Griffin House
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Griffin House


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"Flying Upside Down"

Griffin House offers up another platter of country-tinged fare on this sophomore release, having improved his phrasing and intimate songwriting since 2004's Lost & Found. House knows that much of a singer/songwriter's appeal rests not only in the tunes themselves, but in their presentation, and some of Flying Upside Down's best numbers model their sound after the evocative, atmospheric arrangements of Emmylou Harris' Wrecking Ball. Leadoff track "Better than Love" is a fine example; with its sparse, cavernous percussion and interwoven guitar lines, the song is a model for intimate intensity. Elsewhere, House delivers straightforward country-rock with confidence, and tracks like "Live to Be Free" and "The Guy That Says Goodbye to You Is Out of His Mind" could be mistaken for B-sides from Ryan Adams' more twangy records. Where the songwriter falters, then, is in his lyrics, whose clear-cut nature often jars with the ambient instrumentation. Emmylou Harris' hauntingly ethereal voice glossed over such flubs in Wrecking Ball, but House's vocals are straight-laced, clear, and all too demonstrative of any lyrical shortcomings. A notable exception is "I Remember (It's Happening Again)," an anti-war ballad whose message and simplicity harkens back to the protest movements of the '60s. Here, House's phrasing is kinetic, and his words take strength in that sort of convinced cadence, even when the song enters some shaky political territory. "Religion is our best excuse for national defense," he sings, "and when our citizens start saying that our wars are not okay, Washington keeps telling them God loves the USA." This might be standard fare as far as protest songs go, but House's willingness to pepper a standard country song with some non-standard country ideals bodes well for his future work, particularly if he has more text like this in his lyric journal. -

"Griffin House-Lost & Found"

Griffin House’s shaggy horse-like mane, seven o’clock shadow, broad shoulders and ill-fitting thrift store T’s may have Pete Yorn groupies mistakenly soliciting him for autographs on the streets of his Nashville hometown, but the two are (musically-speaking) hardly brothers of another mother. While Yorn specializes in the kind of snarling angst-filled pop-rock that thrives on a certain fashion-conscious emotional detachment, House chooses to remain fully present in each song, unafraid to engage his own sentiment and deliver it with unabashed conviction.

The 24-year-old Ohio native—who started receiving calls from interested New York labels shortly after pressing 50 copies of The Never Sessions, a limited-run EP that later evolved into the impressive independent full-length Upland—has finally shaken off his wariness of dotted lines and hitched his star to Nettwerk Management (Sarah McLachlan, Ron Sexsmith, David Mead). That House was in so little hurry to swallow the A&R “next big thing” line, choosing to focus instead on making music until a sensible deal came along, says a lot about the songwriter’s priorities. And this peculiar level-headedness may account for the disarming lack of artifice surrounding the songs on his newest project, Lost & Found.

The opening cut, “Amsterdam,” patiently eases out of the gates amid shimmering ambient noise, the song’s ascending/descending melody plucked deliberately and fed through a heavy delay. This seductively hypnotic part (compliments of dread-locked guitar virtuoso Paul Moak) establishes the mood of the entire project; in fact, you don’t hear the first signs of House’s gently pulsing acoustic strum until nearly a minute into the song, his initial vocals trailing by another 45 seconds. You’ll love it. Radio won’t. But, ladies and gentlemen, I suppose it’s time we address that woozy sense of unnameable vertigo you’re experiencing. In short, a singer/songwriter who’s even elected to slap his Christian name on the album cover, is furtively attempting to pass off his label debut as a band project. A duplicitous move, to be sure, but even more so because the band in question unquestionably deserves co-billing. Tom Petty’s songs break your heart for a reason.

Gross inequities aside, if House and guitarist Moak continue making music together, the pair could, over time, develop into next-generation torch-bearers of the Bono/Edge musical partnership. Moak’s got the pedals, the chops and the ingenuity to create astonishing—nay, transcendent—soundscapes; while House’s charismatic vocals and raspy, unselfconsciously bellowed ad libs (most notably displayed on the redemption-focused closer “New Day”) imbue the songs with a keening, almost spiritual fervor which pervades the rest of the disc. “I am torn in the middle of a world that won’t let loose / I hang here before you, though invisible the noose,” House sings in “Just a Dream,” the album’s crowning achievement, a heartbreaking testament to the past’s vice-grip clutches and the tired euphoria in capitulating at last to hope. The song’s understated acoustic opening gives way to wrist-carving pedal steel passages, then builds steadily to a shivering climax that will put you in need of an emergency throat-lumpectomy.

Lost & Found signals the rise of a promising, noteworthy talent. Let’s just hope that next time around the ampersand finds its way from the album title into the band name.

- Paste Magazine

"Griffin House-Opening for Mat Kearney"

Opening to a large crowd that isn’t familiar with your work is never an easy task. Playing to a restless, slightly-tipsy bunch of college kids waiting to hear the latest top 40 radio hero (in this case, Mat Kearney) when you are tired, moody and armed only with an acoustic guitar, a breaking voice and one bandmate on electric guitar? That's even worse.

The Wednesday before Thanksgiving at Atlanta's Roxy saw Griffin House opening for Kearney, a songwriter who amounts to a poor, American version of Chris Martin with extra awkward, white-guy rapping. In front of a chatty crowd, House took little time on stage before berating the audience for not keeping quiet.

But when he finally launched into the raucous “The Way I Was Made,” introduced as the song about his “grandparents having sex,” House and his guitar player made great noise, filling the hall with fervent chords and zealous - if strained - vocals.

By the time House ended with live-only track “Volkswagen,” the crowd had warmed up sufficiently enough to sing along with the easy-going chorus, repeating “I need love” as resounding joy bounced off the walls.

Bare bones can be a great sound for House. To be able to hear every word of his poetic lyrics and every lick of his sweetly-strummed guitar, shimmering with echoes of roots music and '70s balladeers, is always a treat. But without a backing band and a truly-attentive audience, the exposed sound was wasted. Here's hoping the crowd pays attention in the future so others can hear his sweet, soulful voice.

- Paste Magazine

"Griffin House-CBS Emerging Artists" - Bill Flannagan CBS

"Griffin House Plays the Picador"

At the age of 18, Griffin House made a decision that would change his life forever.

The now-29-year-old musician turned down a golf scholarship at Ohio University and went to Miami University, where he picked the guitar. Ever since, House has been writing songs that have the feel of classic musical storytellers such as Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, and Tom Petty.

“I got really burned out with sports, so I decided to try something new,” House said. “I got involved with theater and started playing music in my time at Miami University.”

He will perform alongside guitarist Clint Wells at the Picador, 330 E. Washington St., at 7 p.m. today. Singer/songwriter Thad Cockrell will open the all-ages show.

Although House abandoned his shot at playing professional golf, he was featured at No. 10 on Golf Digest’s 2008 list of top musician golfers.

“One of the editors of Golf Digest came through Nashville the other day and took me out for a round of golf,” he said. “I was joking with him and was like, ‘Man, if I had never put down the sticks and picked up the guitar, I would never have gotten into Golf Digest, but somehow I played guitar and got in [the magazine].’ It’s a weird, weird thing.”

He was proud that he beat out Alice Cooper — an avid golfer who is ranked No. 11 — to make it into the top 10, he said.

The solo artist recently released a collection of B-sides and musical commentary called 42 and a half minutes with Griffin House. House said he came up with the idea after listening to various bands’ live sessions and thinking it was interesting to hear what was going on in these different artist’s lives at the time each song was made.

He plans to release a new album in the spring of 2010 called The Learner. The recording features a guest vocal appearance by Alison Krauss and is a little bit more upbeat than previous albums, he said.

Despite releasing eight albums of recorded material, House said people have told him he excels in the live setting.

“Well, apparently it’s better than the record because everyone tells me that I need to get my act together and make the records better — get the energy of the show on there,” he said. “I try to put the live feel into my recording, but sometimes it’s tough to translate.”

Longtime fan and San Francisco native Jen Wasson said House is a great performer because of his strong ability to connect to the audience through his music.

“Griffin’s performance reminds me almost of the way Woody Guthrie used to go around and kind of captivate an audience and actually move people in a personal way,” she said. “His songs have a lot of storytelling as well as soul in them, which the audience really responds to.”

Shortly after performing in Iowa City, House will go solo and play an opening set on the Cranberries reunion tour.

“I’m half excited and half nervous,” he said. “There are going to be big audiences to play with just me and my guitar. I’ve had a little bit of practice doing that, so at least I’m not going to do it for the first time.” - The Daily Iowan


Lost & Found (2004)
Upland (2006)
House Of David, Vol. 1 (2006)
House Of David Vol. 1 & 2 (2006)
House Of David, Vol. 2 (2006)
Homecoming (2006)
Flying Upside Down (2007)
42 and a Half Minutes with Griffin House (B-Sides and Commentary) (2009)



“Ultimately, these songs are about spirituality and trying to find your place in the world,” Griffin House says of Flying Upside Down (Nettwerk, April 29), an album that dramatically marks the 27-year-old Ohioan’s coming of age as an artist of formidable skills. “Specifically, it’s the continuing story of what’s happening in my life, following the realization that the more specific I am about my own life and things that have happened to me, the more people will feel it universally.”

The 13-track collection, filled with intensely personal, richly detailed vignettes of the highs and lows of House’s existence, showcases a young artist whose openly emotional singing, poetic lyrics and spiraling melodies recall Jackson Browne circa Late for the Sky. Embedded in Flying Upside Down is a song cycle chronicling the arc of a relationship, from the first kiss (“Let Me In”) to the emotionally lacerating moment of truth (“Heart of Stone”) and its anguished aftermath (the title song). These psychologically penetrating songs are set against a backdrop of the lives of family members (“Better Than Love,” “Hangin’ On [Tom’s Song]”) and friends, including some serving in the Middle East (“I Remember [It’s Happening Again]”). Completing the tableau is a pair of spiky, head-clearing rockers (“One Thing,” “Good for You”).

House describes the recording of Flying Upside Down “a dream come true,” thanks in large measure to the drop-dead studio band assembled by producer Jeff Trott (Sheryl Crow), including a pair of Hall of Famers in Heartbreakers keyboard player Benmont Tench and guitarist Mike Campbell. A huge Tom Petty fan, House found it immensely gratifying that these great players related so strongly and brought so much to his own music. Also making major contributions were Beck’s longtime bass player, Justin Mendal-Johnson, drummer Victor Indrizzo (Macy Gray, Aimee Mann, Daniel Lanois) and violinist Sara Watkins (Nickel Creek).

Last August, on CBS Sunday Morning, critic Bill Flanagan raved about House’s first album, Lost and Found, putting the newcomer on his short list of the best emerging songwriters in the U.S., alongside Ray LaMontagne and Joseph Arthur. “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.”

Flanagan further noted that Lost and Found revealed “a young man with a young man’s influences,” citing Wilco, U2 and Ryan Adams as primary touchstones. House acknowledges the accuracy of this assessment. “I was wearing my influences on my sleeve at 22 or 23,” he says. Flying Upside Down, by contrast, is without question the work of a major artist, one whose music resonates with hard-earned insights. While it possesses striking emotional depth and intellectual acuity, the album is also wholly accessible, a hook-laden thing of beauty.

Born and raised in Springfield, Ohio, the athletically gifted House discovered in a high school drama class that he enjoyed being in front of people and making them laugh. He got totally swept up in performing after playing the lead role in a musical; it was the first time he’d ever sung, in public or otherwise. “It was like a ‘holy shit!’ moment, finding out I could actually do this,” he says.

Two years later, House shocked his family by turning down a golf scholarship to Ohio U. “Sports were really a big part of me and how I grew up,” he says. “So deciding not to take that scholarship was a turning point for me in choosing a new path for myself, a new life making music.” There were some issues to deal with first, however — he couldn’t play the acoustic guitar he’d bought from a friend for $100 at 16, nor had he yet written a song.

“I took a couple of guitar lessons and got so frustrated that one day I kicked the strings off my guitar,” he recalls with a laugh. “It sat there for about a year, but I took it to school [at Miami of Ohio] with me and made up my mind I was gonna learn how to play. One night I picked up my guitar and wandered around campus till I could barely keep my eyes open, trying to play this one chord over and over. Finally, around 4 a.m., my hand got used to it and I formed my first G chord.”

Not long afterward, he wrote his first song for the high school sweetheart with whom he’d parted ways after graduation. When she came for a visit, House played it for her, and it brought her to tears. “Then I was hooked,” he says, “I thought, ‘Oh, man, if I can make people cry, I’m gonna keep doing this. I’m gonna make as many people cry as I can!’” After laughing at the memory, he puts the experience in perspective: “What I was drawn to was the power of the song, how it could affect people emotionally.”

That epiphany caused the neophyte’s creative juices to bubble over, and he got really good really fast. After graduating, he joined some of his buddies who’d moved to Nashville, and started doing solo gigs at the bottoms of bill