is a change since much of the older material has been autobiographical and that’s a good thing because the song Born to Raise Hell is about a serial killer.
The song was inspired by a story Chad Copelin (co-producer) told about his father, who picked up a hitchhiker in the 70’s.
The hitchhiker turned out to be Richard Speck, a serial killer.
“The way he knew the guy he picked up was the serial killer was the big tattoo on his right arm that said ‘born to raise hell,’” Colton said.
“I ended up doing all this research on him because I wondered what happened in this guy’s life to make him become this horrible person. The lyrics just poured out and it was like that was meant to be that song.”
The first track on the record is titled, "Mixed Up" and serves as an alarm clock to let the listener know Lonely Ones is going in a new direction.
"Funeral" is another standout track. The song’s roots began when Colton found out he was going to be a father and that thought caused him to take a look at mortality. It also served as an example of how he ad-libbed the lyrics.
Looking down on your funeral at everyone who wants to wish you well when you were young and innocent and you could sleep inside your head, the water falling down the bedroom walls, looking down on your funeral.
“The phrase the water falling down the bedroom walls doesn’t make a lot of sense but some of my favorite songs of all-time, I couldn’t understand what the hell they were talking about,” Colton said with a laugh.
"Hands Untied" is the song that Colton is pushing towards radio and may have the best chance of landing on a movie soundtrack or on a TV show.
"Summer to Me" is the song that Colton said he’s received the most feedback on but what makes this record worth spending buying on iTunes is a song called "Arms" which is a bass driven song that he co-wrote with Brine Webb. It includes a heavy dose of guitar rifts that help this track stand out. Colton calls it his tribute to Fleetwood Mac because he thinks it’s a groove that Mick Fleetwood would come up with.
It almost sounds like Stevie Nicks joins Lindsey Buckingham on the chorus and sings, “You run away, you run away you run away from me.”
“That one was totally about trying to capture a sound or a mood. I wanted to write something that’s kind of Fleetwood Mac-ish, feels good and kind of hypnotic,” Colton said. “Arms maybe the only song that started with the rhythm. I thought let’s just jam to this and see what happens. I really credit Brinee for establishing that kind of groove. That was an important song for us. Once we got that one it was like we’ve got a record.”
Colton will begin a tour on Feb. 13 in Grand Rapids, MI to support the new record. He will play dates through March 2 before returning home to Oklahoma City to spend time with his family. He says he will continue the tour into the end of March with dates focused in Texas and Oklahoma.
Lonely Ones has more energy live and qualms one of the fears Colton had with the new music – could it be played live?
“It’s really important for me to dig into the live show,” Colton said. “I hope people come with an open mind about seeing an entirely different show from what they’re used to.”
Colton debuted his new music live in Oct. of 2013 while playing with Bronze Radio Returns and at those shows he asked his fans to be understanding of the fact that the songs were so new they had only played them a few times. It would take some time for the band to get comfortable playing Colton’s new sound.
Being uncomfortable never sounded so good.