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Gavin DeGraw plays Speed Street 

With Twitter on the rise, I stumbled upon a tweet by singer/songwriter Gavin Degraw that read "My biggest fear is getting older." But, that wasn't really Degraw, just an imposter. "That's not my Twitter. Apparently someone has taken my name. My biggest fear is sharks," he says via phone from Jacksonville, Fla.

Degraw goes on to confess that he's a fan of the television show I Shouldn't Be Alive. Oh, and the shark thing -- it doesn't keep him from hopping into the ocean. "Just because you're afraid of it doesn't mean you should stay away from it," he says. "Sometimes things that you're fearful of are the most exciting things. How boring would your life be if you didn't have any of those stories of fear?"

Currently on tour in support of his third album, Free, Degraw will perform at the Food Lion Speed Street 600 Festival on May 23.

Degraw, who's originally from New York, boosted his way into fame with his 2003 debut album Chariot. But he was playing music long before that.

"I loved music, and I was already playing, but I started taking it more seriously when I was about 15 years old. Prior to that I wanted to be a doctor, and I wanted to do something that involved helping people," he reveals. "I thought music was a selfish career, and I thought it would be too selfish to pursue as a career. And then I went to a [Billy Joel] concert, and I saw how good the music made people feel, and that's when I decided to pursue my music."

Degraw's song "I Don't Want to Be" (off of Chariot) was the one that changed his life. But other hits were to follow, including "Follow Through" and "Chariot," all of which earned him widespread recognition and quickly spread through radio waves across the country.

In regards to "I Don't Want to Be," Degraw says, "What inspired the song was really me noticing what I think was a tremendous lack of identity amongst American youth."

On his newest CD, Free, Degraw intentionally shied away from producing the album as he had in the past. This go-round, he kept production costs to a minimum.

"A big difference was really the pressure. There simply wasn't as much pressure in making this album as there was making any of the other records, either the Chariot record or the self-titled record, because really there just wasn't as much money being spent. So that immediately took a lot of pressure off, which was refreshing," he says. "The only pressure was a timeline. We wanted to get it done quickly and to keep it raw. We finally spent two weeks in the studio, which is a really brief recording time."

Free features a cover of musician Chris Whitley's song "Indian Summer." In addition, catchier songs on the disc include the title track, "Free," "Mountains to Move" and "Lover Be Strong," among others.

"There are certain things that are imperfect about the album and certain elements of the performances where there are imperfections that we didn't bother to fix -- because we just felt like 'That's real. That's authentic. That was in the moment and life is like that.' And those are the small things that give it character," Degraw says. "Those aren't the only things that give it character, but they are an element of what gives something character, so why not just let them be what they are?"

Gavin DeGraw will perform at 9:30 p.m. on the Miller Lite Stage during the Food Lion Speed Street Festival on May 23.

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