After my last relationship ended, it was difficult, but I did, however, gain two important things from her: a nice wardrobe and an introduction to the incredible music of Griffin House. Since then, I have been a huge fan of Griffin and his music, and, like all of his fans, I was anticipating the release of his new, and ninth, record titled Balls. What was even more interesting was how Griffin decided to fund his album. Like many people, he decided to turn to his fans by using Kickstarter, or crowd funding, which has become an extremely popular way for artists, in all fields, to have their fans and supporters, donate to their projects.
If love is an international language, then music is truly the only universal language. With the seemingly unlimited number of musicians out there, it becomes a little difficult to differentiate genuine musicians from those who pump out meaningless songs that lack emotion; Griffin is undoubtedly a genuine musician. So, I decided to stray away from my usual blogging topics of education and history, and reach out to Griffin for a possible interview. Without hesitation, he agreed.
Griffin, your music has such a unique vibe and doesn't seem to fit into one specific music genre. So, what genre of musician would you consider yourself: alternative, country, or even a hybrid?
I would say I'm a blend of folk, rock, pop, punk, Americana, country... with a European influence. It's so hard to come up with a genre these days. They mean different things to different people.
What brought you to the decision to use Kickstarter to help finance your latest album?
My manager encouraged me to try Kickstarter. I was hesitant at first because it's such a new way to do things; I wasn't sure how I felt about asking for funding from people who were already supporting me by coming to shows and buying my music. I think I had a fear that I was double dipping, or double leaning, on the folks already supporting me. And I wondered if it was the right thing to do. I kind of thought, "Should I just take out a loan from the bank, and then they can buy the record after?" I mean that's how it always worked...
But then I started to open up my mind a little bit and try Kickstarter out as an experiment, trying to have some fun with it and see how people reacted. And I also kind of realized it wasn't free money from fan donations, but a pledging of services (CDs, shows, merch, skype chats, etc...).
But I'm really glad we did it. It felt like a big relief to reach our goal and it made it easier to not have to worry about funding as much while making the music.
In your opinion, how does social media such as Twitter, crowd funding and distribution forums like iTunes, affect musicians and the music industry?
The simplest way to explain how the music business seems to be different these days is this: In the old days, it seems like you just tried to get signed to one of the major labels. If you accomplished that, the theory was that you were halfway there, and they'd put you in the slipstream of this giant machine and, if the current was right, you were set. You made it.
In my early years, I came very close to signing my life away to major label. But, if had done that, maybe I'd be more well-known, but I also may not be making music. I may be out of the job.
The way the music business is now, it's not as do or die, make or break. There's an option to take a more conservative approach if you want. So, love it or hate it, the old days of the "rock star" archetype seems to be going away, and there's an opportunity for more and more people to make a living playing music because of crowd funding, iTunes, and the how relatively easy it is these days to make a record (compared to how it used to be).
I have to ask: What is the meaning behind the title of your latest album Balls?
When was the last time you blew bubbles, those things kids used to blow soap bubbles in the air? I saw my daughter Emma and some kids doing it the other day. It's incredible how it forms a perfect sphere that floats around in the air. Our planet is a ball. Atoms, molecules... everything is balls. Balls are everywhere. [Laughs]
It can also be taken a little more lightly, obviously (referring to your anatomy). Balls also used to be my nickname. My friend used to add the suffix "balls" on everything. Like, when he saw maple syrup in the aisle at the grocery store he said, "ah, Aunt Jemima-balls." So, I became Griff-balls, then G-balls, then Balls for short.
And there's a baseball theme, Fenway. So, many reasons that the question should almost be, "Why not call it Balls?"
How does your latest album differ from your previous work? Would you say there is a musical growth or evolution?
Well, this is the first record I co-produced. I played a lot more instruments. I made the record with Nick Trevisick, an Englishman in Nashville. I think the song "Go Through It" shows a change in writing style.
I tried to be pretty blunt and honest in the song about not even wanting to write, sing or talk anymore sometimes... about questioning my motives for doing what I'm doing after 10 years. When I wrote the song, I was in the middle of a big life transition and I was finding the change quite difficult, and, somewhere in there, I realized that there wasn't really any way out but through. I don't think I have written from that place before, trying to describe the difficult process of internal change and growth.
Your fans were obviously anticipating this album, so much so that they helped create it. So how do you feel knowing that so many people have such an admiration and love for your music, and the message and passion it obviously has?
I'm thankful for every single person out there helping me do this. Every single fan matters so much to the point where it actually messes me up for a couple days if I have a distracted interaction with someone after a show, or if someone is being a jerk at a show or drunk, and I tell them to be quiet or leave. I spend the next few days thinking and wondering if I handled it right and how I could have been more loving and more direct.
Honestly, the music for me today is secondary to me trying to work out how to love myself so I can love other people better; that's the real mission of my music.
On behalf of myself, and all your fans, we are so thankful for your music and you as a musician.
After chatting with Griffin, I can say with certainty that, even though he is a great musician, he is an ever greater person. You can download Griffin's latest album Balls on iTunes, and you can check out Griffin House's website for his tour dates and info. As a fan, and a lover of great music, I am looking forward to Griffin's East Coast visit in two weeks, and I strongly suggest all those in New Jersey and New York who want to see one of the best musicians out there definitely check out his show.
I also have the pleasure of working with Griffin on a web series titled "Crash Chorus," which is intended to reveal the importance of music in our lives and help promote the importance of music and the arts to education and children. Thank you again, Griffin House, for continuing to make music that touches and affects so many people.