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Gavin DeGraw Talks ‘Sweeter’ and Ryan Tedder, Denies Being a Sex Symbol

Davin DeGraw
AFP

Gavin DeGraw has maintained a strong presence in pop rock since he introduced himself to the world, literally, with his 2004 smash ‘I Don’t Want to Be.’ Rather than crash and burn like many of the stars who find the alternate one-hit-wonder fame, the New Yorker has kept himself planted in a steady stream, offering the world a little piece of his heart in the form of a successful single every few years.

Right now, that song is ‘Not Over You,’ a haunting heartbroken ditty he penned with the help of OneRepublic‘s Ryan Tedder. The song has seen significant chart success as the lead-off single from DeGraw’s ‘Sweeter’ album — a great omen for the 34-year-old household name, given that his previous album went a little under the radar (unnecessarily, we might add!).

PopCrush caught up with Gavin DeGraw recently and he dished on what he calls his best record to date, in terms of how excited he is about the product that he put on the shelves in last fall. Gav also gave all of the details on what it was like to work with Tedder for the first time, and despite our prodding, denied that he thinks of himself as a sex symbol … Though we’re still not convinced. The truth is in the ‘body rolls.’

So, you had a pretty good year in 2011. Congrats on ‘Not Over You’ going gold. How does that feel?
Thank you very much. It has been an amazing year. We’re really excited about the trajectory of the project as a whole, you know? There’s never a way to really predict how it’s going to go, you just kind of go for it usually. You always try to set it up for success but there’s never a guarantee, so it’s been really exciting to watch this thing gain some ground.

The new album is fantastic. Tell us what it was like working with Ryan Tedder on a few songs — what did he bring to the table?
Well, Ryan was fantastic. He and I had spoken a few years earlier, actually, and eventually met. I was kind of a fan of his already, I was like, ‘Hey man, I love your stuff!’ and he was like, ‘I love YOUR stuff! We should do something!’ … And a few years later we hadn’t done anything, because we’re artists. So finally we got around to it, we met up in Nashville … Ryan had a couple ideas and I had a couple ideas, and we were just thinking about what would be the right style of music to go for at this point, having already developed some sort of a career … You want to stay within certain parameters so you don’t alienate what you’ve already got, but at the same time it’s important to bring something fresh to the table.

That day we wrote the song ‘Sweeter,’ which became the title track to the record. We were really excited about it, we felt it has something very gritty about it, but at the same time very soulful. There’s an element of the Black Keys to it, there’s an element of Sly and the Family Stone to it and it still had that anesthetic hook, which we were stoked about. We were high-fiving each other and we spoke on the phone and were like, this was really great, let’s do another one — something different, but let’s do another one. He had just built a studio in Denver so I met up with him out there and we spent a few days there.

Listen to ‘Sweeter’

The first day, we were just sitting around the piano, and he was like, ‘Hey man, what do you think of this little piano riff?’ You know? [mimics the intro to 'Not Over You'] I was like, ‘Oh, it sucks.’ I’m kidding. I was like, ‘Wow, man! That’s great, it’s got a great hook. It’s already catchy. I don’t know what it is but I want to keep listening to figure it out. We were excited about, and we thought right away that it sounded like a first single. It brings new elements to the table and at the same time is reminiscent of the first record, the ‘Chariot’ record. There’s sort of a discovery period element to that song that really felt, you know, like you’re finding your way with music. That’s a special type of feeling to have when you’re turning a song, to make it a song that doesn’t sound like you planned on writing it, a song that sort of sounds like an accident. That’s what I really like about it.

Watch the ‘Not Over You’ Video

What’s your favorite song on the record?
Ooh, that’s tough. It’s hard for me to say if there’s a favorite! I think ‘Soldier’ should stand out, I think ‘Radiation’ should stand out, I think ‘Candy’ should stand out … Just because I like the content, the lyrical content, I think they’re all cool. But it’s hard for me to pick a favorite, you know? I’m just so excited about the record. I feel like as an artist this album is really me hitting my own stride. I’m the most optimistic about this record as I’ve ever been about any record. Just from every angle surrounding this record, I feel like everything was done well. Even from the business in, people told me to enjoy myself and take chances versus saying ‘make money.’ It was a really cool experience on every level.

We bet you’re feeling on top of the world right now!
Oh, it’s awesome. It’s the greatest feeling. We did some really cool programs this holiday season, we’ve got some TV shows coming up and did a few cool things that were great to be apart of with other artists, like Mary J. Blige to Kenny Chesney, I mean, it’s been a very wide spectrum of people to have your name next to or be tagged onto.

Any idea what the next single will be?
The next single? That’s a really good question! It’s really kind of up in the air. There’s a few that a few of us are pulling for for a second single, whether it be either ‘Soldier’ or maybe ‘Sweeter’ or ‘Radiation’… We’re really not certain. What do you think it should be?

We love ‘Radiation,’ it’s one of our favorites on the album.
Go figure. I think that’d be a killer second single, and I think for the demographic that people are going for at radio and TV, I think that would work really well. There’s a lot of reality in that lyric. I totally agree. I need all the people who feel that strongly to mention that s—, cause I’ve brought that up a couple of times and I’m curious to see the reaction if it’s not coming from me!

Listen to ‘Radiation’

So, we’ve seen your live show. You know how to make the girls scream. Do you consider yourself a sex symbol?
Oh, no! I don’t think so, do you?

A lot of people do!
Man. I better hit the gym then! [Laughs] Thank you. You’re flattering me. I certainly don’t consider myself that at all. I think it’s flattering, um… I can’t even really consider that. To even entertain it is kind of funny to me. You know, sometimes the performances for some songs are a little sexier than other songs. If the song requires that type of performance, then I’ll go there. I do whatever the song needs. If the song needs a body roll, I do a body roll. [Laughs]

Musically speaking, what are your goals for the next few years?
Musically speaking, my goals are to not take another break like I did. I think taking those long breaks between album cycles is really the worst thing an artist can do. We’re in the entertainment industry and the type of entertainment that we do requires that you stay busy all the time and stay out there all the time, really proactive about being on the forefront as much as you can. If you’re not active doing that, somebody else would be happy to step into your place. I want to stay busy and not let the grass grow under my feet.

Watch Gavin DeGraw Perform ‘Not Over You’ for the Vevo Go Show

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