Photo credit: Rusty Ralston
Griffin House is one of the most honest, heartfelt, and talented singer-songwriters making music today. That's just a fact.
Needless to say, I was very excited to chat with House about his upcoming June release, The Learner, and to ask about a bunch of other stuff including, but not limited to, the following: toothpaste commercials, public exposure, and Allison Krauss. Random is my middle name.
As it turns out, Griffin House is a pretty honest and heartfelt human being, as well. And that makes him talented in an entirely different, yet more significant, way. That's a fact, too, at least in my book.
The Learner comes out on June 22, 2010. You can pre-order it now on iTunes.
1. Ok, I'll be honest. The first time I ever heard a Griffin House song was when "Waterfall" was used in a toothpaste commercial, but in all seriousness, it heightened the artistic level of the ad dramatically. I also know that several of your songs have been used on television shows. How do you feel about your music getting that type of exposure? Is it helpful to you as an artist?
I'm not sure how helpful it is, really. I would think any exposure would be helpful in creating awareness. But, I don't really have anyway to track that; my management team probably does. I got asked almost this same question on a live news program, I think it was Fox morning news in Boston. "Hey Griffin, how do you feel about all this exposure?" And I said, "Well, I try to expose myself in public as much as possible." But I won't say that here.
2. I know you're a Midwestern boy, as I'm a Midwestern girl. How has this kind of upbringing, this part of the world affected your songwriting or you as a musician?
As a native of the heartland, I think my heart feels very tied to the land. It actually makes me sad to think about it being there without me, when I'm gone, and when I'm there, I get sad when I leave. If I could justify living there, I would. But, I need to be in a place where my musician friends are so I can record and rehearse with them. I heard a Sun Kil Moon song in a movie, and I didn't know who it was or what the song was, and I immediately freaked out about the song. The song was "Carry Me Ohio." My wife thinks that I could actually feel the land in the melody and vocals and music of that song. And I think I did.
3. One of my favorite songs of yours is "The Guy That Says Goodbye to You Is Out of His Mind." I would love to hear it live. What are some of your favorite songs to perform live?
"The Guy That Says Goodbye To You Is Out of His Mind" is definitely one that I love playing live. I play it at almost every show. "She Likes Girls" from The Learner is really fun to play with the band because it's so upbeat and easy for me to sing.
4. "River City Lights," a new track off your upcoming album, The Learner, features the amazing Allison Krauss (another Midwesterner, originally from Champaign, Illinois). What was it like to work with her?
I wrote the lyrics of "River City Lights" out for her so she could tape them on the wall in the vocal booth while she was singing. Having her sing on the record sort of felt like getting a lifetime achievement award. I'm so proud and thankful to have her amazing voice and presence on my record. Oddly enough, I had to leave right after we got her in the vocal booth and hit record because I had somewhere to be right away. So, I didn't even have the pleasure of hearing her go down live. Normally, I would have hung around until she was out the driveway and around the corner, probably just standing there taking it all in and feeling all warm and fuzzy inside, but I had to run. Just one of those things, weird timing.
5. Ok, one very profound yet final question: how does The Learner fit into your natural evolution as an artist? What's different?
The Learner captures a lot of things I've learned through touring and making six or seven records over the past seven years or so of my life. I think my songwriting and my singing reflect that on the record. There is all the usual sincerity and honesty that I try to maintain in my songs on The Learner, except for "She Likes Girls," which is a song that I felt I was really important for me to do. I'm definitely sort of making fun of myself on that song, or at least playing with a sense of humor and irony, which is in truth not that far away from a song like "The Guy That Says Goodbye," but not everyone will understand that. And that's okay.