Singer-pianist Gavin DeGraw is gearing up for a big change in his career.
He’s going country.
“Musically, that’s more in line with what I’m doing, where my heart is as a musician,” DeGraw says. “I’m not taking anything away from the hits I’ve had in other markets, at Hot AC or Top 40. I feel pretty fortunate.
“But, country likes a songwriter. That’s where songwriting is celebrated. That’s where people like me thrive. As pop moves further toward the DJ world, I find myself drawn toward the country market. Country radio still sounds like songwriting and that’s who I identify with as a person.”
In the meantime, DeGraw will play his hits at the Pepsi Amphitheater in Flagstaff with Phillip Phillips on Thursday, August 23.
“The show’s a bit different than when we played the Arizona State Fair,” DeGraw says. “We were still using tracks here and there in our show. With this show, I’ve decided to get away from the use of the laptop. It became so popular in the live concert world that I felt for a minute we needed to try it, too. I tried it and it made it sound like 30 musicians on stage. One day, I looked over and thought to myself, ‘I don’t ever want to see another laptop on my stage again.’”
When he finishes laughing, he adds, “I want to get back to the basics and make this thing feel raw.”
The change has allowed the band to feel freer, with more space to play.
“Now we get to play our (butts) off,” he says. “We don’t feel like we’re in a box. We can stretch our legs and really play music and play live the way it’s supposed to be played.”
DeGraw says the tour with Phillips is going well. It’s a partnership that allows him to really thrive.
“When I heard Phillip’s first single, ‘Home,’ I thought, ‘Oh, that’s great,’” DeGraw says. “When this came about, I said ‘Absolutely.’”
When the tour is over, that’s when he’s ready to begin his foray into country, which was inspired, too, by his longtime friend Brett Young.
“We’ve been buddies since he was a bartender,” DeGraw says. “Now he’s absolutely blowing up in the country world. We just did a song together. I see Brett as the next stadium act in my mind. I’m hoping it happens for him.”
DeGraw will play his hits on August 23 in Flagstaff, where NAU students will be moving into their dorms and apartments.
“We’ve done pretty well with the college scene,” DeGraw says. “The college students like to go out and have a ball. Our show is loose and fun and up tempo. It’s a great show. It’s a high-energy show and a little different than the average bear.”
Then DeGraw gets real.
“Should I bring a big U-Haul and gloves?” he says laughing. “That’s who should be sponsoring the show. Oh! And IKEA.”
Gavin DeGraw and Phillip Phillips, Pepsi Amphitheater, 2446 Fort Tuthill Loop, Flagstaff, pepsiamphitheater.com, 7 p.m. Thursday, August 23, $31 and $45.