“Well, enough about me and more about you, because that’d be the gentlemanly thing to do. I hope you like your men sweet and polite.” – from the song, “The Guy That Says Goodbye To You Is Out Of His Mind”
The lyrics in Griffin House’s popular hit are quite telling of his music. Using soft acoustic melodies, emotional lyrics and, at times, an obvious appreciation of the fairer sex, House weaves together honest and catchy songs.
Griffin was raised in Springfield, Ohio and began learning guitar relatively late at 18 years old. But he managed to push through the frustrations of learning an instrument (something that, like a language, is harder to pick up after childhood) and started writing songs.
Now, Nashville-based Griffin, 32, has many tours under his belt and has opened for many artists, including John Mellencamp and the Cranberries. He was also featured on the CBS Sunday Morning Show.
Griffin will soon bring his music back to the Midwest. On Feb. 22, he plays what will likely be an intimate show — just him and his guitar — at the Cabooze in Minneapolis.
Recently, we caught up with him to get a closer look into his music. Check out the interview below!
First things first … what was your first experience with music, where it affected you deeply and profoundly, where you thought “I think I want to do this?”
I think subconsciously realizing that girls I liked, the older cool girls, liked Bono. I watched “Rattle and Hum” at 16 and it was all over. But before that I always really loved music and danced and played air guitar and sang in my room. That was all just fantasy though because I couldn’t play an instrument and had never sung in front of anyone before.
I see you had a pretty humble upbringing in Springfield. In what ways has that influenced your music, your sound?
I think we got a nice snapshot of music in general that was popular in America at the time. We saw a lot of MTV and had good radio stations and somehow there were artsy kids in music and theatre around that had really good taste in music and had all the good stuff that wasn’t on MTV or the radio. So, I was exposed to a lot of different stuff even though I was in Springfield.
Do you have songs that pay ode to your upbringing/home town? Name one and what it brings up …
Czech Republic talks about the “Hometown Heros,” the sort of well-known local legends that never really left. I kind of feel like one myself because I go back there quite often and in my mind it seems I’m still there all the time. It’s a place I’m nostalgic for and have a connection with deep down to the bone. My blood is tied to the land, if that makes sense. I also talk about it in “Gotta Get Out” which is a feeling that a lot of us have had there, the need to run away and see what’s out there in the great big world.
I recently listened to “I Remember” and “Murder In The First Degree.” They’re
essentially musical narratives with a Johnny Cash/Bruce Springsteen (Ghost Of Tom Joad) vibe, do you agree? How did you come about to write in this way? In what other fashions do you enjoy writing lyrics?
Well, those two influences are undeniable. I learned how to put pieces of poems essentially over chord progressions. I learned it from Woodie Guthrie and Bob Dylan and that style being passed down…but that’s only one way of writing songs. For me it seems to be one of the most effective, but I’ve written a lot of my other songs in different ways. Amsterdam for instance started with the guitar solo. The melody of that came first, then I found chords to fit under it, and then I sang something…
If you had to suggest one of your songs that might be a little lesser known, but you really connect with/cherish, what would it be? I realize that many artists consider ALL their songs important, but if you had to choose …?
One that immediately comes to mind is “Ordinary Day” on the album “Homecoming”
I can’t take credit for all of it because it was a song started by Justin Loucks and Ian Fitchuk and they had the chorus and I loved it and wrote verses to it. But I wish that song could have been some sort of a single. It’s a hit in our minds, I think.
But that album is not really well known, if it could have been on a major label or something and properly released, who knows …
Can you recall a show where you realized that you “made it?”
I’m not sure I’ll ever feel I’ve “made it.” I’ve heard that once people have really big hit songs, then they just want another one. And when you get to the very top it’s probably hard to feel yourself coming back down a bit…
But my goal has never been to “make it.” My goal has been to set the bar for my writing and performing as high as the music that I love so much.
What’s going to be the name of the new album, what should we expect from it and how is it different from the previous ones?
The name of the new album is “Balls.” I’ll just leave it at that.
A few more fun questions: Have you had any really embarrassing occurrences out on touring/playing a show? Also, what’s your favorite “guilty pleasure” song you enjoy listening to?
I showed a crowed in Madison WI the superman emblem on the front of my underwear once, little did I know the “S” stood for “SuperDUMB.”
My guilty pleasure stuff is mostly 80’s music that reminds me of being a kid, Journey “Only The Young” and songs like “Cruel Summer” (Ace Of Base) and “We’re Only Human.”
Lastly, you’ll be playing at the Cabooze in Minneapolis soon – how’s the band set up? What should fans expect to hear/see?
It will be me and my acoustic guitar most likely, unless something changes between now and then. A hour and a half of just me and my songs. And then after “Balls” comes out Feb. 27th, I’ll bring the band back in a few months.
For more information on tickets, check out the Cabooze’s website.
“The Guy That Says Goodbye To You Is Out Of His Mind”