Griffin House: How Becoming a Dad and Husband Has Changed My Music and Writing
Becoming a parent has definitely had a significant impact on me as a person, an artist, a writer.
The first example I can think of happened literally moments after my daughter Emma was born in 2011. The chorus to one of my songs, “Better Than Love,” goes, “you will always be, you will always be, you will always be my girl.”
When I wrote that song in 2006 or so, it sounded to me like it was about my future wife whom I had yet to meet – I sang it from that perspective for years. And then on the day I held my newborn daughter in my arms, I found myself, without even thinking about it, singing the words “you’ll always be my girl” to her and the song took on a brand new meaning. It didn’t change the original meaning, it just showed me that the song was more multifaceted than I had originally thought. Several times at my shows I’ve seen couples holding hands, singing this song to each other, which has little to do with the topic of this post, other than to drive home the point that songs do really take on a life of their own once the author has released them into the world; they will mean different things for different people, which is a really beautiful thing.
I tend to write songs about what is going on in my life in the present moment. In my early twenties, like many do, I was dating around, I was in several long-term relationships that didn’t work out, and I found myself easily on the topic of the troubles of love. Break-up songs and hopeless romantic sentiment were not some sort of pre-conceived contrived concoction designed to try to hook any particular demographic of lovesick listeners, I was just writing about what was happening to me, and processing it all in song. I couldn’t afford a therapist with my starving artist paychecks. I was just trying to sell enough CDs at gigs to buy me gas money to get to the next show and pay rent for an apartment where I never slept because I was always on the road. My therapy was my songwriting – it’s how I got it all out, vented, and made sense of what was going on in my life.
Sometimes I feel like I’d do OK in life if I could simply follow the advice in my own songs, ‘There is no such thing as forever, so let’s just be together while we can.’
I’ve been married for 10 years this summer and over those 10 years, I suppose there have been few occasions when I have indulged in some “what might have been” songs about bittersweet memories from my past, but for the most part, I’m writing about my current journey. That journey is one that I’ve previously had no experience with, so of course, I’m writing from a new place because new things are happening to me. I’ve spent the majority of my marriage not drinking alcohol… I did the opposite in my twenties. That was a giant life shift in and of itself, and each record I’ve made in the last decade has at least a few songs about the difficulties of sobriety.
Being married and having children has challenged and changed my view of love: from what once looked like winning the lottery and living happily ever after with your soulmate to actually making a commitment and showing up in the good times and the bad, trying to be a good human being even when you don’t feel like it, and realising that marriage is like life; some days suck and some days are awesome and that’s just the way it goes. Some days you feel really in love, and other days you feel disconnected and really far away. I suppose “die hard” is a good phrase to describe the hopeless romantic person in me. I don’t like reality very much. I would prefer to live in the love story that was portrayed in the movies I grew up watching on the Hollywood screen rather than live the day in, day out reality of what a love story looks like in real life. Joseph Campbell says that marriage is “an ordeal”. I just happened to marry a Joseph Campbell aficionado. I think she may have understood that it would involve more work than I did, and I have to give her credit for sticking with me in times that probably almost no one else would have. Devotion and loyalty are two of her strongest character traits and I can see her passing those on to our daughters which I am extremely grateful for.
I’ve written songs like “Go Through It” to describe the growing up pains associated with trying to die to self-will, self-centredness, “Peter Pan Syndrome”, my childish ways, petty jealousies, alcoholism, and a million forms of centred fear that block me from the ability to show up, love, and be loved in return. Ultimately, all my writing is an attempt for me to process what’s going on around me (and inside me) so that I can feel it, deal with it, and get to a place where I can transform that pain into joy somehow. That’s what great music does to me. I think it’s why I play music and why I love music. When I hear a truly great song, what makes it great to me is knowing how much heart a person has to have to take their pain and turn into something that makes others feel connected and full of life and light and joy. I love how music, seemingly above all other art, has the ability to make the hair on your arm stand up and water roll out of your eyes. I have wanted to be able to be a part of giving that gift to myself and others and I’m thankful every time I have the opportunity to do so.
My kids crashed the party at the studio while we were recording my latest album Rising Star. The producer, the band, and I wanted the song “Mighty Good Friend” to sound kind of sloppy, like a raucous party. I used to fancy myself pretty sex-drugs-rock-n-roll, but now I’m married, sober, and a dad; having the kids come in and cause commotion at the studio during lunchtime is about is crazy as it gets. Times have changed! I’m happy to have them lend their voices in the intro and outro to the song, and they still argue about which of them is featured most prominently on the recording.
“When The Kids Are Gone” is an empty-nester song, unlike any song or subject I’ve ever written before, and certainly the most pertinent to this topic. I doubt I would have ever written an empty-nester song without being a father and being able to really imagine how it will feel when in just a short 15 years my kids will be all grown up and this phase of life where we all live under one roof as a family will be over. Some might think it’s funny for me to be getting that far ahead of myself considering my girls are only five and seven, but I’m well aware of how fast time is flying and how as each year goes by, it only seems to go faster and faster. Sometimes I feel like I’d do OK in life if I could simply follow the advice in my own songs, “There is no such thing as forever, so let’s just be together while we can.”
Griffin House is a singer-songwriter based in Nashville, Tennessee. He’s toured for more than 15 years and recorded over 12 studio albums. His new album, Rising Star, was released on June 28, soon to be followed by his first full-length film of the same name. The film chronicles Griffin’s life as a musician.