Currently on tour in support of his fourth album Sweeter, Gavin DeGraw is as busy as ever. This month the Irishman headlines the National ShamrockFest at RFK Stadium. The always humble and kind singer/songwriter spared a few minutes to speak with On Tap about his unbelievable journey and his ability to stay grounded amidst all his success.
On Tap: When you first began writing and performing, was your goal to be as commercially successful as you are today? What’s your advice for all the unknown, talented artists out there?
Gavin DeGraw: Becoming famous was the last thing on my mind. I began singing as a little kid and my brother was convinced I had something called “singing disease” because I sang so much. When I turned fifteen I started to taking music more seriously. The more shows I played, the more I realized I wanted to do this for a living.
When I was first beginning, I always thought it would be as simple as this: I will write songs, and then I will play Madison Square Garden. But as you become more involved in the process, you realize that you write songs, and then you work for years to get a record deal, and then you hope you will be able to actually record an album. Then, once the album gets made, you hope someone will shop the record. It just goes on and on and on. Each time you reach another hurdle, you begin to realize all the small accomplishments you’ve achieved along the way. There are many small victories in this process. The slow build is the only way you can truly appreciate how far you’ve come.
OT: What makes your newest album, Sweeter, different from your previous albums?
GD: This album embraces sexuality. It’s funkier and sexier than my other albums. Most times artists fall in love with their own image. If they are branded as a romantic songwriter, then they tend to write only romantic songs. It’s my obligation as an artist and as a human to write about all aspects of life. The reality is that a human being is multi-dimensional.
OT: What were you hoping to accomplish when you and your brother opened The National Underground in New York City?
GD: We felt it was important to have a place where people would feel like the artists they are. The place can’t be too nice and can’t be too much of a pigsty. There must be a balance between the lived-in and the disgusting. I was last there a few days ago because I was in town shooting the music video for the next single, “Sweeter.” After the video shoot we went to The National Underground and some of my friends were performing, so I went on stage and jammed on some songs with them. It was a real good time.
OT: In the public eye you come across as a very approachable, down-to-Earth person. Care to disagree?
GD: I am glad that’s how I come across because that is who I am. No amount of success can make me feel bigger than where I came from. I can’t forget my background and history; it’s what made me who I am.
OT: What does St. Paddy’s Day mean to you?
GD: It’s a time to let loose and have nothing but fun. The one day a year where everyone is Irish. I am looking forward to The Dropkick Murphys.
OT: Will you be performing in a kilt for ShamrockFest? If so, can the fans expect you to go commando?
GD: I most certainly intend on rocking a kilt for the show. If I can’t find a kilt, then I will wear a skirt. And yes, the fans can expect Gavin DeGraw to go commando in some fashion. At the very least, I will wear a Commando t-shirt with Arnold Schwarzenegger on the front in honor of his 80s classic movie.
Catch Gavin DeGraw at ShamrockFest on March 24 at RFK Stadium: 2400 E Capitol St. SE, DC. Purchase tickets at www.ShamrockFest.com