Griffin House is a Nashville singer/songwriter quickly making his presence known on our eastern coastline. Raised by All-American parents in the quiet suburbs of Springfield, Ohio, House knew early on what he wanted to do and how he was going to make it happen. Beginning with his early days as a theatrical star to his time as a golf prodigy, Griffin House utilized a keen sense of passionate direction and used life situation and experience to guide himself into becoming a compositional contender.
From his early and attention grabbing 2003 release, Upland, to his high-profile 2008 release of Flying Upside Down, Griffin House has had some stellar career highlights. He has shared the stage with artists that run the gamut from John Mellencamp to The Cranberries. In an industry filled with disappointment and error, House has successfully maneuvered the obstacles and ended up with some fantastic and ongoing career results.
Griffin recently spent time over at Lakehouse Music working on tracks for his latest recording project, and he took a few moments to give us some insight into the mind of a songwriter that blends the better of two music towns to come up with his distinct brand of musical communication.
How does a guy that started out in high school musicals, and then winds up with a coveted golf scholarship (that he turns down) end up as a singer/songwriter?
(Laughs) Good question! I don’t know… It was like a snowball effect. One thing led to another, but it was basically due to my start in school theater. John Legend went to my high school, and I saw him in a musical and got inspiration through that. I got involved with theater, found out I could sing and got burnt out on golf. Even though it was a big deal, I didn’t take the scholarship. My parents were extremely supportive of my choices, and I ended up in Miami where they had previously gone to school.
There was also a study abroad program in Luxembourg that my aunt had gone to study and as she was always talking about how cool that was, I went there and eventually that led to me being more cultured and figuring out more about being an artist, a musician, and songwriter. I actually started writing songs over there, and when I eventually came home I joined a band in college, got a little production deal in Philly, and spent a few tough months there before moving to Nashville where things came together with a manager, label, and an agent.
You have quite an extensive tour picking up in California in June. What city and its fans gets you psyched the most?
Well, that’s tough, as there have been so many great places, and I think my fan base has evolved in really great ways over the last few years. I mean, it’s weird, most clubs have an unbridled course of responses, but my fans are really respectful. They’re quiet and when they’re supposed to be quiet and loud when I need that too. (Laughs) But New York and Chicago are my two best cities, and I’ve had some great recent appearances in both.
In a town filled with talented transients, who do you see attracting real Nashville attention these days?
I think the guy who’s considered to be THE man, is Jack White. He runs the whole indie scene. He’s the figurehead for the whole new rock movement. He’s respected for utilizing unconventional sound movements as well as giving respect toward traditional country roots. The Kings Of Leon guys live there; The Black Keys live there as well. That’s the kind of people that dominate Nashville now. What used to be more hardcore country and Christian-based music, is now world music. It’s a very creative time in Music City.
As a guitar lover, I have to ask, what is your favorite six-string now?
I have a 1967 Gretsch Chet Atkins Nashville that I bought at Mikes Music in Cincinnati back a bit. It’s an awesome orange color with a big belt buckle protector on the back. I play it all the time. I only have three guitars, which include the Gretsch, a Gibson vintage reissue J-45, and my Martin HD35, which is out in L.A. getting some major surgery at the moment (laughs).
I saw you checking out The Saint a few weeks back; do you have plans for playing the East Coast shortly?
I’ll definitely be back on the East Coast in December. I know I’m playing New York, Boston, and the D.C. area, and I’d love to get back to Asbury and The Saint in particular.
What was it like to work with incredible legends such as Mike Campbell and Benmont Tench (Tom Petty) on your 2008 release, Flying Upside Down?
Killer! Tench was tracking for the whole week, and he’s just a complete musical mentor. Everybody looks up to Benmont. When you’re in the room with him, you’re in the room with a knowledgeable and influential musical encyclopedia. He inspires everyone because he brings these great records to the studio, or he shows you a piece of music that you’ve never heard of before. He gets everybody to give their best and does it with a smile on his face. He’s a complete gentleman, and I can’t say enough good things about him.
Mike Campbell was amazing to play with. We went to his studios and did overdubs for a day. He had more gear than you can possibly imagine, and it was an incredible experience as a musician. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone play with more ease, it’s just like he rolls a track and plays it perfect, and he’s incredible.
I come from an East Coast scene that sees everybody trying to get down to Nashville. What attracted you to the opposite directional landscape of Asbury Park?
I remember being at my mom’s house in Springfield, Ohio, and I’m trying to get my music career started the phone rang and my agent says, “You’re gonna go on tour with Springsteen’s wife Patti Scialfa,” which was one of the first tours I ever went on. So I came to Jersey and met Bruce and Patti and the whole E Street crew. How inspiring is that? (Laughs) I mean, I come to Asbury Park and get to hang out with them and play for five shows…and I wasn’t supposed to be on the L.A. show, but they invited me out and played that one and had some really nice moments with both Bruce and Patti. Later on, I went back to see Bruce play another show date in Cincinnati, and he invited me backstage to converse for a good 20-30 minutes before his show.
And then I just had this great recent trip here. So it was like there was this vibe in the air that was pulling me back. Jeff [Raspe] told me about this great studio and I got my butt over to Lakehouse, met John [Leidersdorf] who took me on a tour of the studio, we talked about a budget and everything just fell into place. It was kind of scary at first because it’s like I had to take that chance of leaving my comfortable [Nashville] surroundings and coming here and playing with guys I’ve never met. You don’t know what it’s going to end up like. But I feel that I got extremely lucky because everyone was so professional and talented. I can’t wait to come back later in the summer to finish up the record.
For more information on Griffin House, head over to griffinhousemusic.com.