Gavin DeGraw: 'I needed to be more relevant': Interview
On his last album, 2011’s “Sweeter,” Gavin DeGraw worked with co-writers on four songs instead of penning every song by himself and the result was a number of hits, including Top 10, double-platinum smash “Not Over You.”
So when it came time to record “Make A Move,” which came out Tuesday (15), DeGraw decided to go all in: he used co-writers on every track. “I thought why not try to keep the momentum going,” he tells HitFix. “By including all these personalities, it will make it a lot more diverse, a lot more timely.’ Among his collaborators were OneRepublic’s Ryan Tedder, Benny Blanco, Busbee, Boys Like Girls’ Martin Johnson and Kevin Rudolf.
Indeed “Make A Move” may be the most wide-ranging set the blue-eyed soul singer has recorded. While there are his trademark mid-tempo tunes that show off his expressive voice, there are also a number of pop, up-tempo tracks like first single, “Best I Ever Had,” which, like Train’s “Drive-By,” is a fast-paced track with sung/spoken choruses and a catchy melody.
DeGraw wrote the song with Johnson, with whom he had already penned “Everything Will Change,” one of the album’s most emotional, moving songs. The two were in a Los Angeles studio and “Martin’s got this crazy drumbeat.” DeGraw recalls. “He says, ‘Sing something, anything,’ so I sang the first line of the song and then he says [the next line] and we just kind of went for it. The erratic lyrical content suited the sound of the melody. That song just makes me happy. It’s a freakishly insane lyrical journey.”
Some of DeGraw’s longtime, hardcore fans took to his Facebook page to declare their love for the song, while others felt it was too radical a change of pace from hits like “Not Over You” and his breakthrough, “I Don’t Want To Be.” “I think that happens a lot of time. When you put out a single, fans [think] that’s an indication of what the whole album is, but singles don’t mean what they used to mean,” he says. “It used to represent an entire album where one producer did an entire album, now the singles themselves live in a vacuum. The next song will be completely different.”
DeGraw will admit that he “did feel like I needed to be more relevant. I always feel like it’s important to try different things.” While he strove to be diverse, he balanced that with his desire “to maintain a sense of self. There are always things you want to include.”
He uses his friends and former tour mates Train as an model. The band has seen a tremendously successful second act, bolstered by such hits as “Hey, Soul Sister, “Marry Me,” and “Drive-By.” “They are one of the great examples for what it means to be adaptable, what it means to be relevant,” he says.
Plus, the last thing he would want any fan to believe is that if they’ve heard one DeGraw album, they’ve heard them all, he says: “That would be artistically devastating.”
DeGraw hits the road Dec. 4 in support of “Make A Move.”