Guitars do not chime on Graham Colton's new single, “Born to Raise Hell,” and if there are any six-string instruments on the song, they certainly are not calling the shots. Instead, spacious keyboard sounds and layered vocals carry the day.
As he plays the track through the mixing board in his private studio in central Oklahoma City, Colton is smiling. He has changed the game.
“I had all these little fragments of songs, and this song started from this keyboard the Flaming Lips loaned me,” said Colton, who will perform songs from his 2014 album, “Lonely Ones,” during a free concert at 7 p.m. Tuesday in Bricktown's Centennial Plaza. “I just started pushing buttons and doing weird stuff.”
And it was Wayne Coyne who encouraged the button pushing. In 2012, Colton and Coyne met at Blackwatch Studios in Norman and collaborated on a cover of Sparklehorse's “Don't Take My Sunshine Away.” The result sounded nothing like the guitar-driven pop-rock Colton recorded for Universal Records on 2004's “Drive” and its follow-up, “Here Right Now.” It simply did not sound like the guy who opened for Counting Crows and the Wallflowers.
The Sparklehorse song began Colton's journey to recording “Lonely Ones,” and it was Coyne who pushed him down the road less traveled.
“He said, ‘Dude, put the acoustic guitar down. Put all guitars down. Just open up a different part of your brain and see what happens.'”
Colton began hanging out at Coyne's house, spending several evenings listening to Coyne's favorite mindblowers such as the Beach Boys' 1966 classic, “Pet Sounds.” As Colton absorbed Brian Wilson's “teenage symphonies to God,” he started to hear how his own music could take on new dimensions.
“We listened to stuff that was seemingly pop music but had all these twists and turns,” Colton said. “It wasn't just ‘verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-out.'
“And he would be like, ‘Dude, did you see what happened there? It's a completely new section.'”