EXCLUSIVE: Gavin DeGraw Talks His “Fake Dance Career” On DWTS, How He Avoided Leotards, And Holograms

by (@unclegrambo)

When it was announced that Gavin DeGraw was going to appear on Dancing With The Stars this season, many critics initially pegged him for early elimination. After all, even he would admit that he’s not exactly known as being the next Michael Jackson or anything. However, we here at VH1 thought that he was a real dark horse in the race for the prize, and Gavin ended up shocking most of the pundits by making it all the way to Week 5 before being eliminated.

Well, we were able to grab a few minutes on the phone with our buddy Gavin last night, and we asked him about a number of topics: what his experience was like on the show, how he managed to avoid wearing a leotard, and what his reaction was to seeing Tupac in hologram form.

VH1: First of all, congrats on making it all the way to the fifth week of competition on Dancing With The Stars! What can you tell us about the experience as a whole, as well as the samba routine that led to your eventual ouster?
Gavin DeGraw: It was an awesome time. It was a lot of work, a lot more work than anyone would ever expect it to be to get the routine down the way you want it to be before you do go up in front of 20 or 25 million people and have ‘em watch.

No pressure!
Haha, exactly. The samba was kind of our “Go For It” dance, we knew it was ambitious, but I didn’t join the show just to win a show, you know? I went on to have a great time and take on a challenge. You don’t necessarily go on to win a trophy, you go on to challenge yourself and do it in the most sportsmanlike way by avoiding easy routines.

Well, it seems like all of our VH1 readers were really impressed with the way that you improved from week to week.
The fans have been AWESOME, man. I definitely would not have made it this far with all their support, I was really, really lucky to have such a strong core group of fans, people who were really supportive of an artist that they knew was trying to do something different, something outside of my comfort zone.

Speaking of being outside your comfort zone, did you ever envision a scenario in which you would be on live TV doing a dance-off with Urkel?
Never in a million years! (Laughs) First of all, I never expected to be on a dance show to begin with, the next thing you know, I’m on a dance show with a guy who was on TV all through my youth, you know? It was really trippy. That was one of the real fascinating things about the show and the real “pinch myself” element of the show that you’d end up on stage with somebody who you grew up watching on TV, whether that was Martina Navratilova, Jack Wagner, or Jaleel White. It was something nobody saw coming, I wouldn’t change it for the world.


Which of the five performances you and Karina did felt the best to you, meaning that you felt really well rehearsed and that you were able to execute well in the live show?
My favorite one was the rumba. That one really felt like dancing, versus exercising to music. (Laughs)

What was the vibe like on the set with all of the other competitors?
There’s a very boot camp element to it, where You’re all kinda struggling to get it right. You go off in your little corner and work privately with someone, then you end up meeting in the common area, all like, “Man, I’m gettin’ KILLED in there.” You’re all kind of sharing that moment.

It sounds like Billy Joel’s song, “Goodnight Saigon.” You know, “And we will all go down together…”
(Laughs) Well, the stakes are just a little different. The show really is such good fun competition, and it’s friendly competition, and there’s nothing like it. The downside of it is, of course, the people that you become friendly with over time, you end up competing with. You really don’t want to go in and be in direct competition with someone, it’s too personal. When it’s a big group competing, that’s one thing. But when you end up looking over the little black line in the floor going “It’s either me or you,” it starts feeling a little bit funky. It’s hard for you to celebrate even when you do stick around. Even though you’re happy that you get to stick around, I get to have one more great week of my fake dance career with my fake TV girlfriend, you still feel bad because you made a friend who’s gonna go home.

We were very impressed that you managed to avoid wearing a leotard for all those weeks!
(Laughs) We DEFINITELY all kinda talked before we ever threw any clothes on. I have to say, all those really goofy outfits —like, the REALLY ridiculous ones— that’s a choice by whoever is wearing it. The wardrobe people were really cool, man. It also had to do with who your partner is. Karina Smirnoff was so involved in what the costume was gonna be, and she’d always bounce the ideas off me.

Can you give us an example of you giving specific costume direction?
On the second week of the show, when I wore the motorcycle jacket and that particular cap, it was totally Brando. It’s one of my all-time favorite movies, and when we got the song “Real Wild Child,” I asked Karina if she had ever seen The Wild One. I told her she had to see it, it was Brando at his BEST. She came in the next day and agreed, and I thought it was the most bad ass outfit possible.

Is there any chance that you’ll be headed back to the show this season, maybe to perform “Sweeter”?
Man, I would love to. That’s definitely something that I would be really excited about. I happen to be a big fan of the show, I think they do a great job with booking musical guests. It would be an honor to be back on it to do a performance, of course. That’s my job, and it would be nice to return to that setting doing what I’m actually good at! (Laughs)

Now that you don’t have to spend a couple of days each week holed up in a studio in Los Angeles, how are you gonna be spending your time?
Our summer tour is gonna be really exciting, I feel like it’s gonna be huge. It’s me and Colbie Callait and our friend Andy Grammer, who’s fantastic. I think it’s gonna be one of the tours to see this summer, honestly. I mean, it’s honestly the one I’m most excited about, but maybe that’s just because I’m in it. But don’t forget, KISS is doing a tour this summer, too, so I’m definitely gonna check that out.

I’m not sure if you’ve heard, but 2Pac was reincarnated over the weekend in hologram form.
I heard. So awesome!

If you could bring a hologram on tour with you this summer, who would it be?
A hologram duet? Anybody? That’s a tough one, bro. That’s a really f*ckin’ hard one. I like Marvin Gaye, that would be bangin’. Johnny Cash, that would be cool.

What a trio!
That would be great. Then it would be like, “Which one of these guys doesn’t belong here?” (Laughs) Me, of course.

Gavin DeGraw’s new album, Sweeter, is in stores now (and it’s on Spotify, too). Chances are that he’s coming on tour to a city near you this summer, check out his complete list of tour dates on GavinDeGraw.com.