Beloved by fans for his blue-eyed soul vocals, freewheeling melodies, and earthy charm, singer, songwriter, and musician Gavin DeGraw has enjoyed success since breaking through in 2003 with his debut album, Chariot, which sold over a million copies, earned platinum certification, and yielded three hit singles: “I Don’t Want To Be,” “Follow Through,” and the title-track, “Chariot.” He followed that up with his self-titled second album, which debuted at No. 1 on the digital sales chart and at No. 7 on Billboard’s Top 200 album chart in 2008 (earning Gavin his first Top 10 album and spawning the hit singles “In Love With A Girl” and the gold-certified “We Belong Together.” After releasing 2009’s Free, a gift to die-hard fans clamoring for recorded versions of his live favorites, Gavin decided it was time to shake things up. “Not only do I love a challenge, but I also wanted something new to sing,” Gavin explains. “I’ve listened to my favorite songs 5,000 times, and I love them, but sometimes it’s hard to go home and put on that album and listen to it for the five thousand and first time. I needed to write something I found interesting both melodically and rhythmically and that meant stepping outside my wheelhouse.”
On Gavin’s new album SWEETER, the New York native experimented with new sounds, thanks, in part, to collaborating with a host of top-notch producers he’d wanted to work with for a while, including fellow groove-minded piano player OneRepublic’s Ryan Tedder (Beyoncé, Adele), Butch Walker (Weezer, Avril Lavigne), Eric Rosse (Sara Bareilles, Tori Amos), and Ron Aniello (Barenaked Ladies, Matt Nathanson). “The creation of every song began with an interview to select the right producer,” Gavin says. “It was like speed-dating. I’d play them the songs I was working on and ask which ones they liked the best, and then ask them to produce those they were most passionate about.” Gavin took another departure from his usual way of working, enlisting co-writers for the first time, such as Tedder, who co-wrote and produced the album’s vigorous first single “Not Over You” (about the struggle to let go of an old flame) and its title track “Sweeter,” as well as Andrew Frampton, who has worked with The Script and Natasha Bedingfield. “Co-writing with other people changed everything for me,” Gavin says. “Not only did it open my mind to new ideas, but it changed the way I wrote on my own. Playing all these different styles with other musicians led me to think about things differently when I was working by myself. I was able to tap into things I do live, dabbling with some of that late ’60s, early ’70s R&B stuff, and record all the styles of music that I like and put them on one album. It was great to take the leash off and experiment. Although it doesn’t stray too far from what I’ve done, I think SWEETER is the first album I’ve made that has caught my true sound, and that was the result of taking risks.”
Recorded in several locations, including Tedder’s studio in Denver, Blackbird Studio in Nashville, Walker’s space in Venice, CA (where Bob Dylan recorded some tracks in the ’70s), and the legendary Henson Recording Studios in Hollywood, SWEETER finds Gavin in a provocative mood, which infuses several songs with a potent, swaggering strut on sexually charged songs like “Sweeter” (on which he sings about wanting to hook up with another guy’s girl) and one of his favorite tracks, “Radiation” (about knowing a lover is bad for you, but every now and then, you can’t resist making that late-night call). “Those songs are designed to be fun while also being truthful. I think a lot of people can relate to the lyric, ‘If you get an invitation, I’m probably drunk,'” Gavin says with a laugh.