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Grammy-nominated musician Gavin DeGraw talks about opening for Billy Joel, his newest record

Get to know the artist who plays Tuesday, April 15, at the Lerner Theatre in downtown Elkhart.

Posted on April 8, 2014 at 12:11 p.m.

ELKHART — Gavin DeGraw is a man who loves his job.

The Grammy Award-nominated singer and musician has been on top of the world, opening for the legendary Billy Joel and riding a wave of success with his latest album, “Make a Move.” DeGraw propelled to the top of the charts with songs “Not Over You” and I Don’t Want to Be,” which was the theme song for the television drama “One Tree Hill.”

DeGraw is performing Tuesday, April 15, at the Lerner Theatre in downtown Elkhart. Opening for the singer are Parachute and Rozzi Crane.

Tickets are $28.50 to $59.50 at thelerner.com, by phone at 574-293-4469 and at the Lerner box office, 410 S. Main St.

DeGraw called The Elkhart Truth while on tour in New Jersey. Here is an excerpt from the interview.

Elkhart Truth: You were recently invited to open for Billy Joel. What’s it like to share the stage with him?

DeGraw: “Honestly, it’s been a dream come true. When I was 15 years old, I saw Billy Joel in concert. I walked out of the concert, and I said, ‘That’s what I’m going to do for a living.’ So, getting a phone call to come out and getting invited to open these shows for him, I can’t even explain to you how personally incredible that is for me.”

Elkhart Truth: Billy Joel plays piano. You play piano. How have his fans received your music?

DeGraw: “Last night, we played a show, and it was full. There were probably 16,000 or 18,000 people there. It was crazy. I mean, it was amazing. They were an incredible audience It was very very exciting.

We get them into it and do our best to reach out and make them feel like they’re getting to know you as a performer on stage, and then I got to jump off the stage and go into the audience, single people out, sing to them, dance with them, and it’s been just incredible experience.”

Elkhart Truth: You mentioned how you like to run off the stage and you dance and sing with fans. For people who haven’t see you perform live, can you talk about the energy level during one of your concerts?

DeGraw: “If you’re to go by one album, ‘Chariot’ or ‘Sweeter,’ you might think to yourself, ‘OK, I could kind of visualize what the show is going to be like,’ but I promise you you can’t visualize what the show is going to be like. You have to actually be at the show.

I think a lot of people who have never seen the show who know the songs, I think they’re not expecting the show to be as high energy as it is. The show is exciting, and we’re there to allow people to be entertained. That’s my job. I am there to entertain them, and I love that job.

I want to get them out of their reality for the time that I’m on stage. I want them to have the greatest time possible, so I want to interact with them and develop that rapport with them and have them feel like they know me and I know them. It’s a really exciting thing to do.”

Elkhart Truth: You just released a new album called “Make a Move” in October. What do you think are the standout songs from the record, and which ones do you hear fans talking about so far?

DeGraw: “For me, as an artist, my goal is to bring my audience what they’re looking for and more than what they’re looking for. I want them to be interested and excited and curious, and so last night we did a song live called ‘Who’s Gonna Save Us,’ and it’s proven to be a favorite with my audience, and it’s going over just great with people who are fans and who are strangers, who have never heard my music before. It’s just been going over so well.

There’s another song called ‘Finest Hour,’ which is going over really well too. We just got finished with a tour in Europe, and the audiences there are just going nuts for that song, so it’s been wonderful to see the reaction from people who know the material and don’t know the material.

But I’ll just say, these Billy Joel dates in my opinion have just been the perfect fit because he’s Billy Joel and I’m someone who grew up listening to Billy Joel, so it’s a natural fit in my mind, and the audience has been really receptive. I think it also helps to that he’s a New Yorker and I’m a New Yorker.”

Elkhart Truth: What music are you listening to right now?

DeGraw: “Well, I’m listening to Billy Joel pretty often since we’re playing all the time. I’m watching the shows sidestage and singing along. I’m watching that very, very special thing that happens between artist and audience.

Especially in the spaces in between the songs, when one song ends and before another song begins, those are great opportunities for the audience and the artist to interact with each other for those little comments in between songs or little jokes, those things that allow the audience to know the artist is just another person, they’re just another human being and they’re just like their audience.

I’m a fan and I’m an artist, and I’m studying that. It’s a great thing to be learning, and I’m excited to bring that into my own tour and the tour I’m doing with Matt Nathanson this summer. I’m really looking forward to taking my shows to the next level.”

Follow Elkhart Truth reporter Angelle Barbazon on Twitter at @tweetangelle.


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