I ask a lot of folks how and why they got started in music, and their answers are always enjoyable because of personal reasons near and dear to one’s heart.
So as long as there’s space in the paper, I’d like to leave Nashville-based singer-songwriter Griffin House’s 500-word answer to that question in. I mean, it covers all the bases — the meaning and purpose to one’s life, our society, our world, social justice, John Lennon, success and what it means — my bet it’s a summary of the themes you’ll find in Griffin’s heartfelt music, now weighing in at something like 11 albums.
That said, if your heart is in it, Hood River has two chances to see Griffin House, get this, at the venue The Griffin House (not a typo) Feb. 13-14, which, I understand, happens to be Valentine’s weekend.
Interview – Griffin House
Thanks for putting Hood River on your schedule. How did you find out about Hood River and what led to your upcoming Valentine weekend concert?
I honestly just heard that there was a place called the Griffin House that was inviting me to come play. I've never been to Hood River before, but the pictures look fantastic and I love coming to Oregon, so it will be fun to explore some more of the state and see Hood River for the first time.
I understand you’re getting ready to release your (eighth or ninth?) album. Can you tell us about it, and how do you think your songwriting had progressed since you started?
I think it might actually be my 10th or 11th record! But who's counting? I think my songwriting has really just been a reflection of my life and where I am as a human being.
As I've gone through stages of life, I've been open about it in my writing. As I've progressed and regressed at times, matured and sometimes lost my way a bit, it's all there in the recordings.
My latest album, “So on and So Forth,” is really quite a big change I think, in that a lot of the themes seem new. I think some of old cliches about love and spirituality are being set aside, and this album is a glimpse into the life of someone who is really attempting to do hard work and ask some hard questions.
It's an album about recognizing the ego in one's self and letting it die. That's new ground for me. I think there is a lightness in this album and even though the subject matter is intense, there's a hopeful tone.
In addition to that, it's not overt, but I've been walking through the process of living life sober for years now and that experience is woven into the themes and subject matter as well.
Can you tell me what you’ll be playing/what can folks expect for the Feb. 13-14 shows?
They can expect a wide variety of songs from all my albums, and some new ones they haven't heard, and some storytelling. It’s just me and my guitar and harmonicas and stories, this time around.
What/who inspired you to start playing music, leading to what I gather is a full time job for you now.
I got into theater in high school and I started to sing there. I picked up guitar in college. I think I really got hooked on the idea of being a singer and being in a band when I saw U2's “Rattle and Hum” in high school. Bono was a good role model and a good archetype for me to follow for a lot of years.
I do something really different now, though, than what initially inspired me to do music. I am more of a one- man show most of the time, a traveling troubadour-story teller singing stripped down versions of my songs and just trying to share a connected experiences with audiences however I can.
It's turned into more of a practical career for me, a vocation if you will, but it started as a giant grandiose dream. My goals and values have changed, so I don't really have the idea that bigger is better anymore.
It's much harder work to be content with where you are, it seems, than to constantly be trying to move up the ladder and get somewhere else.
We live in a world, especially in America, where we are all familiar with hard work, dreaming big and getting ahead, but I don't think we've spent much time valuing how to take a step back and really appreciate all that we have.
It's kind of a paradox, because our whole country and way of life is built on competition and getting ahead, but I really have a deep desire inside of me to put away a lot of those old ideas and "unlearn" in a way. I don't want to live a life where I am constantly measuring myself based upon being better or worse than someone else.
Success for me now is much more about being at peace with me, and being the best me I can be. All the messages we get as a society about "winning" and "losing" I think are just wrong and on their way out. I hope I can be a part of world where everybody gets to win — where its win/win and not winners and losers.
No one beating anyone else, all of us just sharing our gifts and helping each other. I know that might sound really idealistic, naïve, or like I stole the idea from John Lennon's "Imagine." It's not a philosophy for me, trying to be smart or cool; it's simply that I've had to start living my own life in a way that causes some serious personal reckoning. And what I've started to come up with is that I need to be more concerned with what I'm giving rather than what I'm getting.
Ultimately, this just means loving myself well, so I can offer love to others, both personally and professionally. This is why I continue to play music. Not to imitate anyone else or to fulfill a childhood dream, but because it's what I have to offer.
How serendipitous is it that you are playing a venue called The Griffin House?
It would have felt more serendipitous if I was unaware of the venue name and just pulled up and the sign said "Griffin House."
But I've known about this gig for some time. I have a feeling maybe the owners found out there was an artist with the same name as their venue and checked out my music, but I don't know, I haven't met them yet. Yes, Griffin House my real name and no, it has nothing to do with Harry Potter!
You seem to have a lot of video production for your music. How much work goes into planning for just one song?
I had a lot of help with my first videos from the record label/management company. The last video I did for "Paris Calling" I used footage from my phone that I took last summer while in Paris.
And then I had my friend Mike at Crackerfarm help me shoot some footage of me singing the song live and editing it all together to make a video.
The last video I had help from a friend, John Lynch, who wanted to help support the new record, so he teamed me up with some mutual friends (Lee and Sharisse Coulter) and we made a video for "Yesterday Lies" that I hope you'll see very soon.
Are you surviving the East coast blizzard of 2016? Hope you and your family are safe…what happens to a traveling musician in these circumstance?
I survived, and we played in the snow. My two daughters loved it. A foot of snow in Nashville is quite rare. Coincidentally we had houseguests. Some friends came from San Diego to stay with us and help me shoot a music video for my single "Yesterday Lies." We woke up to a foot of snow, so we altered our plan and began shooting outside in the snow. We'll see if those shots make their way into the video.
The storm worked out for me because I’m in planning mode for the launch of my new album on March 4th. I spend most of my time handling busywork for the launch and planning with my publicist and radio promotions team. I honestly probably need a manager.
I have a booking agent and a team of people around me, but I've been sort of managing myself for quite a few years now, and it's a lot of work.
I find I am wearing the manager hat way more than I'd like to be, and would love to have my artist hat on a lot more. There are some advantages to doing things myself too, but lately it's been pretty overwhelming with a new record coming out and a tour coming up.