Singled Out: Graham The Empire's The Best Of Me

Graham The Empire

Indianapolis alt-rockers trio Graham The Empire are gearing up to release their debut EP on September 29th. To celebrate we asked frontman Graham Zebrasky to tell us about their single "The Best Of Me." Here is the story:

The song "The Best Of Me" really got its footing some time ago while I was in high school. I had this guitar riff - the main part - and really wanted to write a song over it. The basic idea came together pretty quickly and I was finding that, surprisingly, a girl that I had a crush on was a great inspiration that helped drive the song forward. I had barely any experience writing lyrics and finding a melody that fit the music and arrangement so the chorus went "Ste - phan - ie, Ste - phan - ie, you're my Ste - phan -ie". Yeah, no idea who I was writing about…

Sadly, the song was put on the shelf as I could never seem to find the right inspiration and feel for the rest of the arrangement and not surprisingly, the high school crush didn't last forever. It wasn't until years later where I was going through the polar opposite of a high school crush - ending a long relationship in the worse way possible, where the song became an anthem.

Short backstory: it was one of those relationship endings where I felt like I was consistently trying to take the high road, only to be met with being taken advantage of. To a fault, I really do believe the best in people. Only on this day, it had been taken to an extreme and put some things that were very important to me in jeopardy - I had enough. Immediately in my head, I heard the words "She got the best of me".

I ran down to my small studio - (which was really a ton of music gear crammed into a small room) and immediately brought out the riff that had sat on the shelf for so long. In about 15 minutes, the song was complete and in roughly the same form that you hear today. It just all made too much sense together. Right after the first guitar pass and drum loops were put down, I wrote the lyrics and sang with all the anger, confusion, and intensity that brought me to that place. While the words "She got the best of me" are an angry statement of the reality that she put me through, both in the sense that she got the best of me in that moment but also got some of the best years of my life; it also longs for an answer that had me running back continually asking questions of "why". It will likely be a perpetually unanswered question that I'll ask each time I sing the song onstage.

THAT particular demo vocal take became the one that we kept coming back to when the song was brought into the studio. I tried singing it again during multiple takes but none of them quite had that intensity and yearning that the demo had. So with a couple of engineering tricks, we made it work as a final version (thank you Mark Needham, you're the man)!

The studio cut of this song was just amazing to perform. We ended up getting Dane Clark, the drummer from John Mellancamp, to play drums on the song. He took to it immediately and came up with these awesome parts that just worked seamlessly in the song. It only took us a couple of hours to get the drums nailed down in their final form, where most of the time we spent on the crazy drum fills during the bridge. Those are my favorite drums on the record and it felt like the soul of Keith Moon himself was in the studio that day! The other interesting bit is that we had a much longer interlude at the bridge with piano, an acoustic fingerpicking part, and some neat bass work; sadly, we had to cut it out of the final version due to length. Maybe we'll get to release it as a bonus track someday.

And there you have it - that's the story of the song and it's one that is quite personal for me to share. Thanks for reading and we really hope that you enjoy listening to the song!

Hearing is believing. Now that you know the story behind the song, listen and watch for yourself here and learn more about the band and EP right here!

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