Michael Endelman
January 24, 2005 AT 05:00 AM EST

This month, pop-soul belter Gavin DeGraw hit No. 1 with the teen-independence anthem ”I Don’t Want to Be.” That’s impressive enough for a rookie, but this is what’s really amazing: DeGraw’s debut CD, Chariot, came out 18 months ago and only just went platinum. But don’t credit the recent surge to mere luck. J Records aimed for a slow burn with the hope that DeGraw would be ”the next Maroon 5,” in the words of A&R exec James Diener, who works with both acts. Here’s an annotated timeline of a true late bloomer.

July 22, 2003
Chariot debuts at a modest No. 180 on the Billboard album chart, selling 6,100 copies its first week.

Sept.-Nov., 2003
DeGraw snags an opening slot on a tour with Maroon 5. Score!

Sept. 23, 2003
The WB’s One Tree Hill debuts with DeGraw’s ”I Don’t Want to Be” as its theme song. Teenage adoration ensues.

Oct. 2003
”Follow Through” stalls at No. 44 on the Top 40 Mainstream radio chart, which Diener calls ”a real disappointment.”

Feb. 7, 2004
Chariot peaks at No. 103 on the album chart. Not bad, Gavin.

July 27, 2004
J gets 21,000 fans to buy a reissued Chariot (with bonus disc) its first week out, which debuts strongly at No. 56.

Aug. 4, 2004
Bust out the champagne! Chariot is certified gold.

Jan. 10, 2005
DeGraw’s second single, ”I Don’t Want to Be,” hits No. 1 on the Top 40 radio chart. Somebody’s getting a fat bonus.

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