If you know and love the Indie / Folk Rock sounds of Gregory Alan Isakov, Ryan Adams, Ray Lamontagne, Josh Ritter, and Greg Laswell, then the Griffin House experience is one not to be missed. On October 16th, the Tractor Tavern in Seattle, Washington is hosting this American bard, so come out for a night you wont soon forget.
Griffin House, a gifted singer-songwriter is joined by the equally talented multi-instrumentalist Chris Farney, who together craft a sound that can range from captivating solos to all-out full-band flare. Griffin House shares his poetic stories of joy and sorrow, war and peace, and the fractured experiences of muddling through life in the modern world.
House independently released his first LP in 2002, and has since released seven albums and two EPs, the majority of which were under his own imprint label, Evening Records. Capturing the highs and lows of life, these albums lyrically and melodically have something for everyone, and the storytelling within each is unparalleled and subtly brilliant. Tackling heavy themes such as war, terrorism, loss, and frustration, as well as romance, love, family, and hope, these albums are as much a personal journal as they are entertainment for the rest of us. Early influences of U2, Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty, and The Clash can be felt throughout as he shifts between folk and rock undertones.
In 2004, while promoting his third album, Lost & Found, Griffin House caught the attention of of CBS Sunday Morning, music journalist Bill Flanagan (MTV/VH1), who lauded the newcomer, and put House on his short list of the best emerging songwriters in the U.S. “I bought House’s CD after a show in New York City,” said Flanagan, “and this never happens: I took it home and must have listened to it 20 times that weekend. I was knocked out.”
House’s music has also been nationally recognized for its charm and beauty. His song “Waterfall” was featured in a nationally-aired Rembrandt commercial in 2007, and his work has also aired in television shows such as Everwood, Rescue Me, Kyle XY, One Tree Hill, A Gifted Man, and Brothers & Sisters.
In 2012, Griffin House used the crowd sourcing site Kickstarter to fund his latest album, Balls. Fully-loaded in his unequaled mastery of storytelling, it highlights the interwoven spheres in our lives from sports to the planet, and covers themes of love and loss, sin and hope.
This American bard tours extensively throughout the United States, typically traveling at least one week of every month, which eventually leads him through 30-40 cites before he starts the rotation again. Over the years, he’s opened for artists like Ron Sexsmith, Patti Scialfa, Josh Ritter, John Mellencamp, Mat Kearney, and The Cranberries, but has been the headliner since 2007.
Griffin House is also set to play the Doug Fir Lounge in Portland, Oregon on October 18th. If you miss him live at the Tractor Tavern, and you don’t mind a bit of a drive, then you have one more chance to catch him before he leaves the Pacific Northwest. Whether you see him in Seattle or Portland, this event is an absolutely do not miss experience!
Q&A with Griffin House
Q. If someone had never heard your sound before, how would you describe your style of music / sound?
A. My friend Donnie said one time to someone who asked that question that my music is like Johnny Cash meets the Clash. So, there is some folk, some rock, some roots, but also some euro in there, I guess. It used to bug me when people would ask, because it’s a hard thing to try to describe one’s music to people. These days I just usually say “folk/rock singer-songwriter stuff.”
Q. Who would you compare yourself to in sound or style?
A. U2 was the first band that I saw on video that really connected and made me feel inspired to sing. Maybe I saw Bono on TV and knew that the girls liked him. We have some similar facial features I’ve been told. So maybe I thought “Hey, he has a big nose, I have a big nose, maybe I can get away with this, too.”
Q. Who are your biggest influences as a musician, both on or off the stage?
A. U2, Bob Dylan, Jeff Buckley, Wilco, Billy Bragg, Ryan Adams, the Clash , Johnny Cash, Bruce Springsteen, Jackson Brown, Tom Petty, The Pretenders. Those are some of my influences.
Q. It seems that all of the songs are written by you, is it true for all?
A. I’ve written all the songs, mostly just me. There are a handful that I’ve co-written with some folks. I co-wrote two on the Learner album with Dan Wilson of Semisonic “Closing Time.” And a few with Jeff Trott (he’s written a ton of Sheryl Crow hits with her.) And I’ve worked with a few friends in Nashville over the years on some songs.
Q. What are some of your favorite places tour to?
A. Lately, the Pacific Northwest has felt like a major treat. The weather has been fantastic the last few times I’ve been in Seattle and Portland, I understand this isn’t always the case. But I got to explore Bainbridge Island during one of my recent trips and I have some good friends out in Portland. I love the smells and the air out in the Pacific Northwest. The climate is just lovely, I’m not even sure all the rain and overcast would bug me if I wanted to relocate there someday. It’s hard to say what are my favorite places to play and tour though because a town can feel totally different on different nights depending on the venue.
Q. What has been your favorite tour date so far?
A. Two of my favorite settings have been a wedding, where they asked me to just play an hour of my music in a beautiful setting in front of the ocean in Maui at a really kick ass resort, and also the Key West Film fest was really cool last year, I loved staying at the Casa Marina. I also played a few years at the Carmel Art and Film fest because it’s so gorgeous there, right next to Pebble Beach. I’m really in to cool old hotels. So, I like shows where I can hunker down in nice little town setting and then walk over to the venue and rock it, and then mosey on back to the hotel. I love playing every summer for my hometown in Springfield, Ohio, at Veteran’s Park Amphitheater outside, it’s grown to about 5000 to 6000 folks who show up for the show.
Q. Who have been some of the bands you have shared the stage with?
A. When I opened for Patti Scialfa she was as friendly as can be and her husband Bruce (Springsteen) talked a lot to me. Had conversations with him in Asbury Park, New York at the Bowery and in LA at the Roxy where the tour ended with a great big bear hug from Bruce. He’s my favorite guy of all time probably, not only for his work but just for how well he treated us young musicians and how special he made the experience by being so giving of himself. He gave us some great memories and stories, whether he realized it or not. Josh Ritter was also as nice as can be.
I played a really long tour with Mat Kearney one year, we still see each other in Nashville and even have played some golf together. The Cranberries tour was really really fun. I was a newly wed for that tour and my wife came with me for the whole thing. I know I’m leaving out some other great acts that I’ve shared the stage with….
Q. Who has opened for you now that you are a featured national act / headliner?
A. I remember Brett Dennen opening for me at some point, he was great to watch. Maybe I can open a few shows for him now? Brett, where you at? :)
Q. In 2012, you used Kickstarter to help fund your newest album, what were your experiences with it?
A. My manager at the time in Nashville helped me make the decision to try Kickstarter and give crowd funding a try. It was nice to meet and surpass the goal. There is a ton of work that goes into the front end and the back-end of fulfilling the rewards for people who purchase CDs, phone calls, or concerts for the Kickstarter Campaign. All in all it was a great experience.
Q. On previous albums, like Flying Upside Down and The Learner, you joke about how they were named, what inspired the album title Balls?
A. There was a baseball theme, with “Fenway.” All the titles I was coming up with were really serious, and while we were in mastering and I kept saying something about baseball, and Reen, my female manager at the time, said why don’t you just call it “Balls.”
It just felt right. Tristan Prettyman still tells me it’s the best and “ballsiest” title of all time. It always gets a few chuckles from the audience when I say my new record is called “Balls” and I always say it’s a title I still stand behind 100%.
Balls is also supposed to refer to all the different kind of balls that occur in nature. Sun, moon, atoms, planets molecules…eyes etc…
That’s why the cover has a Hieronymus Bosch type feel with all sorts of spheres and balls.
Q. A lot of your songs / lyrics seem to pull from personal experience and seem to carry a very personal weight – would you say this is true?
A. I think “Better Than Love” has become one of my favorite songs to play. I like it because it really surprised me. It was not difficult to write. It just came out of nowhere and didn’t take more than a few minutes. I didn’t even want to put it on the record when we were doing Flying Upside Down, but Jeff Trott the producer, really liked it.
I wrote it about a relationship I hoped I’d have in the future. The one who “will always be my girl.” It wasn’t about the relationship I was having at the time, but it didn’t hurt anything to write it then, because the song was pretty positive, although realistic. I was surprised with how much it resonated with people, and how many people have used it for their first dance and/or in their wedding. For me it took on a whole new meaning because I feel like I’m singing it from the father to a daughter perspective a lot as well now that I’m a dad.
Q. Do songs/lyrics mirror what was going on in your life at the time?
A. They all do mirror what’s going on in my life at the time, writing has been a great way for me to process what’s going on in my life. I couldn’t afford therapy when I started doing this, music and songwriting was my therapy. It provided clarity, sanity, release, relief. And a safe place for me to feel my feelings and get in touch with them. Writing about one’s own feelings is not easy to do…I never wanted to whine or complain or brag, I just wanted to tell the truth in an interesting or poetic way, or an entertaining way. That’s what I’ve tried to do with my songs.
Q. Do you tour with merchandise (band merc) for your fans to buy? What can they expect to pick up while attending a show?
A. Yeah, I have some of the most comfortable shirts you’ve ever felt. Really really soft and they have a great design on the front, they are the kind of shirts you can wear and people say cool shirt, even if they don’t know it’s a band/artist shirt. And I sell all my records at my shows. I think I’m gonna try to some long sleeves or sweatshirts next.
Q. Will there be a follow up tour after this one is complete?
A. I kind of tour the country steadily about a week out of every month. My tour never really starts or ends. I just do about 30 or 40 cities in the US approximately twice a year. So, I’m always out there. I just go out for a week come home for a few weeks and then do it again.. People can always get my tour dates at griffinhousemusic.com and facebook.com/griffinhouse
Q. Anything to add of your own?
A. Yes, my show is at the Tractor Tavern. Please come down and join in. We love that venue. And I have an album/ep coming out in November.
It’s 5 songs, live from Prison. Called “Songs for a Prisoner (Griffin House live from Prison)” So watch out for that!
Upcoming Tour Dates
10/16/14 Seattle, WA Tractor Tavern
Time: 8:00pm. Age restrictions: All Ages.
10/18/14 Portland, OR Doug Fir Lounge
Time: 9:00pm. Age restrictions: 21+.
10/22/14 San Francisco, CA The Chapel
Time: 8:00pm. Age restrictions: All Ages.
10/23/14 Santa Barbara, CA Soho Music Lounge
Time: 6:00pm. Age restrictions: All Ages.
10/24/14 Los Angeles, CA Hotel Cafe’
Time: 9:00pm. Age restrictions: 21+.
10/25/14 San Diego, CA The Soda Bar United States
Time: 8:00pm. Age restrictions: 21+.
10/26/14 Phoenix, AZ Crescent Ballrooom
Time: 8:30pm. Age restrictions: 21+.
10/29/14 Austin, TX The Cactus Cafe
Time: 8:00pm. Age restrictions: All Ages.
10/30/14 Houston, TX McGonigel’s Mucky Duck
Time: 7:30pm. Age restrictions: 21+.