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BLOG – “SXSW WATERFALL”

It was an average winter night in early 2007. My wife and I were sitting on the couch unwinding from a long day. The TV was on, but we were obliviously lost in our own worlds. Then, all of a sudden, the silence was shattered with a smooch. Not from the misses and me. From a commercial. About toothpaste.  It was one of those surreal moments that came out of absolutely nowhere to change my life for the better. The 30-second spot was for a company called Rembrandt. The couple on TV was making out like lovers should – fully going for it with sparkly fresh breath. The acting was convincing, but what moved me most was the passionate voice that serenaded the screen and the slow cymbals and bluesy guitar rifts that floated along with it. “Hold on to your love it might not be coming back,” the man sang. “If you hold on to your love, it might not be coming back.”

It was such a profound statement about relationships. The song defined every walk I’d ever taken down Romance Lane – that fine line between fighting for a love that’s already left and suffocating your reason for breathing. It’s funny how the passion police only pull you over for a sobriety test when you’re beyond love drunk.

The words and the delivery echoed in my soul. I raced to my computer in spite of my temporary mental paralysis. I had to know who sang that fucking song. I Googled the words “Rembrandt Toothpaste Song,” and what do you know… turns out I wasn’t the only one moved by this man. His name was Griffin House, the song was called “Waterfall” and underground groups had already been formed to celebrate this commercial. I bought all of his songs from iTunes on the spot, and after listening to them all night, I knew I had to meet this guy.

The next morning, I emailed Griffin House’s publicist, and told her I wanted to write a feature article on him for Artworks Magazine. A week later I was on my way to Manhattan Beach for the interview at Griffin’s favorite French café. The humble singer from Ohio showed up on his bike. We were talking about music over a breakfast of quiche and waffles when a tall, beautiful blonde walked by. The WTA was in town, and Maria Sharapova just sat down right next to us… one of the best distractions I’d ever experienced during an interview. Anyway, Griffin continued talking about his love of great songwriting – Dylan, Petty and Woodie Guthrie. He aspired to be like them, and had already written a catalog full of tales from murder to war and longing to lust. He’d spent the last few years lugging his guitar from bar to bar as he criss-crossed the country. He recorded several albums along the way that included lines like: “She can’t decide if I’m the king or trash. She loves me for the Johnny, but she hates me for the Cash…” AND… “I got a secret for you, if you promise not to tell… sometimes you feel a little closer to heaven when you raise a little hell.”

His talent was unmistakable, yet his name wasn’t even close. So naturally, Griffin House was thankful for the national exposure the Rembrandt commercial was generating. His song was picked out of 1,000 options that the company had considered. But in this case, toothpaste didn’t smear his face across the pages of the mainstream media. Instead, he continued to hit the road hard over the next three years, gaining loyal fans one by one. I caught a couple of his shows in San Francisco and Hollywood. They were intimate venues that crammed only one hundred people or so. But they were incredible showcases for his voice, guitar and harmonica. He closed the SF show with the tender ballad “Only Love Remains.” The song literally sucked the air out of the place, and it was a good second after he strummed his last note before one woman was finally able to muster up the words, “Thank you.” We were all too moved to clap.

Everywhere Griffin goes he has time for autographs and to listen to everyone’s story. He’s a music man that’s in the business for all the right reasons. Finally in 2009, CMT picked up his video for “I Remember (It’s Happening Again)” about unlearned lessons from American wars. The track helped him gain some traction in an industry with no map. He also earned more music cred by moving to Nashville, and capped off the summer by marrying his sweetheart, Jane, at the courthouse in San Francisco. In October, Artworks Magazine held the first Carmel Art & Film Festival, and there was no doubt who we wanted to headline the event. Griffin opened the concert singing: “You hold my hand and it’s better than love,” and closed his set with this: “You don’t need to change a thing about you babe, I’m telling you from where I sit you’re one of a kind. Relationships I don’t know why… they never work out and they make you cry. But the guy that said goodbye to you is out of his mind.”

Griffin met Clint Eastwood, one of his idols, before leaving Carmel, and by the end of the year, he was on tour with The Cranberries. He kicked off 2010 with an Esquire fashion shoot alongside Dierks Bentley, Bob Schneider and other talented songwriters. They had all gathered for a charity concert and Beat-like musical retreat in Mississippi. Griffin called it one of the best experiences of his life. But tonight is his big night. Griffin House is playing three shows in Austin for SXSW beginning this morning on KGSR radio. Later tonight he’ll be at Maggie Mae’s, and then a 1:00 a.m. show at Soho Lounge. SXSW has been the launching pad for so many up-and-coming artists, and no one deserves this chance at success more than Griffin House (who is just two months away from the release of his new album, The Learner). May the luck of the Irish be with him on this St. Patty’s Day, and may all those holding green beers in Texas tonight be prepared for a musical waterfall that you’ll never forget. Bring it brother!

Written by: Ben Bamsey

www.mpspace.com/griffinhouse

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