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Gavin DeGraw charged onto the music scene in 2003 with his debut album, Chariot. It had hits that included the title track, "Follow Through," and his double-platinum smash, "I Don't Wanna Be."
He's gone through some hard knocks since then, but the 34-year-old singer-songwriter has taken it all in stride and has just released his fourth album, Sweeter. He tells Weekend Edition Saturday host Scott Simon that his latest set of songs "straddles the line between sexuality and masculinity."
"This new album [is] really about branching out and seeking new ground," he says, "and at the same time embracing the things that I feel led me to having a career to begin with."
DeGraw first started performing in his hometown of South Fallsburg, N.Y., which he calls a "small prison town" in the Catskill Mountains. Beginning at age 15, he played in local bars with his brother, honing his craft for more than 10 years before breaking through with Chariot.
This summer in New York's East Village, DeGraw had a gruesome brush with danger. Walking home alone after a night with his friends, he was first attacked by an anonymous group of people, then struck by a taxi as he tried to find his way to safety; he woke up in the hospital with a breathing tube in his mouth. DeGraw says the incident hasn't left him too rattled.
"I don't even really look at it as a life lesson," he says. "I had a bad encounter with a few bad people, but that could happen in any place. I really can't allow it to affect my mentality too much. I just don't live in fear. There will always be the bad with the good. It was a bad night, but I got through it. I healed up, and I still look like my mother."