Out in the Catskills, a man and a woman loved music almost as much as they loved each other. They attended the original Woodstock on…Full Bio
Gavin DeGraw At The Vogue
Sat Aug 19, 2023 Buy Tickets
Out in the Catskills, a man and a woman loved music almost as much as they loved each other. They attended the original Woodstock on what they thought would be their last weekend together since the man had his draft card for Vietnam in his back pocket. After his service (he thankfully didn’t enter combat), they got hitched and had three kids. The man worked at the New York State Department of Corrections as a prison guard, and mom joined the reserves for college money (doing what they had to do to get by). It was a life of family hootenannies with guitars and drums roaring until daylight, stained sneakers from mowing seemingly endless lawns in the summer, and a lot of time in church year-round.
Their boy ended up touring the world as a GRAMMY® Award-nominated star…
With a front-row seat to this wonderfully wild little life led by his late parents Lynne and John Wayne, Gavin DeGraw recounts its most meaningful memories and valuable lessons in his seventh full-length offering, Face The River [RCA Records]. The multi-platinum singer and songwriter stitches together a timeless tale of his own soundtracked by a signature fusion of rock, pop, soul, and funk.
“Elements of Face The River are definitely my parents’ story,” he observes. “There are also moments of me watching it. This was the record I felt like I had to make. I got to bear witness to the greatest love story of two people who would do anything for each other and their family. They were very loyal and committed. They didn’t have money, but they gave me something way better than money. I saw the pinnacle of what love should be.”
Gavin grew up surrounded by this love in the “real” Catskills. “It wasn’t the place that people go to now to pick berries for fun,” he laughs. “We picked them because they were free.” He cut his teeth playing watering holes anywhere and everywhere around New York. His old man even hocked his demo at bars to get him gigs. “At a young age, he taught me to run to the lion,” he recalls. “If something is scaring you, attack. It’s how I live.”
Such fearlessness has defined his career thus far. Gavin’s inimitable voice and soulful style boldly bloomed on his 2003 platinum-certified full-length debut, Chariot. It included the gold singles “Follow Through,” “Chariot,” and “I Don’t Want To Be”—which Entertainment Weekly hailed as one of “The 25 Best TV Theme Songs of the 21st Century.” In 2008, his self-titled second album, Gavin Degraw, bowed in the Top 10 of the Billboard Top 200 powered by the gold-selling “We Belong Together.” 2011’s Sweeter saw him return to the Top 10 as the single “Not Over You” went double-platinum. Meanwhile, his 2013 duet with Colbie Caillat, “We Both Know,” garnered a GRAMMY® Award nomination in the category of “Best Song Written For Visual Media” for Safe Haven. He’s the rare talent who could seamlessly share the stage with Billy Joel and The Allman Brothers or Maroon 5 and Shania Twain. In 2016, Something Worth Saving incited widespread critical applause from USA Today, Billboard, Entertainment Tonight, and Huffington Post, to name a few.
In 2020, he made the most important record of his career. Teaming up with GRAMMY® Award-winning producer Dave Cobb [Chris Stapleton, Sturgill Simpson, Brandi Carlile], Gavin chose to write entirely by himself. They recorded in Dave’s Nashville studio, playing together simultaneously with the musicians and listening to one another.
“I wanted to write my record alone,” he exclaims. “I wrote the first few records alone, and it worked really well for me. I had a lot to say, and I needed the greatest producer in the world—that was Dave.” However, he faced the only deadline that ever mattered. With his father stricken fatally ill, he needed to finish in order for dad to hear it.
“I was motivated by a window I knew was closing,” he sighs. “I had to finish before my father disappeared. I played him the complete album only about a half-an-hour before he had to be rushed to the hospital. He looked at me and said, ‘Full Circle’. It sounded like how I used to sound when I was playing back in the day. It’s who I am.”
Now, the album opens with the title track “Face The River.” His distinct intonation quivers above sparse piano before the organ-laden beat simmers. This slow burn catches fire on a heavenly hook, “Try to face the river. I cannot cross.”
“I was looking at the way things were headed with my father, and he was facing the river and imagining my mother on the other side,” he comments. “It helps sum up the album as far as new territory and another level of intimacy and spirit. As a whole, it’s the record I’ve been hoping to make my whole life.”
Elsewhere, a head-nodding bass line and dreamy guitar heat up “Summertime” as he bottles the “fresh and sweet feeling of finding young love.” Then, there’s “Ford.” A bluesy riff amplifies the priceless brilliance of “collective knowledge from older folks about how to do old-school shit.” Meanwhile, “Freedom (Johnny’s Song)” provides a play-by-play of mom and dad’s relationship over piano, “Johnny’s got a family of five and he works for the state.”
Then, there’s “Hero In Our House,” which memorializes his mom. The record culminates on “Let Someone In.” Its delicate momentum belies a cathartic heft. “When you deal with a lot of loss, you need to convince yourself to let people in,” he reveals. “It was nice to leave the record with some hope.”
In the end, Gavin has told the story of a lifetime on Face The River.
“When I played the record for my dad, I told him I finally fulfilled my potential as a musician,” he concludes. “He said, ‘Masterpiece’. He was not one to give a compliment for compliment’s sake, so nothing felt better. I was just trying to make something special, authentic, real, and worth waiting for.”
19 Gavin DeGraw
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