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Mega-producer Clive Davis of J Records declared Gavin DeGraw his "next big thing" a few years back, but ivory tickler DeGraw is still waiting for everyone else to realize just how good he really is. If you know anything about him, then you already know it might just be his unswerving integrity that's slowing him down.

New Times: You were offered your first recording contract five years before you signed to J Records, but turned it down despite having no other prospects. Why?

Gavin DeGraw: The contract didn't feel like love to me. It felt more like a really good business situation for them. Plus, I figured if I wasn't that impressed with what they were saying to me, then maybe I wasn't impressing them enough. It wasn't that hard of a decision, either. It was like, "No disrespect to you, but I'd be happier working at the lumber company where I'm at than signing this contract."

NT: Considering the integrity involved in that decision, what drove you to allow the WB to use "I Don't Want to Be" as One Tree Hill's theme song -- a move that could be perceived as "cashing in"?

DeGraw: At first, I thought, "Well, this could be terrible because of the association with a TV show." But then I thought about the show I used to watch as a kid, The Wonder Years; all I remember is Joe Cocker's version of "With a Little Help From My Friends." I looked so forward to hearing that fucking song. So I thought, worst-case scenario is worst-case scenario, but best case is something like that -- people might think about me or my song like that, and that'd be a great thing.

NT: How do you feel about music television these days?

DeGraw: Obviously, I'm aware of the potential development of your career with a successful video -- but I'm still not willing to do certain things. When I watch most videos, I feel insulted. A lot of it's kind of like cheesy soft-core porn, and it's directed at 12-year-old kids. Maybe it'll sell toothpaste during the commercial break, but there should be some integrity involved, too. Maybe one day some of the people who make these decisions will have kids, and maybe one day their kids will come home and talk to them in a way they never imagined their kids would talk to them 'cause they were being taught by what they helped put on television. Maybe it'll come full circle and these guys will be like, "What am I doing? My kids are fucking assholes."