Sometimes, you just need a little time to catch your breath.
It’s been almost a decade of jet-setting and TV appearances for Oklahoma City pop-rock singer Graham Colton, all amounting to very little rest and downtime in his hometown.
Some changes have afforded Colton a welcome return to the Sooner State, and he’s taking it as an opportunity to re-establish his roots and connect with local charities. In donating a great deal of his time and talents to organizations, the clean-cut, All-American vocalist found an unlikely mentor: the front man of The Flaming Lips.
“I’ve gotten pretty tight with Wayne Coyne. He’s such an ambassador for Oklahoma City and the state,” Colton said. “It’s an inspiring thing to watch somebody that is that passionate about his hometown and doing such great things. I think he appreciates that I come from a completely different place, but we can still speak the same language. We don’t have to be playing the same music to connect at that level.”
Having a music-biz veteran around has been most helpful to Colton, who faces some major changes. For one, his new album, “Pacific Coast Eyes,” the release of which he will celebrate Saturday at VZD’s, is his first as an independent artist.
It almost killed me.
The past nine years have been good to him, but also incredibly demanding, including national tours with John Mayer, Counting Crows and Kelly Clarkson (whom he briefly dated), and three full-length albums through Universal Records. He hopes to replicate and even expand upon that success now that the label deal has expired, and he doesn’t have to live up to someone else’s expectations and timetables.
“With my last album, the label wanted me to write as many songs as I could possibly write. I ending up writing well over 150. It almost killed me,” Colton said. “Hopefully, I grew as a songwriter, but it’s a lot of pressure. With this album, I started with a blank canvas, wrote and rewrote the songs, lived with them for nine months and then shook them out. Twelve kind of appeared.”
The title track has begun making its way on to radio stations, following him as he has toured regionally in the past few weeks. Show attendance has been as good as ever, and even without the backing of a label, all signs point to a long, steady career with a wonderful home to which to come back.
“I was treated really well, and I got some really fortunate breaks ... but it was the right time for both of us,” Colton said. “I knew I could make the album I wanted to make, and tour the way I wanted to tour. You just have to be good, and people will hear you. It may or may not be on the radio or ‘Grey’s Anatomy,’ but there are plenty of ways to make a career out of it.”
COLTON THUNDERS UP
Graham Colton’s return to Oklahoma coincided with the introduction of the Oklahoma City Thunder, and the two have planted/replanted their roots here in a constantly intertwining way. Colton performed the national anthem during the opening night of the Thunder’s inaugural season, and it proved to be the beginning of a great relationship.
“Once I got through that and didn't forget the words, thank God, I immediately became a huge fan of the team," he said. "I was so proud of the city, and it's been amazing to watch and be a part of.”
Just a year later, watching the team thrive both in the league and community inspired him to pen the anthem “Rise Together,” which has become an unofficial opening ballad for the Thunder.
“I felt inspired to do it, just so proud of the team and the community. They liked it and have gotten behind it, and it's just another way I love being from Oklahoma City,” he said. “Our players are just good people who appreciate being here even when a lot of other players wouldn’t. They really represent our city, and it's nice to have a team on the verge of something just like Oklahoma City is.”