After dropping out of Ithaca College, he played rock and roll clubs around the city, until he caught the eye of legendary producer Clive Davis, the man who discovered Whitney Houston and Alicia Keys.
The singer/songwriter/pianist/guitarist recently released his major-label debut album, "Chariot," which features a soulful rock sound.
DeGraw visited The Saturday Early Show to perform a few of his song on the Second Cup Café.
The 26-year-old grew up in a musical family that regards music as a part of life. DeGraw began singing and playing piano at the age of 8. In his teens, he discovered Ray Charles and Sam Cooke, both of whom, he says, are major influences on his music.
He first started to write his own songs after his older brother encouraged him to make the leap from playing in cover bands to writing original music.
DeGraw attended Ithaca College for a semester and then moved to Boston to attend Berklee College of Music. He left the prestigious school a year later to return home, working various odd jobs in New York City to survive.
The year 1998 was a lean one, but he also began breaking through in the music community. His talent for classic R&B tunes and rock 'n' roll led to many record label offers. He waited until 2002 before signing with Clive Davis and J Records.
DeGraw wrote all the tunes on "Chariot," highlighted by "Just Friends," "Follow Through," and the title track.