Calhoun Cowboy: The musician merges pop, country and rap into songs and stories | Features
While pop-country singer-songwriter and rapper Colt Graves may reside in the small town of Calhoun, he aims to make an impact on the country music scene on a large scale.
Originally from Nashville and raised in central Tennessee, the 35-year-old musician was born into an artistic family, writing songs under the guidance of his father Josh Graves, Jr., who performed with country and gospel singer Jeannie C.Riley. , and his grandfather and Bluegrass Hall of Famer Josh Graves.
“Very early on, to cut a long story short, I always had a connection to music,” Graves said.
Graves would attend shows with his father when he played with surf rock band Ronny & the Daytonas and said he would “always bring a guitar” and began practicing the craft diligently alone in his bedroom.
“Even when I was 4 and 5 (and) had no idea what I was doing – (I) just started playing and eventually watched my dad’s hands on the guitar with what ‘he would do and… just say if it was an E chord; I would do that chord and go to my room and play it all day,’ Graves said.
Graves’ father had a “big box” acoustic guitar that Graves used and learned to play his first song, “You Were Meant For Me” by Jewel, which won him first prize in his school’s talent show in seventh grade. year.
While Graves’ father was proud of his son’s accomplishment, he was more surprised.
“He was like, ‘I didn’t even know you were playing,'” Graves said.
Graves continued to teach the art form himself and was recognized for his musical talents with school awards, despite not being part of any of the school’s music programs.
Graves then began experimenting with public performance around age 13 or 14 when he started rapping before he began to feel more comfortable writing his own material and developing more confidence.
After being emancipated at 16, Graves lived in ‘different and crazy environments’ where he said he rooted himself in the scene, such as drug dealing, but luckily was able to stay out of trouble legal.
Graves made his public debut at a Nashville venue at age 18 to showcase both his music and his performing skills.
“I remember being nervous to get up there (on stage). But after seeing people’s reaction and getting the feedback of not expecting (what they saw), it ignited a flame in me,” Graves said. “It’s just sort of fiery what it’s become.”
The majority of his early career, Graves said, was just playing rap music over backing tracks that he and his friends would do.
In 2008, Graves’ career began to gain momentum when his uncle invested in Graves’ talent by buying him studio equipment before Graves met producer Rod “Kat Daddy” Nickerson, who worked with Graves on a self-titled album.
The record made the rounds in stores and began to attract the attention of major labels like Universal Music Group.
However, Nickerson’s sudden death in 2010 put the whole movement on hold. But Graves was able to see a silver lining through it all in order to think things through and focus on staying real and authentic.
Graves finally made it to the area about 11 years ago, after being offered a home in Utica, then lived in Owensboro before making Calhoun his new home in 2020, which he says will make him remember where he grew up.
“It was just a whole new environment; just something new,” Graves said. “…I went to Utica, then I kind of put my roots down here and I’m here now. I love it (to Calhoun). It feels more like home than we have ever felt at home.
However, Graves decided to put an end to his musical career around 2017 for about three years.
“(I was) reassessing life and trying to get the priorities straight,” Graves said. “I think the older people get, the more they find out who they really are. …I was growing as a person….
Still, Graves found time to write and was encouraged by his partner McKenzie Lee to continue his music and befriended musician Jay Jones, who helped Graves get into the country genre.
“He kind of lit the flame with the country stuff and that’s my roots anyway,” Graves said. “Jay was really the inspiration behind it and kind of motivated me and…gave me a boost of confidence….”
Graves and Jones formed musical duo Kenessee in 2020 before Graves decided to once again embark on a solo career.
Since then, Graves has worked closely with Horse Branch musician Adam Scott, who helped with Kenessee’s material, and helped Graves gain a “fresh ear” and perspective when writing material.
Currently, the duo are working on Graves’ next five-track extended play, “Calhoun Cowboy,” with musician and producer Jake Parshall in Nashville, which currently does not have a set release date.
The music video for Graves’ debut single from the EP, “Lonesome Roads,” has reached around 13,000 since its May 11 debut, which Graves credits due to social media influence.
“…Social media has changed everything now,” Graves said. “You don’t have to live in Nashville anymore. People go there and think that’s what they should do. …Social media gives you all that same power.
As Graves invents his Jelly Roll, Lil Wayne, Morgan Wallen, TI and Yelawolf influences when it comes to his own work, Graves wants to make sure he keeps his originality intact.
“I don’t listen to a ton of music and I’ve always been that way,” Graves said. “I’ll kind of take a kick for a little while and then walk away from it because I feel like if I listen to someone too long, my writing style starts to turn a little towards theirs. I don’t mind being compared, really not. I just want what I do to be authentic.
Graves said creating music helps him cope with his battles with anxiety and depression that he battles daily.
“Music is a good outlet for me, whether it’s just telling a story or letting a part of my life flow into the lyrics,” Graves said. “I’m not someone who usually (opens up) about deep things…and that’s a good way to release (those feelings).”
As his musical career and experiences have grown, Graves’ livelihood has also seen changes he attributes to his five children and his faith.
“…Once you find out who God is and you have that weight of the things that you’re doing wrong, you try to eliminate those things as much as possible in your life,” Graves said.
But the changes haven’t given Graves a second thought about what the music means to him.
“It’s been a passion of mine for a long time,” Graves said. “My goal is to continue the family legacy that we had and for my family – that’s the main thing; my family is number one for everything. … Hearing the children sing the songs in the other room, (is) a tearful.
And Graves is looking forward to growing as an artist with whatever comes next without becoming stagnant.
“My thing is ‘good men put up a bar, great men keep a bar,'” Graves said. “I just want to keep improving. Movement is not progress; you could run in place but you won’t get anywhere. If you want to move, you have to move forward and make that progress. As long as I always do this, I will always be happy.
For more information and updates on Graves’ music, visit coltgraves.com.