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Hendrix-educated songwriter focuses on family

By JACK W. HILL SPECIAL TO THE DEMOCRAT-GAZETTE

This article was published March 27, 2014 at 3:06 a.m.

Graham Wilkinson

A 2002 fine arts graduate of Hendrix College, Texas-born and -raised singer-songwriter Graham Wilkinson considers himself a fortunate son.

“I’m doubly blessed that I can play music and people want to hear it,” he says. “We’ve had a Kickstarter campaign and raised more than our goal of $3,200, and there’s still nine days left, besides. I’m going to record an acoustic album of just me and my guitar, sort of like that early [Bob] Dylan thing.”

Wilkinson, who lives with his wife and 4-yearold twin daughters in Austin, Texas, is no stranger to doing shows at the White Water, having played there numerous times since 2006, when he did a show with Chris Denny, a former Arkansan who now also lives in the musical mecca of Austin.

Counting albums and EPs, Wilkinson has released a recording almost annually since debuting in 2006. Perhaps his best-known song is “Focus,” from his 2011 EP The Spiritual Accessories. The song became a No. 1 favorite on mtv.com. Wilkinson takes special delight in it, thanks to the inclusion of his family in the images depicted, as someone opens a trunk in a grassy field, revealing several cameras, a magnifying glass and even a View-Master, and then all are used to showcase Wilkinson in various angles as he performs.

“We had my mom and dad, my older brother, my sister and her husband, my wife and the twins as babies, even my grandma in her wheelchair,” Wilkinson says, “so there’s a lot of special sentiment there. When that came out, I got picked up by a Los Angeles booking agency for a while, but I was really missing my girls.

“I didn’t want to miss out on this part of their lives, and since my wife works from home, we can go anywhere, on a walk, play on the trampoline, smell the flowers, whatever, and my mom and dad retired and moved to Austin, so they can help out.”

Before settling down with the wife and kids, Wilkinson reckons he got some wanderlust out of his system in his college years. He dropped out for a time and traveled to Greece, where he played in the streets for people he didn’t know, in order to build up the confidence he knew he would need if he were to make music his career.

“I came back and finished school, which was a shock to everyone, including myself,” he says with a laugh. “But then I moved to Micronesia, after volunteering to teach English there. I was ready to never return to the States, but then my older brother died.”

In 2008, Wilkinson had an idea for a song he called “Let It Go (Laugh Until Life Makes Sense),” and there’s a video for it, and he laughs that this year’s Academy Award-winning song is also called “Let It Go,” from the movie Frozen.

“There have been some things that came out of our song, such as baby shirts that say ‘Play Until Life Makes Sense,’” he explains, “and ‘Fish Until Life Makes Sense,’ and so on. We had meetings with someone from Bass Pro Shops and even met the two guys who started the ‘Life Is Good’ line of products way back before the Internet. So our idea with shirts and stickers and stuff might be an extra source of income some day if I ever get the spare time to go to meetings!”

Before the show in Little Rock, he will play at George’s Majestic Lounge in Fayetteville on Friday night, along with Fayetteville singer-songwriter Sarah Hughes, who will then accompany him to Little Rock to return the favor.

“Sarah and I both went to Hendrix and got fine arts degrees and graduated in 2002,” Wilkinson says. “I know she’s the sweetheart of Arkansas, and we’ll probably take turns opening, and doing some songs together and whatever.”

Graham Wilkinson

Opening act: Sarah Hughes 9:30 p.m. Saturday, White Water Tavern, West Seventh and Thayer streets, Little Rock Admission: $6 (501) 375-8400 whitewatertavern.com

Weekend, Pages 37 on 03/27/2014

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