It’s a self-titled album, but it could just as easily have been titled “Ex-Girlfriends.”
In fact, singer-songwriter Kevin Griffin told The Daily Times recently, he almost thanked his exes in the liner notes, because all of the stories on “Kevin Griffin,” which is celebrated at a Saturday release show at Twisted Mike’s in Knoxville, are true ones. From the angered hurt of “Should’ve Stayed Gone” to the crazy don’t-give-a-damn of “Fire on the Bridge,” Griffin has put together an ode for anyone who finds themselves nursing a bottle on the backside of another failed relationship, thinking about all of the ones that got away.
“I just write what I write, and it comes out,” Griffin told The Daily Times recently. “Every bit of it is true and 100 percent personal, because it’s the only way I know how to write.”
Griffin graduated from Halls High School in Knox County in 1992, and he’s been a part of the local music scene for almost as far back. His old bands are familiar names to club-goers of the late 1990s and the early 2000s — groups like Human Windows, Armed and Dangerous and Jay and the Pleasures, which enjoyed a brief career as a popular cover band on the Cumberland Avenue “Strip” around 1998 and 1999. He moved to Nashville for a time to break into the world of professional songwriting, but the nature of the business and a bout of homesickness brought him back to East Tennessee.
Back home, he stayed out of music for a while before joining the rock band January Avenue, which helped him fall in love with music all over again, and after a couple of years, he struck out on his own. Although he established himself as a more-than-capable cover artist, his heart lies with his original material, which he’s polished to a pop-rock shine on his new album with the help of his long-time collaborator, Michael Davey.
“I’ve tried doing the covers around town and learning every song people want to hear, but I’m to the point that I honestly feel successful and content and satisfied with where my musical journey is at at this point,” he said. “I’m happy with what I’m doing. I don’t want to get into doing cover shows four or five nights a week. And I think that once people hear the songs, they kind of get it.
“It’s shocking sometimes, because sometimes I get a bigger response from my originals than the covers I play. I think it’s because people hear covers all the time, so when I play an original, it’s fresh. I think they’re catchy enough to get people’s attention.”
Griffin’s emotions run the gamut on the new record, from melancholy to frustration to the feel-good country swagger of “Fire on the Bridge,” in which he talks about “roasting marshmallows on this bridge while it burns.” Despite his propensity for pop, that track may be a hint of what’s to come from Griffin, who’s already thinking about his next project.
“I’ve probably got a back catalog for three or four more albums that I’d feel comfortable putting out, and I think maybe on the next horizon is a more acoustic-style CD,” he said. “Right now, I’m focused on playing this weekend’s show. Michael’s coming into town, and we’ll do it just two acoustic guitars and two vocals. They’ll be the bare bones of the songs, but I think a lot of times, for a smaller place and a more intimate gig like that, it’s kind of cool. If I’m sitting in your living room, this is what you’re going to hear.”