21 Grahams

Graham Colton has a smile on his face most of the time. You wouldn’t know it from listening to his soulful, introspective music, but life has been pretty great for the Oklahoma native.

The past two years have been about change — both professional and personal — that culminated in his new album, Lonely Ones. Colton moved back to OKC in 2006, but he really didn’t recognize the potential for a new approach or the wealth of creative influence available until a couple years ago.

In that time, he also married and had a daughter. He started hanging out with local artists and musicians like Wayne Coyne and Stephen Drozd of The Flaming Lips.

That’s when things started happening. If Colton’s past few years had a theme, it would be Get Out of Your Comfort Zone. He was tired of the acoustic guitar and the singer-songwriter label. It was a place where he had felt comfortable, but with growth and maturity, it also felt confining.

“I think you have these tendencies that you build up,” Colton said. “I realized I was being too mathematical, and I just scrapped it all. I trusted everyone in Oklahoma I could find.”

The
process has been difficult for Colton, but it has also been productive.
He has learned how to make some important distinctions between life and
work. Lonely Ones is a symbol of shedding routine and habit, which can be a frightening proposition for a successful musician.

“I
have really, in this deep way and for the first time, connected with
Oklahoma City and the OKC music scene,” Colton said. “And the making of
this album was kind of throwing myself into that.”

It
started when he witnessed Coyne and Drozd’s creative process. He spent
time at Coyne’s house and was blown away by the way they approached
writing and recording. He borrowed Coyne’s keyboards and started the
long process of thinking beyond his usual approach.

It
occurred to him that he would have to spend more quality time in the
studio to make the record that he needed to make, which could be an
expensive undertaking. In previous recordings, he spent as little time
in the studio as possible, partly because of expense but mostly because
of convention.

“In the
past, I would write a bunch of tunes, I would play them for the band, I
would have my sheet with my lyrics and then we would go in the studio
and the band played over those songs,” he said.

He
launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund his new venture, of which he
was wary. People’s perception of successful musicians is that they
already have money. He wasn’t sure how asking for cash would be
perceived.

“I put every dime of what I make back into what I do,” he said.

His
fans and friends responded with enthusiasm, and he booked time at
Blackwatch Studios in Norman. His longtime friends and
sometimes-bandmates Chad Copeland and Jared Evans produced the work.
They co-wrote most of the songs with Colton, supported him in his vision
and provided focus when he felt he was going in too many directions at
once.

Lyrics posed another challenge to his songwriting process.

“I don’t have a whole lot of pain and torture to write about because I am really, really happy in my personal life,” he said.

Colton
had to learn to write about things that he is not currently
experiencing personally, placing himself in others’ shoes or revisiting
experiences from his past. It felt inauthentic to him at first, but the
album shows his knack for storytelling. And while he might not be
writing about his own heartache, its songs are heartfelt and sometimes
even melancholic.

The result is an album unlike anything Colton has created before.

“There are albums, and there are collections of songs,” he said. “This is an album.”

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Devon Green

Devon Green is a life and food reporter for Oklahoma Gazette. She lives in Oklahoma City with her husband Kevin and their two slightly evil felines, Goodluck Jonathan and Charles Taylor. Devon has a B.A. in Anthropology from the University of Oklahoma and once ran away with the circus to Macau, China. She is passionately local and lives to promote quality of life in OKC. She can most often be found eating, writing or writing about eating — while eating.

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