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The Grahams – An Adventure, an American Story, & a Long-Awaited Album
Friday, June 12, 2020

When you listen to the music of The Grahams you can hear a tightness that you just can’t fake, and there’s good reason for that – married couple Doug and Alyssa Graham have been together since they were kids.

The Nashville-based, New Jersey bred, alt-pop rock duo recently released their latest album, Kids Like Us, and the story behind the album is an incredible one that involves a motorcycle trip down Route 66, biker bars, triumphs, tragedy, and an addition to the family.

I caught up with both Doug and Alyssa to find out about the wild ride of Kids Like Us, the stories they were looking to tell, and the trait they hope to instill in their daughter.

While you’re currently a Nashville-based band, you both grew up in New Jersey. Which elements of Jersey are still in your personalities, and when do you see them come out?

Doug: {laughs} Well, I mean, goodness, you’re from Connecticut, you know Jersey enough just being close to Jersey – you can’t avoid it. You can’t get it out of your personality.

Alyssa: We are Jersey strong!

Doug and I grew up together. We talk about this all the time now, raising a daughter, and where we want to raise her, and Jersey is such a personality. The whole state is sort of its own character.

We grew up as suburban kids outside of New York City, like about 20 minutes from the GW Bridge, and we lived for riding our bikes around the cul-de-sacs, and ding dong ditch, and kick the can. I think we spent a lot of time in the Jersey suburbs experimenting with psychedelic drugs, and weed. That’s how we grew up and I don’t think we’re that different, and those are the things we want to instill in our daughter, too.

Maybe not the psychedelics. {laughs}

But it’s hard to imagine her being able to (grow up like that) anymore – living outside, rugrats out on the street like we were. It was very Jersey, and being a bedroom community of New York City had a lot to do with who we are today.

Doug: And that definitely gets us in trouble in Tennessee.

I was just about to ask that.

Doug: For me it’s different. As a guy, I’m from Jersey, I can be loud and boisterous, but we both have noticed that when Alyssa exhibits her Jersey qualities people look at her funny, like she’s a little out of place.

Alyssa: Certainly down in Tennessee.

Doug: I think even with our music … it must be said that when we were young kids we were not huge Bruce Springsteen fans, and strangely, when we did our last record in Oklahoma we sort of fell in love with Bruce Springsteen, because he had this Oklahoma element to him, believe it or not.

The bottom line is we definitely strove for the writing of this record to have this quality that Bruce Springsteen had, which is telling the American story, in a way. It’s sort of an everyman story. That was definitely one of our goals when we were writing the record, trying to tell an everyman story.

We rode our motorcycles across the country, and we experienced a lot of different aspects of America, and telling those stories of the everyman in America is something that Bruce, and John Mellencamp, were really good at, and a lot of other Oklahoma artists are really good at doing that. We definitely had that quality in our approach to songwriting on this record.

Speaking of the album, the release of Kids Like Us was a long time coming. I recall first getting to hear it over a year ago. What caused the delays, and what level of frustration did you reach during this time?

Alyssa: I think the first thing that delayed the record was the passing of Richard Swift, which was a huge life changer for us, of course more for his family and close friends. He produced the record, and in the middle of making the record he passed away, so we had to finish the record, and then we had to come to terms with he fact that this amazing light, and creative mind that produced this record, wasn’t gonna be there to see it released.

When we were mastering (the album) we learned that we were pregnant, which was definitely a long time coming since we’ve been together for our entire lives and didn’t think to have a baby until the last possible moment. {laughs}

Doug: Right before the album release date.

Alyssa: Well, yeah, right before there was no chance that this was ever gonna happen again.

So we put this big pause on (releasing the album) for a few reasons, one was Richard Swift, the other was (our daughter) Georgette, and then being that we have impeccable timing we decided the best time to release it would be at the beginning of the home stay for COVID.

I can’t imagine you expected to be releasing the album in the middle of global pandemic, but since you have the play the hand you’re dealt, how do you hope Kids Like Us affects people?

Alyssa: You know, the title track, that’s been the first song that radio is focusing on, in light of everything going on right now I think it’s an incredibly timely song.

Obviously we wish we were out there touring, and we wish we could be meeting people, and talking about the songs on stage, but right now, with everybody taking a step back and living their own strange reality, “Kids Like Us” is a totally appropriate song right now.

Doug: When we were writing that song we were, in a way, predicting the future, little did we know.

There’s no way we could predict something like this, but we definitely talk about how everything is going to be destroyed and ruined, and by the time we wrote the record it seemed like everything was gonna go to shit, and it sure did.

Alyssa: It’s just incredible what’s happening in this country right now. Our record is so insignificant when it comes to the world, and what’s going on around us right now, but I keep coming back to the fact that the song “Kids Like Us” is sort of an anthem for this time that we’re living through.

If anything comes of this, I hope people get to hear that song, and have some reaction to it.

You released a video for “Kids Like Us,” and I know there were some challenges involved. What was that process like?

Doug: The shoot for “Kids Like Us” was gonna be a cool production where we were gonna be live with people in a room, and it was gonna be this big group of people. Of course, we had to cancel that production because that was taking place during the beginning of the pandemic. By the time we started organizing the video it was basically – how are we gonna do this?

The director from the big party video we were gonna shoot came up with a cool idea, along with Alyssa, on how to shoot a video in shut down. We happen to have a projector, and we hooked up our computer, and our director sent us some video footage to basically play over our faces on the projector, and was like, “Listen, I want three shots of you guys in these different ways, and I’d love to see what you come up with.” He talked about how close he wanted the camera for certain shots, and sure enough we did our part, and he came by and picked up the camera with the chip in it, and next thing we knew we had this awesome video.

Alyssa: I think the coolest thing about the video for “Kids Like Us” is that even in the pandemic the director was able to collect a cross-section of kids and young adults, and capture these moments of them experiencing life. Everybody is obviously doing it in their own element, and nobody was together in one room, so it’s all these individual stories, which I love.

Speaking of experiencing life, you wrote the album while having quite the life experience – going on a motorcycle trip down Route 66. At what points during that trip did you most feel like badasses?

Both: {laughs}

Doug: That’s a great question.

At the beginning of the trip we were more fearful, because we were like – OK, here we go, we’re doing this, driving through big cities. We had pretty recently learned how to drive motorcycles, so this was the real test.

We started in Chicago. Driving through the city is all hectic and crazy. We headed to St. Louis, which was the next big city. It was a lot of big gritty cities the way it started, and then (we) kinda edged into Oklahoma, and as we were edging through Oklahoma into Texas it became desert. Once we were in the desert world, through New Mexico and Arizona and ultimately through the Mojave Desert in California, that whole desert ride we were just like – ah, this is why motorcyclists love riding motorcycles.

Alyssa: And we felt like badasses.

Doug: We were like, yeah, we’re badasses doin’ it! {laughs}

You get the vibe of Easy Rider and suddenly you’re like, no one can touch this.

That’s when you feel good to walk into the motorcycle bar.

Doug: Yeah, that’s true. We had filmmakers following us on the journey and they had set up various interviews along the way, and one of the first ones just after St. Louis was in Devil’s Elbow (Missouri), and it was bikers night at a very biker bar, with Confederate flags hanging in it, and stuff like that. We were scared shitless!

Alyssa: They asked us to perform so they could film it – this documentary, by the way, is called Searching the Milky Way, and it’s gonna come out, I think in August – so we performed in this tiny little biker bar in Devil’s Elbow, Missouri, and we actually told them we weren’t gonna do it if they wouldn’t move the Confederate flag, so they did.

It was an insane experience, and you know, the truth is, as different as we are from those people, you can always use it as a learning experience. We were able to find common ground.

Doug: We made friends with people, and everything was cool. It was kinda after that, after we had that experience performing in a biker bar, driving to it on our motorcycles, we were like, alright, we can hang. {laughs}

Alyssa: We won’t die. We won’t die.

Meanwhile, your crew was dead in the back.

Doug: {laughs} Exactly. We never heard from them again, but it’s cool.

Now that you’re parents, how has this affected any potential plans for more wild road trips?

Doug: That motorcycle trip is something we won’t be doing again for a while, even though it was probably the best adventure we ever had. It’s gonna take a while, because it is dangerous, and I want to hang around for my daughter’s life, but Alyssa and I, when we first got married, she said to me, “I want to see the world. I want to move around the county.”

Alyssa: The country? The world.

Doug: The world. Right, and I was like, OK. {laughs}

Our plan is to keep moving, but with more care now.

What you’re saying is you said what needed to be said to get the girl.

Doug: {laughs} “Whatever you want baby!” Now I’m stuck doing it!

Alyssa: He said that when I was like seven, mind you. We’ve literally been living together since we left our parents houses at 17 years old, so he told me that he would move around the world with me when we were like ten.

Doug: I lived up to it.

Alyssa: You did! The motorcycle journey was an incredible, mind-blowing experience.

We’ve traveled the world – we’ve done bike riding trips in Indonesia, we’ve climbed Machu Picchu, we’ve done lots of world traveling in India, met with the Dali Lama in Dharamshala.

That was just one adventure, and we will definitely keep doing them, and that’s something we will definitely instill in our daughter. We don’t want to her to be afraid of anything.

For more of The Grahams, check out thegrahamsmusic.net, and follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.


posted by Adam Bernard @ 7:00 AM  
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