The Great Escape

Ethan James Photography

Ethan James Photography

Griffin House’s love affair with music. 

by Lindsey Lowe Osborne


Many of us creative types can remember when we began stumbling into what would eventually become ours. For me, there are memories involving words that reach back as far as I can remember; from my mom reading The Velveteen Rabbit to me at age 5 to discovering The Great Gatsby in the 10th grade to struggling through Ulysses my last semester of university, I stand as a writer on a tower of books and experiences with them. It happened the same way for Griffin House, except he stands with his guitar atop a life of chords and melodies. “I can tell you that music has always seemed to grab hold and have a powerful effect on me. It’s provided escape to a different world and access to emotions that couldn’t be felt completely unless jumpstarted by the power of music,” House explains. His canon started with Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” and includes the Beatles, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and U2. But it didn’t occur to him that being a musician might be a possibility until he saw Rattle and Hum (both a U2 album and a documentary about the band) when he was a teenager. “When I saw Rattle and Hum as a 16-year-old, I instantly wanted to be Bono. Before that, I had fantasized about ripping awesome guitar solos in my gymnasium with the whole school watching, and I had pretended as a kid to be in a band with the music cranked up, even from as early as age 6, playing air guitar and singing in my room,” he says. “But when I saw Rattle and Hum, I’d done some theatre and a little bit of singing already and something clicked in my mind that gave me the idea that I would and should and could be a singer.” When he graduated high school, he turned down a golf scholarship to Ohio University and instead headed to Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, and began to teach himself to write songs and play the guitar.

House’s first release was 2003’s Upland, which garnered attention from Nettwerk, a Vancouver-based management company and record label. He partnered with the label’s American branch to release Lost & Found in 2004. What followed were several self-released albums on House’s imprint label, Evening Records. 2008’s Flying Upside Down was produced by Jeff Trott and featured Mike Campbell and Benmont Tench. On House’s most recent EP, Songs for a Prisoner, released last November, he teamed up with the organization YouInspire and recorded several songs inside of a prison in Nashville.

His songs—which are all his own—nail the human experience in a gentle but fierce way: Homecoming’s “Downtown Line” tells of something between what is and what could have been; Flying Upside Down’s “Better Than Love” is about what’s after falling in love. “Lay Down in Your Fields” sings of loss; “I Won’t Leave” of covenant. They’re honest in a kind way. “I want my music to become a true reflection of who I’m working to be as a person. I think that feels truer and braver to me than having the best song in the world but being a total mess inside,” he explains.

House says the reality of the music industry is a little different than what he imagined as a 16-year-old. “My idea of what that life would be like was practically the answer to all my problems and the key to happiness. I figured if I made a record that was good enough, I’d get a Grammy or something. Then I’d be successful enough in the eyes of the world,” he says. “My motives and motivations are a bit different these days. Music isn’t some life I’m chasing after or fantasizing about. I’m living in the reality, for better and for worse, of traveling and playing shows for a living. And in most cases, it’s not for crowds of thousands; it’s for crowds of hundreds. But I guess that means if I just play more shows it will add up.”

That’s his plan: Write songs, record them, and then show up and sing. And people are noticing. House was ranked sixth on Golf Digest’s top musician golfers list last year. His song “The Way I Was Made” appears in ESPN’s hall of fame commercial and “Give a Little Love” on one for Harry and David during Christmas 2014. And he stopped by our own Workplay on Jan. 29th. His love note to us:  “[You] have a really lovely city,” he says (He lives in Nashville with his family.) “It reminds me in some ways of a southern Cincinnati because of the hills surrounding it and the beautiful vistas and the boroughs and pockets tucked away in its nooks and crannies. I always enjoy visiting. Thanks for coming to see live music and for supporting the arts.”


Upcoming Events

2/9: Guster at Iron City. For fans of Ben Folds, the Dave Matthews Band, and Death Cab for Cutie.

2/26 & 2/27: Drew Holcomb at The Library Theatre (Hoover Library). For fans of Act of Congress, Dave Barnes, and Josh Garrels.

3/12: John Mellencamp at the BJCC. For fans of Jack and Diane.

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