An Interview with Griffin House
By: Casey Pukl
He’s been called one of Nashville’s biggest treasures, and I certainly can’t argue with that. Griffin House is a truly gifted singer/songwriter with a knack for pulling at the heartstrings. Don’t believe me? Go listen to, “Only Love Remains” and then we’ll talk.
Read on and find out what Griffin’s latest record is all about, why his fans have great taste, and why $2.25 was enough to get him to quit his day job and give music a solid try!
CP: I know you’ve got a new record coming out, and I love the first single, “The Guy That Says Good-Bye To You Is Out Of His Mind” What inspired this record for you?
GH: Well the record is actually going to be a compilation record of the best songs, maybe like 15 songs, that we’ll release to the fans. It kind of encapsulates the last decade or so of music. “The Guy That Says Good-Bye To You…” has been on a record a few years ago that I made in California. It never got released as a single because the record company wanted to release another song instead, and they never thought that song could be a single. The long and short of it is really that the fans over time really listened and made that my most popular song by far (laughs). So we just decided to let more people hear about it since that seems to be the song that’s really traveling on it’s own and resonating with people. It’s a really special tune. So I kind of hooked up with new management this year after being on my own for a year, and one of their ideas was just to try to get more people to hear that song, so that’s what we’re doing.
CP: That’s great. It’s a really catchy song, and I’m glad your fans were able to pick that one out (laughs).
GH: Yeah, they’re really smart. They’ll tell you a lot, and sometimes they’ll surprise you. When I first wrote that song, I had no idea that it was anything special at all. Sometimes that’s how it goes. You won’t think they are anything at all, then those songs will wind up being the ones you play at every show.
CP: Sometimes you need a little outside perspective to see what people want to hear.
GH: Sure, sure.
CP: How did you get started playing and writing?
GH: It was funny, I played in Cincinnati last night, which was really special for me. I lived in a house there with my first band that I was in when I was 21. I was working at this place, Uno’s Pizzeria downtown. I went in one day and got cut from my shift after like 6 hours, and I looked down and had like $2.25 (laughs).
So I went outside, grabbed my guitar, and I put out a little basket with a note on it that said, “My real job pays me $2.25 a day.” Then I just started playing. Over the course of like three hours, I had fifty bucks in it. So then I just said I was never going back to the pizzeria again. If I could pay my rent this way, then I was going to keep doing it for as long as I could. So that’s pretty much what I’ve been doing ever since.
CP: How did you get started writing songs? Did it just come naturally to you?
GH: I messed around writing silly little poems and rhymes a lot earlier, like as a teenager, maybe 14 or something. Before that I drew a lot, so I guess I always had an artistic side. But when I learned to play guitar, it just came sort of naturally to sing a little bit, and sing over the chords I had learned or write a poem over it. I remember it being tricky because you just want to be able to write a great song right away, and that’s just really hard (laughs). But I kept at it, and I think in the beginning I used it as a means to an end.
My high school girlfriend that I had gone separate ways with in college was coming to visit me, and I had just learned how to play guitar. I wanted to do something special for her, so I wrote her a song and played it for her. She got visibly emotionally moved by it, and I just thought that it was so powerful. You can present something like this to someone and it can affect them so much. That’s something I wanted to do with my life somehow.
CP: What in your mind is one of the most important pieces of a song that you’re thinking about as your writing? Maybe it’s the lyric, the overall story?
GH: I don’t really know if there’s any formula really, and I hate to sound cliché, but I guess it’s just the marriage of the lyrics and the melody. That’s the core of where it’s at. I think the reason for that, at least the reason that I listen to music and the reason my fans listen to some of my music, is that the music itself is causing them to have some sort of emotional experience that they probably either see as pleasurable or healing. Or if it makes them sad, maybe it’s taking them to a place that they need to go. It might be taking them to a resolution that they need. That’s what music does for me. I wanted to be able to do that for other people.
CP: When you sit down to write, do you have any sort of starting process that you usually use?
GH: I used to sit down and mostly start with the guitar first. I’d start to play something and let the melody and the words come at the same time, one maybe a little before the other. But recently, I’ve been experimenting more with writing the lyrics first and then making the music fit around them. My strengths are more on the lyrical side of things because I’ve been doing that longer, and it makes more sense to me that way. Although some of them seem to happen where you really can’t tell which one came first— chicken and the egg kind of thing.
CP: Is there a particular place outside of Nashville that inspires you most?
GH: A place that inspires my music? It seems like when I went home to Springfield, Ohio, where I’m from, I was able to write a lot. I wrote, “The Guy Who Says Good-Bye To You..” there. I’ve also written a lot in Cincinnati too. But for some reason it seems like I do most of writing when I’m at home than when I’m moving about.
CP: What are you looking forward to most about coming out to San Diego?
GH: I love being in California because it’s such a change from where I live and where I’m from. It’s like a vacation, and I always feel like I’m sight seeing when I’m driving around my car in California. I love it out there.
I always have a blast at Anthology, so I’m really looking forward to it!
Special thanks to Griffin for his time! Be sure to come out and let Griffin’s tunes take you wherever you need to go this Saturday!
Griffin House on Spotify