One of the first rock-oriented artists signed to Clive Davis’ J Records, Gavin DeGraw won over listeners with the sensitive, R&B-leaning songs on 2003’s Chariot.
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Gavin DeGraw Biography

by Wade Kergan

Chariot Gavin DeGraw is a multi-platinum-selling singer/songwriter with an expressive voice and a knack for penning relatable hits that traffic in pop, soul, country, folk, and funk elements. His 2003 debut album, Chariot, yielded the Top Ten single "I Don't Want to Be," which served as the opening theme to the popular teen drama series One Tree Hill. More hits followed, with 2008's "In Love with a Girl" and 2011's "Not Over You" achieving platinum certification, and his 2013 duet with Cobie Caillat, "We Both Know," earning a Grammy nomination. DeGraw continued to elicit acclaim with subsequent efforts Something Worth Saving (2016) and Face the River (2022).

Years before "I Don't Want to Be" propelled him to pop/rock success, Gavin DeGraw began honing his piano skills at the age of eight, followed by his participation in several cover bands with his older brother in upstate New York. After a brief stint at the prestigious Berklee School of Music -- where he rubbed shoulders with future singer/songwriter contemporary John Mayer -- DeGraw decided to take his original songs to New York City. He arrived during the late '90s and steadily expanded his audience with a series of buzzworthy shows, one of which was captured on the concert recording Gavin Live. The steady buzz led to offers from major labels, and DeGraw eventually signed a record deal with Clive Davis and his J Records imprint (home of Santana, as well as R&B mainstays Alicia Keys and Angie Stone).

Free DeGraw's debut album, Chariot, arrived during the summer of 2003. Like the singer's early days in New York City, Chariot slowly built momentum and earned the young DeGraw a small but fervent following. By 2004, the leadoff single "I Don't Want to Be" had become a Top Ten hit, and the album itself was soon re-released in expanded form under the title Chariot + Chariot Stripped. DeGraw's next single, the titular "Chariot," was also met with positive response and climbed the charts in 2005, pushing the album to double platinum sales. DeGraw took five years to release a self-titled sophomore album, which appeared in 2008, initially charting higher than Chariot but failing to spawn any comparable singles (although "In Love with a Girl" did peak at number 24). DeGraw shifted gears for his next release, the looser and seemingly less labored Free, which appeared only a few months later in early 2009.

Sweeter DeGraw took more time to release his fourth album. Co-writing with other artists for the first time, he spent two years workshopping the songs eventually featured on Sweeter. The album was released in fall 2011, several months after "Not Over You" -- a song co-written with Ryan Tedder -- returned DeGraw to the charts. "Not Over You" was DeGraw's biggest hit since "I Don't Want to Be," and it helped send Sweeter into the Billboard Top Ten upon its release. Over the next year, DeGraw supported the album with promotional appearances and a tour, the latter of which was documented on the live album Sweeter: Live, released in December of 2012. The following year saw DeGraw team up with Cobie Caillat on the Grammy-nominated single "We Both Know," for the film Safe Haven. He issued Make a Move later that October, which included the Top 20 AC hit "Best I Ever Had," and in 2016 he released Something Worth Saving, his ebullient sixth studio long-player, which adopted a more polished and modern sound. A series of personal hardships, including the deaths of both of his parents, preceded the arrival of his next album. The resulting Face the River, which includes the heartfelt and uplifting title track, appeared in 2022.

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