Graham I Am 

Death and breakups define songwriter's identity.

Cleveland native Graham Girard has been dealt his fair share of lemons for a 25-year-old songwriter. But like any trooper, he's turned sour notes into sweet songs. Take his dad's death while he worked on his untitled album about a breakup with a girlfriend. "My father's passing kind of changed directions from there," says Girard. "It wasn't about me and my problems with this girl or myself anymore."His recollections float over acoustic-guitar riffs and piano chords on the disc, which marked the end of his partying days. "There were a couple of coked-out girls and stuff like that," says Girard. "This is trying to grow up and get a little more of the pie. It's trying to find a little more normalcy."Girard's songwriting has also benefited from working with music vets like the backup band for Herman's Hermits singer Peter Noone. And in the studio, he sits behind the mixing boards, where he prefers to be when he's not onstage. "Whether it be on the production side, the performance side, or both, I just want to get my hands on everything," says Girard. "The songs don't mean anything unless people hear them." The concert starts at 9 tonight in the Beachland Tavern, 15711 Waterloo Road. Tickets are $7. Call 216-383-1124 or visit www.beachlandballroom.com.
Sun., Jan. 13, 9 p.m., 2008

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