A Conversation with Gavin DeGraw
Mike Ragogna: Gavin, you're doing a joint project with Folgers, and it has to do with putting together a jingle.
Gavin DeGraw: Well, everybody knows the Folgers jingle, right? It's become part of the American DNA because we've heard the song so many times. They reached out to me because I'm an American singer-songwriter, and they asked me to help get the word out that they're looking for new talent to have a go at the jingle. They said the winner would get twenty-five thousand dollars and have the possibility of being in the ad campaign itself. Once the Top Ten contestants are selected, even the people who vote will get awards--anything from iTune gift cards, to a signed album of my Sweeter album, all they way up to a ten thousand dollar prize. It's a pretty cool interactive move on their part that I can really appreciate because I'm so hands on with my own music career and fan base. I'm a handshake guy, so I'm very interpersonal when it comes to how I handle my career and I like their approach a lot.
MR: And you're possibly starting someone's career with this.
GD: Exactly. That's a beautiful thing. I can strongly identify with being an unknown and wanting to have a way to get my foot in the door and be seen or heard.
MR: Now, June 24th is when they're going to declare the big winner. Are you going to be making that announcement for them?
GD: The answer to that is yes.
MR: Are you going to have a Skype announcement or have with them on the other line for the whole country to congratulate?
GD: I'm not sure if I'll have them on the other line or if it will be me recording a shout out online, saying my thank you for participating.
MR: Are there any perks for you being associated with this project?
GD: For me personally, I just identified with it right away. The immediate interest for me was that there are two very constant things in my life--one is coffee and the other is music--so this was such a natural fit more me. I'll definitely be going through a lot of coffee.
MR: I'm older than you, so I remember when jingles were almost all you would hear other than pop hits. Can you remember some of your favorites from growing up?
GD: Oscar Meyer. There are so many...Double Mint and Juicy Fruit... Juicy Fruit always made everyone feel cool, like they were a badass. It was almost like the beer commercial of gums.
MR: [laughs] What else is on your agenda?
GD: Well, I released my last album, Sweeter, and there is a single called "Soldier," which we're using online with the Got Your Six campaign.
MR: Can you tell us about that?
GD: Got Your Six is a campaign, a program designed to help bridge the gap between the civilian population and our military population here in the US. As we have troops coming home, it's a way to help welcome back the troops with open arms, and to help them get reintegrated back into every day life. There seems to have been a real rift over the course of time with the civilian population appreciating the military population, and this is a beautiful movement happening right now.
MR: That's an important issue because as more troops are coming home, more and more military personnel need to reintegrate into the system. It is a challenge.
GD: I think it's important for people to be open-minded about the types of conversations they're going to hear from veterans. We all have our own versions of what reality is and I figure we should all hear each other out.
MR: Just like we have differing opinions on so many subjects in this country, especially now.
GD: Exactly, but it shouldn't interfere with that person's capability of carrying out another occupation besides warfare. These are people that have made some real personal sacrifices, and really do have true skills to offer in our workplace.
MR: When you were writing "Soldier," what was going through your mind?
GD: A good portion of it was trying to envision what image embodies great sacrifice, what paints the image of great sacrifice. To me, the image that created the most powerful and obvious description of someone who makes sacrifices was the soldier. That's why I used that as my reference in the song. I think a lot of people can identify with that visual right away. "When you get worried, I'll be your soldier."
MR: In general, is this how you approach music when you're writing it?
GD: Well, there are a lot of ways to approach it. They all take shape in different ways, you know? I always say that there is the "miracle of life" approach, and then there is the "artificial insemination" approach to songwriting. They both have their value, you know what I mean? For certain songs, there is a thought that is stirring and you want to figure a way to get it out. A song like "Soldier," that's how it was approached. I had the idea and I wanted to figure out how to put it best in three and a half minutes--that's always the challenge. Of course, you're always trying to make it connect with people in a personal way.
MR: Are you working on a new album right now?
GD: Oh yeah, of course. I'm closing in right now on a new album. I'll release a single in about four to six weeks, as I'm going out on tour with Train and The Script, and I think Michael Franti will be doing some of the dates as well. It'll be a really great time and a really perfect tour to start playing some of that new material and exposing it to my fans, Train's fans and The Script's fans to what should be expected on the next album, which should be in the fall.
MR: Do you ever find as you're playing new material on the road that something worked a little better out there, so then you go back and re-tweak the studio version before the project gets released?
GD: That does happen on occasion. Once in a while when you go out on the road, you'll say, "I've got a better idea for the bridge," or "this chord would be better right here." But I would say that nine times out of ten, your instincts, your initial move when writing, is the correct one because that is what was connecting to you. It's more effective to capture the moment than it is to get it "right."
MR: Very well said. It seems like sharing the creative process with tens of thousands of people would put its own spin on the creative process.
GD: Absolutely. You can still go out on the road and add those new ideas because it makes the show much more interesting if you're not just a jukebox up there. You don't want to just be your mp3, you want to be a human being performing the song that you wrote and which these people, hopefully, grew to enjoy and identify with. You certainly want to give them essentially what they know and love, but always with a couple more ingredients just to make it special and personal.
MR: What advice do you have for new artists?
GD: Go to law school. [laughs] The best advice I can give to an artist is to learn how to produce. Being able to produce can really help you navigate your career and the direction of your art. You'll be able to say, "I want it to sound like this," and then you can give an example of how that should be.
MR: And you've taken this advice, followed this path?
GD: My advice to myself is to learn how to engineer. [laughs] It's all different parts of the brain. You're getting scientific and then you're getting artistic.
MR: Is there anything else that we need to know about your Folgers project, or "Soldier"?
GD: I think it's a great thing that Got Your Six is doing, reintegrating our servicemen and women, and also in helping us all to understand that we all need each other. I'm also loving this little campaign that Folgers has put together. I love that it is looking within, literally looking within the US for something to help represent the brand as the type of brand that it is. There is something very homemade about it and I really appreciate it.
MR: Sweet. I appreciate your time, Gavin. All the best.
GD: Thanks for the interview.
Here's the link to vote..." http://www.folgerscoffee.com/folgers%2Djingle
And here's the video for "Soldier"...:
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