Griffin House comes home
By Christopher Schutte
In an effort to maintain some scant amount of credibility, I should probably begin this piece by mentioning that I’ve known Griffin House since he was an up-and-coming junior golfer and I was a golf professional (true story). House was an affable, humble and talented kid back then, and he is now an affable, humble and talented man, albeit in a totally different field than many imagined.
House was born and raised in Springfield and didn’t pick up a guitar until he attended Miami University. Now, nearly a decade into a career that has seen him featured in Esquire magazine as “a songwriter’s songwriter,” House makes his home in Nashville.
We caught up with House between tour dates for an exclusive DCP interview.
We should acknowledge up front that I’m the seminal influence on both your music career and golf game! Just think where you may have ended up had you not heard the Replacements, the Beastie Boys and REM emanating from the Northwood Hills bag room!
That could definitely be true on a subconscious level! [Griffin House]
Tell us a little bit about how you ended up living in Nashville. Were you specifically attracted to the scene there, or just the overall vibe of the place?
I only moved to Nashville because I was living in Philly, and I got to the point where I needed to get out of there. And so I moved out and came back to Springfield for Christmas and ended up staying until mid February. I may have never made the move If it wasn’t for an older girl I dated writing me and saying “Hey, what the hell are you still doing in Springfield? You need to move down to Tennessee like you said you were going to do and get going with the music stuff.” Somehow, this really woke me up and the next day I was outta there; packed up the car and drove to Nashville. I got a job first at a sandwich shop, and then at a souvenir store down on Broadway that they fired me from for reading and writing songs on the job. But after only a few months down there, I’d made some recordings that got the interest of record labels, and when they started flying me to New York and Los Angeles I stopped my part-time job and just concentrated on playing gigs and writing songs. [GH]
Nashville has become a pretty hot place for musicians. So I’m assuming you’re kicking open mic nights with Brendan Benson and vinyl shopping with Jack White, right?
I know who Jack White is and have worked with some guys that record him often, but I’ve never met him. But Nashville is definitely a good spot to run into famous people. I passed Dolly Parton once on the road and she smiled at me and waved, and Vince Gill was at the golf shop the other day, just before I walked in. I used to see Buddy Miller all the time, at Bongo Java, and I used to live next door to Ben Folds. Alison Krauss sang on my record, and I got the call about that the night before it was going to happen and had to shoot over to the studio quickly, so stuff like that doesn’t really happen unless you are in town I guess. [GH]
For someone who didn’t really pick up a guitar until college, you’ve carved out a pretty impressive niche in music. Did songwriting – come easy for you?
Songwriting is very difficult, and for me it’s because you can sit around all day and strum and sing and write down words and you can end up with a bunch of mediocre stuff. You never know when you are going to get something good, and a lot of times you don’t even know you’ve got something good when you have it, and other times you think you have something really great, and it turns out it’s not as good as you’d hoped. I choose to respect it. I don’t think there’s ever been a writer, even the greatest, that can say, “Oh yeah, I got this, I’m the best.” Because you can lose it or find it, just like that and there’s really no mastering it. [GH]
What is it like to return to Springfield as a conquering hero?
Well, I can tell you that it feels really wonderful having had a lot of summers walking out on the stage at Veteran’s Park Amphitheater and seeing several thousand people out there. I feel very privileged to play those shows because I’m very proud to be from Ohio and to be from Springfield. It still always feels like home to me, and maybe it’s growing up spending a lot of time by myself walking around outside, being up early in the morning and watching a lot of sunsets …[GH]
I’m always interested in musicians’ influences. It would be easy to peg you as a “Dylan-ite,” but I’m guessing your personal taste is a lot more varied.
Yes, there are a lot of influences: The Clash, Jeff Buckley, Johnny Cash, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and the Beastie Boys to name a few. U2, Bruce Springsteen, lots of classic stuff, but also indie slacker bands like Pavement, who I’ve always loved. When I was young I just liked what the older, cool kids thought was good. If I looked up to someone and he liked a band, I’d try to like it even if I didn’t really. Nowadays, if I hear a song that is regarded as uncool or crap or whatever, but it does something for me, I just decide it’s good. Even if it’s like Bryan Adams or Whitney Houston. I do think Dylan is the heaviest of all writers though, despite what Steve Earle said about him and Townes Van Zant. [GH]
What’s your favorite thing about coming back home?
Seeing my family and smelling the fresh cut grass. It has a unique smell at home. [GH]
Griffin House will be appearing at Canal Street Tavern in Dayton on June 25 and at the Springfield Summer Arts Festival at Veteran’s Park on July 9.
Reach DCP freelance writer Christopher Schutte at ChrisSchutte@DaytonCityPaper.com.