A late August article in Billboard magazine reviewing Gavin DeGraw's new album, “Something Worth Saving,” referred to the singer and songwriter as a “country ace.” The classification caught DeGraw a bit off guard.
“You say it was ‘country ace?’ Wow, that’s interesting,” he responded during a telephone interview. "I'm flattered. It's really fascinating."
DeGraw started thinking out loud about his music and the connections he's had to country music. Exactly how he landed in the magazine's country section isn't clear to him, but perhaps it had to do with his 2014 collaboration with country star Martina McBride on the Sam Cooke tune "Bring It on Home to Me," or his stint last summer opening for Shania Twain.
All the same, if DeGraw has dipped his toes in the country world recently, he's always been considered a pop artist — with elements of soul and folk mixed into his music.
DeGraw and pop star Andy Grammer will perform at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 20, in the Britt Pavilion, 350 S. First St., Jacksonville.
Singer and songwriter Grammer emerged in 2011 with his self-titled debut album. Two singles from the album, "Keep Your Head Up" and "Fine By Me," reached the Top 10 on adult pop radio. Singer and songwriter Wrabel opens the show.
Reserved seats are $69, $42 for lawn seats, $32 for ages 12 and younger, $296 for premium lawn seating for four, $148 for premium lawn seating for two, and are available online at brittfest.org, at the box office, 216 W. Main St., Medford, or by calling 541-773-6077.
DeGraw says he was never simply a pop or country artist.
“I guess I’ve always had a hard time defining, and people in general, I think, perhaps have had a hard time defining what exactly is my style. I just call it American at this point because I grew up with so many different styles of music,” says the 39-year-old DeGraw.
“I mean, my first musical memory is being at my grandparents’ house and hearing Hank Williams’ ‘Hey, Good Lookin.’ I grew up on that record, period. I grew up on Roger Miller. At the same time, one of my other earliest memories is the ‘Grease’ soundtrack. I mean, what was better than that?
“My earliest musical memories were country music,” he says. “But then in my adolescence it was all classic rock, strictly classic rock, strictly. Then in my late teens I was introduced to older R&B and soul music, a lot of Sam Cooke and Ray Charles. So it all kind of blended together — and a lot of Billy Joel stuff since I was about 4 or 5 years old — all that stuff.”
Whatever styles found their way into DeGraw's music since he came on the scene in 2004 with his million-selling debut album, “Chariot,” he has no problem identifying where his newly released sixth studio album, “Something Worth Saving,” fits in the music world.
“I think this is clearly a pop record," he says. "The single 'She Sets the City on Fire' is absolutely a pop song."
"Something Worth Saving" picks up where DeGraw left off on his 2013 “Make a Move.” Like that album, the new one finds him walking the line between creating songs that fit into today’s commercial pop world, while maintaining some of the more acoustic-oriented pop that defined his earlier work.
“She Sets the City on Fire” fits squarely in the Top 40 pop world with its bouncy R&B beat and buoyant melody. So does “Kite Like Girl,” with a fusion of pop and soul, and the perky "New Love." A few songs — "Say I Am" and the title song, a pair of dramatic piano driven ballads — connect to DeGraw's early sound.
“It’s important that I continue to evolve and at the same time not forget what makes me tick musically," he says. "Pretty much every record, I make it a point to add something that’s essentially a real dedication to my original audience, so they know I haven’t at all abandoned the ‘Chariot’ version of Gavin DeGraw.”
DeGraw thinks bringing a modern pop sound to his repertoire enhances his live show. He points to Billy Joel — DeGraw opened shows for the "Piano Man" for more than two years — and Paul McCartney as artists whose diverse catalogs allow them to deliver dynamic concerts.
“Look at McCartney, what a variety of songs, styles, approaches and sounds. To go from anything by The Beatles, to go from 'Help' to 'Sgt. Pepper,' to go from 'I Wanna Hold Your Hand' to 'I Dig a Pony.' It's crazy."