An Interview With The Singer-Songwriter GRIFFIN HOUSE On His 12th Album, “Rising Star” and Much More!
Posted On 02 Jul 2019
On June 28th, Griffin House released his 12th full-length studio album. The collection is called “Rising Star” and along with it, House also stars in the full-length documentary film also called Rising Star. It is set for release this year and it was co-produced with music video director and filmmaker Shane Drake. The film chronicles House’s life as a musician and features music from his new album as well as his previous catalog.
Griffin House has come a long way from his early days in Nashville, selling t-shirts and postcards at a souvenir shop on the city’s famed neon-clad Lower Broadway, and his new album reflects on every step of his journey from then to now.
With the help of old friends Paul Moak and Ian Fitchuk, his newest album, “Rising Star” exploded into life at Moak’s legendary recording studio, The Smoakstack. “It was so good to reunite with them and work together again,” House says about Moak and Fitchuk, who helped House make his very first record all those years ago. “It’s amazing to watch these guys I started out with in the very beginning who are now world-class musicians and producers winning Grammys. This album seemed to come together with a little more grace and ease than records I’ve made in the past, and I think so much of that is attributed to how good the people I got worth with on this record are, they all just happen to be really good friends too.”
House also drew from his tight circle of friends to complete a few of the songs from Rising Star as well. Fellow Nashville musicians Brian Elmquist (The Lone Bellow), Joy Williams, and longtime collaborator Jeff Trott (Sheryl Crow) all co-wrote songs for the album, the first two lending their voices to the recordings.
Recording and performing for over 15 years, Griffin House has toured with John Mellencamp, The Cranberries, Josh Ritter, Mat Kearny, and Brett Dennen just to name a few. He has been featured on the CBS Sunday morning show, CNN Newsroom, and has also appeared on Late Night with Craig Ferguson.
Connect With Griffin House Here- https://griffinhousemusic.com/
Learn more about Griffin House in the following All Access interview:
Thanks for your time today! Where does this interview find you?
Hi, thanks for your time too. I’m sitting at home checking things off the to do list, trying to squeeze in a yoga class at noon, answering emails and trying to decide if this Instagram video I just made is just too weird!
Now that we are half-way through the year, how has 2019 been treating you? What are some goals that you have for yourself this year? How close are you to reaching them?
Did you say half-way through 2019? I keep seeing “half-way through life” – I’m may be having a mid life crisis, haha. When I started music, people talked about wanting to set me up for a 30 year career instead of a flash in the pan, over-night success, here today and gone tomorrow. Well, my first record came out in 2004, so I’m half-way through that 30 year career. I might be on the Willie Nelson plan though, so maybe I’ll just keep going and make it a 60 year career.
I don’t really have any goals. I am so not in control of what happens in the universe and I’m starting to get that. I used to think I was; I set goals as a youngster moving to Nashville in the music business, and I achieved some of them, but these days the inverse often feels true. The harder you try, sometimes the harder it is. I’m just trying to make great music and stay steady and leave the outcome to God, the Universe, whatever you want to call it. Just trying to be a wave in the ocean.
Growing up, how important was music in your life? Can you recall the moment when you decided that you wanted to be a musician? Was it an easy or difficult choice to make?
I sang “Johnny B. Goode” on air guitar in my second grade class, re-enacting the scene from “Back to the Future”, so maybe I always wanted to do this? I didn’t start playing guitar though until I was 18. I gave up a golf scholarship to go to school at Miami University, then I had to figure out who I was other than a kid who turned down a golf scholarship. I kind of assumed I’d be on track for the golf career in some capacity, but college made it possible to go somewhere new and figure out who I wanted to be. I think I just latched onto U2 and wanted be like Bono. So, I imagined that I could be that. Over the years, my influences changed and I learned how to write songs and perform and I slowly let go of trying to imitate and follow other archetypes and just settled into being myself.
Was there ever a time when you thought about doing something else? If you weren’t a musician today, what else could you see yourself doing? Would you be as fulfilled in life?
I’m not fulfilled, really. I’m naturally restless, that’s why I started playing music in the first place! I vent those feelings and try to fill a void. It’s hard work, it’s not for everyone, and it’s frustrating a lot of the time.
But it’s a great feeling to sing for folks who come see you play, and I always enjoy every second of that. I’ve been really lucky to be able to play music for a living for 15 or more years and at the same time, there’s always a “not enough” feeling that follows me around everywhere. Not sure what else I’d do at this point! I think I’m pretty good at my own little show that I put on, but who knows what life has in store. I’m open to anything, I’ve always been a little bit of a Renaissance (man) person, so maybe I’ll transition into something else one day.
What has been the biggest surprise so far about making music your career? What has been an unexpected or welcome challenge to it all?
G: I’m surprised by who I am today compared to the 22 year old who started. I got into music just trying to be like the people I listened to or saw on TV. I figured you just got a record deal, made music, played shows, and someone else figured out all the rest. It’s turned into me being a small business owner who spends his time typing his own interviews, checking his email, doing social media posts, paying taxes and bills, organizing tours with his agent, planning for his families future, all the responsible grown-up parent stuff. I feel less like a rock star and more like a traveling hardware store owner.
Congrats on your just released 13th album, Rising Star. Is it hard to believe that you have put out that much music?
Yeah, it’s quite a few albums. Especially considering I don’t have much time to write these days. I used to feel like I could crank out 3 records a year. Now it’s like one every 3. But I’m pretty busy with touring and being a dad, husband, small business owner, and professional worrier and over-thinker.
What was it like starring in the full-length documentary film also titled “Rising Star”? Is this something that you have wanted to make for awhile?
It wasn’t my idea to make the film. It was filmmaker Shane Drake’s idea, but I was ready to tell my story. I feel like a lot of the struggle of being in the music business that I’ve mentioned in this interview, was ripe to be talked about. It was relieving on one level to tell it all, and also hard to be that vulnerable and exposed and honest.
Can you talk about a few of your favorite songs on Rising Star? What was the inspiration for them and how did they get to be on this album?
They are all my favorite for different reasons. I love the song “Rising Star” for its sense of humor, it seems to always make people laugh at shows. It’s kind of poking fun at the cliches of country music and music business in general. I love “Crash and Burn”, the recording reminds me of what I love about Pink Floyd, plus I love the lyrics and the vibe. My favorite song is probably “Cup of Fulfillment”. I think it’s a very moving song, and I sure hope it gets a chance to get out there and be heard.
It was really treat to sing a duet with Joy Williams (Civil Wars) and also write a couple songs with Brian Elmquist of The Lone Bellow.
Where can people see you perform next? How was your spring and summer tour? What has been a favorite performance of yours so far?
If you go to griffinhousemusic.com/tour, we are always adding tour dates. I basically play about 80 shows a year and usually make it around the whole U.S. almost twice a year, so I stay out there!
You have toured with so many incredible artists so I am curious who have learned the most from? What touring memory sticks out the most to you now?
Probably running around the arena high-fiving the crowd the first time I played with John Mellencamp. Also, the times I opened for The Cranberries, especially in San Francisco. I figured out how to win over crowds and I loved that feeling. It’s one place where I’d like to think I’m very mentally tough. When I’m on stage, I’m very focused and positive. It’s the rest of life that’s tricky.
How do you think you have grown as a musician since you first started singing and writing songs?
I honestly don’t know. I know I’ve changed. I’ve evolved. I think anytime you get specialized at something, your field of vision narrows. So, I felt bigger when I was younger, and I felt the expanse of limitless possibilities. Now I’m more in touch with what I do and what I do well, and I tend to stick with that. That can feel sometimes like not growing, but it’s also just refining a specialty instead of trying to do too much. I do think that because I’ve played so many shows, I’ve grown in my ability to perform and connect from stage. I think my writing feels about the same as it always has, it’s never really easy.
What has it been like keeping up with your social media accounts and all of the different platforms? Is it hard to stay up to date on it all? What would you say is your favorite way to connect with your fans now? What has social media done for your career?
Can I just say it? I freaking hate social media. I would rather be outside, looking at the trees or the sunset. I would rather be reading a paperback book or writing with a pen and paper than staring at a screen. I realize I may sound bitter, or old-fashioned, or unable to hack it in the digital age, but I could really do without it. If I knew that people would still be able to find my music and my shows and I could communicate to them without socials, I would drop it all in a heartbeat. I honestly think that it’s unhealthy for all of our egos and self-esteem, not to mention our eyes and our brains and our necks. I would rather go outside and play, any day.
Who are some of your favorite artists or rather, what musicians have continued to inspire you and your music? Who would you absolutely love to work with in the future?
I like Roger Waters and Peter Gabriel still a lot. I like people that aren’t afraid to age and age gracefully. I kind of tend to stick with the classics. Of the modern musicians, I probably like Hozier the best. I also love the song “Cold Little Heart” by Michael Kiwanuka from the “Big Little Lies” soundtrack. I recently played Mountain Stage with the Milk Carton Kids and I really admire and respect their musicianship, singing, and their sharp witted stage banter.
Where would you absolutely love to hear one of your songs? On a TV show, in a movie or elsewhere?
I’d love to hear all of the above. I think a lot of my songs really deserve to be heard. I hope “Cup of Fulfillment” gets in a really good movie or TV show, but I don’t currently have a film/tv person, so we’ll have to see happens.
At the end of the day, what do you hope people take away from your music?
I hope they sink into the words and the feeling of it. Different songs are for different things. Some are to rock out, some are to cry, some are to think. I try to make sure that each song I make is doing something well for the listener. Good songs always have a healing element to them and I hope mine do that for people.