22. Gavin DeGraw

In honor of me turning 30, I’m making mix CDs of my favorite songs from each of my 30 favorite musical artists/groups. Read the introductory post for more background information on my 30 at 30 project. Reminder: there is no scientific rationale for this list. They’re simply my personal favorites. Coming in at number 22 is Gavin DeGraw.


Gavin DeGraw released his debut album Chariot in 2003. That was an influential year for me. I graduated high school and began college in 2003. I attended my first ever concert (Counting Crows) in 2003. I also met my future wife in 2003.  We worked together at Giant Eagle. Discussing our musical interests was one of the first connections we ever made.

In 2004, DeGraw re-released Chariot with a bonus disc called Chariot Stripped, featuring “stripped-down” studio recordings of all of the original songs. When I purchased Stripped, I was left with an extra copy of Chariot, which I gave to Jessie. Even before we had romantic chemistry, we shared a friendship built, at least in part, over a shared love for music. That Gavin DeGraw CD was one of the first of many musical gifts we would exchange over the years. 

Chariot and Chariot Stripped combined to land nine tracks on my Gavin DeGraw compilation. In my opinion, DeGraw has never been quite as good as he was on his debut. “I Don’t Want to Be”, the first DeGraw song I ever heard, which was also the theme song from the television drama One Tree Hill, is a powerful song of self-affirmation. It’s message of being proud of who you are and where you come from is one that anyone can relate to.

“Follow Through” has landed on three different Matt’s Mixes throughout the years at pivotal turning points or moments in my life, including the soundtrack that commemorated 4.15.05, the unofficial start of my relationship with Jessie.

Oh, this is the start of something good
Don’t you agree?
I haven’t felt like this in so many moons
You know what I mean?
And we can build through this destruction
As we are standing on our feet
So, since you want to be with me
You’ll have to follow through
With every word you say
And I, all I really want is you
You to stick around
I’ll see you everyday
But you have to follow through

“More Than Anyone” is a great, straightforward love song promising to “love you more than anyone.” But perhaps my two favorite songs from Chariot Stripped are “Meaning” and “Belief”, both of which tie in the spiritual connection to love.

DeGraw’s follow-up to Chariot was his self-titled album in 2008. “Young Love” and “In Love With a Girl” both made the cut for the compilation, the latter of which has more of a traditional pop-rock vibe.

In 2009, DeGraw released his third album, Free. Five tracks made my list, including three that bookend the compilation. I open with “Free” because I love the idea that freedom isn’t just wind in one’s hair, salt on one’s skin, sun in the air but also feeling love and giving someone everything that he or she would ever need. I chose to close out the compilation with “Waterfall” and “Dancing Shoes.” The repetition of “you’re beautiful, beautiful, beautiful” at the end of “Waterfall” transitions well into the pretty piano ballad that is “Dancing Shoes.”

Also making the cut were two tracks from 2011’s Sweeter and three tracks from 2013’s Make a Move, including the Mumford & Sons-ish “Best I Ever Had.” 

DeGraw, like Howie Day, writes songs that are generally right in my wheelhouse  in terms of singability. Between his tie-in with One Tree Hill and regular appearances on the Ellen DeGeneres Show, DeGraw’s inclusion on my 30 at 30 list isn’t likely to score me a lot of points in terms of street cred. However, as I’ve said from the beginning, this is my list. Besides, anyone who knows me knows that I’m a lover, not a fighter. So, while I don’t always wear my heart on my (album) sleeve, if you look closely, you can usually find it written in the liner notes.

MM 30 at 30: Gavin DeGraw tracklist (finalized March 30, 2014)
1. Free
2. Just Friends
3. Sweeter
4. Finest Hour
5. (Nice to Meet You) Anyway
6. Glass
7. Stay
8. Everything Will Change
9. Follow Through
10. Crush
11. Young Love
12. In Love With a Girl
13. I Don’t Want to Be
14. Chariot
15. Spell It Out
16. Best I Ever Had
17. More Than Anyone
18. Meaning
19. Belief
20. Waterfall
21. Dancing Shoes

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