Billboard -May 18, 1996
Singer/Songwriter Patty Griffin Hitting The Road A&M Taking a Low Key Approach With Unplugged Sampler
BY DAVID JOHN FARINELLA
In the high-octane world of record promotion and marketing, A&M's strategy for the May 21 release of Patty Griffin's debut album is moving forward in low-gear. Rather than punting singles into top 40 radio, team is going to sit back and prove that patience is indeed a virtue.
"We as a company are not interested in people getting into a song" says Diana Fried, director of marketing. "It's not about a song, it's about Patty Griffin the artist. We really feel that the way to do that is to allow people the space and time to fall in love with her, the was we have." So what the label has done so far amounts to a handful of low-key PGD branch tours, a residency at the Fez nightclub in New York, and a "four-song sampler that was sent to radio the last week of April.
The sampler, which features "Moses," "Mad Mission," "Let Him Fly " and "Every Little Bit," Has designed to introduce listeners to Griffin's world and to prepare them for another six acoustic songs. The fact that Griffin has recorded a wholly acoustic album that has given the label its biggest challenge, from a marketing and promotions angle. "She is not a folk artist." says Fried, "she is an artist who simply made her unplugged record first. This is not all there is to Patty Griffin but it is Patty Griffin at her most essential and in it's purest form. I think it's a great way to introduce her to world".
That is a sentiment echoed by VP of A&R Jim Phelan, who is working to keep Griffin out of any folksinger ghetto. "I'm hoping to avoid that by saying that Patty is an artist," he says. "She's a singer and a songwriter and this is a presentation of the music at this point and time." Although Phelan first heard Griffin's demo much as it is presented on the release, at one time the label put her in the studio with a band and producer. In the end though, Phelan says "what we consistently came up with was that the strongest material was from the solo acoustic material.".
Which plays right into the label's and Griffin's touring philosophy. In fact, when asked what would help break Griffin, Phelan answer's with a laugh, "Touring and I think some touring and then more touring after that." Which as it turns out, is just fine with the singer. "I'm hoping for a real grassroots kind of thing." she says from the New York hotel room. "I think the was for me to get this record to people is to play for them live, and I'm ready to do that."
Rick Stone. A&M's senior VP of promotion adds, "When I think of Patty in this particular instance of her relationship with the marketplace, I think of a certain intimacy that is important for her to develop with key people." As a way to develop that relationship, he proposes a lot of showcases, residencies, and trips to certain radio stations, "at the right time and getting her message across. This record is all about getting it, and those are the ways you get it."
There are some out there who are getting it already, including Rob Reinhart, who hosts the nationally syndicated "Acoustic Cafe" radio show from Detroit. He added "Every Little Bit" toward the end of April, and more recently, "Let Him Fly." "I love a record like this," he says, "because these are so many things we can use. We can be on this record for months." What has impressed him and the listeners who have been requesting information on Griffin via E-mail is "the vocal power of it." he says. "It's an acoustic record completely stripped down, and you don't need anything else."
Ann Delis of CIDR Detroit calls Griffin "a wonderfully insightful songwriter. She reminds me of a much younger Bonnie Raitt who is not polished beyond belief."
Delisi has been playing "Let Him Fly" during her midday slots, and the phones have been hot, she says. When you hear it on the radio, it makes you stop in your track," she says.
In addition to the four song sampler to introduce listeners to the music, A&M is producing a short film that Fried calls "an intimate glimpse" into the artist.
Metro Times - May 22-28
Living With Ghosts
Simplicity" is the word that comes to mind upon hearing this striking debut by singer and songwriter Patty Griffin, Unlike many of her contemporaries, who litter the scene with musical production excess- Amos, Morissette, Jewel, et al." Griffin's approach is stark: an acoustic guitar and one voice.
And while this minimal tactic may seem like it would wear thin over 45 minutes, it does anything but. Living With Ghosts' is just what the yawningly overpopulated singer-songwriter genre needed, an approach so unfiltered and naked, it makes one sit up straight, shut up and listen.
Griffin owes little to country or folk musics here. Her economical method may have been inspired by the directness of those genres, but her melodies and lyrical incantations are her own. Brutal in their uniflinching honesty, looking into the mouth of the tunnel where sadness and love, tragedy and despair, frayed hope and hard-won faith all reside together in the eternal flux of childhood memory and adult reflection. And it helps that she can really sing.
While it's true one can hear in the courageous grain of Griffin's voice traces of the sheer swaggering power of a young Bonnie Raitt, or the wide-eyed conviction of a Rickie Lee Jones, the material and delivery are original
The set opens with "Moses", a brave choice. Here, amid the scattershot strummed guitar accompaniment, Griffin sings "Diamonds roses, I need Moses to cross this sea of loneliness/Part this red river of pain/I don't necessarily buy any key to the future or happiness but I need a little place in the sun sometimes or I think I will die." On the first cut.
Her voice is large, as large as the lack she emotes here. It carries both singer and song over into the heart of a life being lived in the eternal present. There is no resolution, just a fathomless ache. One almost feels embarrassed for the character because she's baring her need so openly.
On "Let Him Fly", resolve is an m.o. A mirror image of the previous song. It's about a hero-won peace that allows the protagonist to make a decision: Ain't no talking to this man/Ain't no pretty other side/Ain't no way to understand, the stupid words of pride/It would take an acrobat, I've already tried all that/I'm going to let him fly."
With echoes of Raitt singing "Been Too Long At The Fair", Griffin strides evenly out of the darkness. Somewhere there is a heart breaking, but it won't get in the way.
Over and over these tensions present themselves not as problems to be solved, but as situations to be experienced. Griffins's passion as a singer carries it all fearlessly. She is every character she writes. There is no painterly detachment, no musical separation between singer and song, conviction and emotion. The songs sway gently or rock steadily, but they always pull apart at the seams, allowing the list toner to be surrounded by their strengths and frailties
Griffin displays her abilities to carry a set like this with as much whispering grace as a church choir and more power than a four-piece rock band. In her songs lie the deepest of secrets from a life fully in the process of being lived and truths that seem so small and insignificant, they often go unnoticed until the startling change they impart is self-evident.
Intimate yes, but Griffin's work has a near universal appeal. This is music for body and soul, healing yet just as often leaving hearts rent and torn. In her own words from the excruciating "Poor Man's House", the real wisdom in this recording lies in its ability to assume that even while "Mama's sewing a brand new shirt/You're wearing the one that's torn."
Many songwriters are
said to be fine poets. Griffin is a poet who happens to be a very fine
NEW YORK TIMES -SATURDAY, MAY 25, 1996
Patty Griffin- A Singer With Raw Anguish And Stories To Tell
Every song is a catharsis for Patty Griffin. She writes about loneliness and pain, obsession and forgiveness and she sings in a headlong rush, with her lyrics stretched and slurred over basic guitar vamps. Ms. Griffin can be whispery and conversational like Rickie Lee Jones, bend blues phrases like Bonnie Raitt or work herself up to a country singers breaking moans; she can confide memories or hurl challenges. What she's saying emerges only gradually from the melted syllables, but the emotion is volatile and immediate.
Ms. Griffin used two strategies in songs from her new album, "Living With Ghosts" (A&M), on Tuesday night. There were raw declarations of anguish, which often depended on her voice to carry them past their cliches. She also had more detailed storytelling songs, with such characters as a daughter with a violent father or a man riding home from his wife's funeral. A new song, "Silver Bell" was somewhere in between, with enigmatic images of desire and mortality. Through most of the set, Ms. Griffin turned songs into dramas, with grand crescendos and sudden hushes. But her last song, the affectionate and elegiac "Not Alone," proved she could hold listeners without raising her voice.
Nashville Scene 5/31/96
Singer Unloads Her feelings
BY MICHAEL MCCALL
For Patty Griffin, the expression "going solo" reverberates with many meanings. The youngest of seven-children, she also married young. It wasn't until a difficult divorce that she realized she had never done anything for herself. And it wasn't until she started to sing that she realized she had never really expressed herself.
"Emotions like anger were not in my vocabulary," the singer-guitarist says. "They were not welcome." Mindful of her place in the family hierarchy, she consigned herself to being overruled. And since she didn't have the authority to speak out, she learned to keep her feelings to herself. Similarly, she sublimated her feelings in her marriage, a tendency that became increasingly debilitating as the relationship fell apart.
Throughout it all, she lost herself in music, turning to the passionate and personal songs of Bruce Springsteen and Rickie Lee Jones, among others. She heard how they expressed what she couldn't say herself. At age 16, she acquired a guitar, but strumming it was largely a private joy. She wrote poetry and sometimes she worked at putting her words to music"but these were things she didn't share with other people.
Years later, single and working as a waitress in Boston, Griffin discovered how liberating freedom could be. Forced to consider her future, she realized that her driving joy had become songwriting and playing guitar. "Writing definitely helped me to heal," she says. "Holding all that stuff in started to make life very difficult."
Slowly, Griffin began to consider performing. "I'm a very shy person," she says in a gentle, soft voice that barely makes it across long-distance lines. "I wasn't brave enough to audition for bands, so I ended up doing it solo. But it was a real struggle to get relaxed onstage. It didn't really happen until a couple years ago. I was making these big strides in my life, and all of a sudden everything started happening at once. Performing was a part of that. It was part of the whole freedom of learning to take control of yourself and to do the things you want."
The irony came with what Griffin offered people"this shy, petite, delicate redhead with a big, loud voice starting laying out her life with anger and passion and unbridled joy. "Diamonds! Roses! I need Moses to cross this sea of loneliness, part this red river of pain," she sings in "Moses," the opening cut of Living With Ghosts, her debut album on A&M Records. "I don't necessarily buy any key to the future or happiness, but I need a little place in the sun sometimes, or I think I will die "
Griffin found that little place in the sun underneath the harsh glow of stage lights in small Boston-area clubs. Here she was, the polite youngest child, the meek and subservient ex-wife, onstage baring her most private feelings to strangers. "Until then, I had a real reluctance to confront anything," she says. "When I started performing, it was my first experience at letting emotions flow. I started expressing things that I'd never been able to show. It helped me in everyday life. Now I feel like everything in my life had sort of shoved me into being honest about myself. My biggest fear for my whole life was people finding out who I am. Yet now, here I am, saying these things in songs that I could never have said."
People in the audience were amazed at the strength of her choice, at how forceful she sounded, at how hard and furious she could bang on her guitar. When people first hear me, they're a little shocked," she says with a laugh. "I'm not a huge person, but I can get loud." Indeed, on some songs, Griffin lets it fly, pouring herself into the words with cathartic release; others are as gentle and delicate as she is. All feature just her voice and her guitar subtle in a style reminiscent of Phoebe Snow. In the joyous "Mad Mission, she speaks of her unending search for love, while "You Are Not Alone" is a generous, forgiving tune packed with sympathy and compassion.
After she began performing around Boston, Griffin quickly developed a local following. As her reputation grew, she tried expanding her songs. Her initial experiences with producers and studio musicians didn't work out too well. "I never really worked alot with musicians" she says. "When we tried, it was hard for me to express myself to the producer."
When Griffin recorded "Living With Ghosts", she left the studio and the musicians and the producer behind to do a solo acoustic album. She captured several of the songs in the Nashville kitchen of her manager, Michael Baker. The others were done in a Boston apartment, where she played and sang in a closet. "It represents what I've been doing for me last few years", she says of the result. "If some wants to pan it, then they're panning me. But it's what I do, and I'm real happy we were able to do it."
Island Ear, Island Park, NY - June 24, 1996
A Girl, A Guitar And
A Lot Of Heart
As a child growing up in a small town in Maine, Patty Griffin would listen to her mother's singing fill the house and her French Canadian grandmother, Melda, sing church hymns. She soon discovered her own love of singing. 'I didn't nearly know I could sing, I just knew I wanted to do it,' she said when we spoke from her home in Portland, Maine. But Griffin probably could have never imagined herself at recent gigs at The Bottom Line or Fez in New York City twenty-something years later.
Although she was discouraged from singing professionally, she was never prevented from listening to music. In fact her father bought Griffin her first album, The Beatles', Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band for her birthday. She recalls singers like Bruce Springsteen and Rickie Lee Jones from those days. And even fondly mentions Dolly Parton as an influence. Her own style and guitar playing didn't come until years later when she quietly bought herself a cheap fifty-dollar guitar and began writing.
It's true, she may be songwriting physically closer to her roots in Maine, after some years spent between Florida, Boston and Nashville, but she couldn't be further from what life was like then" or even just five years ago. "I'm doing things I nearer really thought possible," beams Griffin. "I've traveled to alot of places I didn't think I'd ever see and started having more hope at hand times. I thought, -Why not have hope?' When all else isn't working, why not have hope?'
The petite redhead with a passionate voice chooses not to label her music, but prefers to describe it as "just music written from a really emotional place. It's stuff I needed to express" just Patty screaming and emoting and figuring some things out'. She confides that writing has served a dual purpose, the less obvious one being therapeutic.
A difficult period, which included a broken marriage, was the catalyst for a dramatic change in her life. She finally became comfortable with recognizing the quality of her writing and eventually began performing in clubs throughout Boston. Her reason for sticking to a strictly acoustic set and album was more for the opportunity it offered than anything else.
"There were so many places to play acoustic and I was not feeling brave enough to look for a band, which I really felt was my calling,' she says "I just got comfortable doing it and then enjoyed doing it-the freedom of it."
On the title of her A&M debut, Griffin describes Living With Ghosts as the logical title for an album made up of mostly material that came from another place "I think when writing this al bum I spoke with a lot of voices from the past-within me and even going back farther through generations. Just about the beliefs that built up over generations- about life and living and how much you can expect from it all."-Within her own family, both grandmothers have been of great influence to Griffn.
"I feel like my grandmother Mary radiated a lot of love through the family and you can still feel her presence. Not in a literal ghostly presence, but when you think about the essence of a human being, she's given a lot of strength to my family in determination. My 91-year old grandmother Melda, who's a singer- I relate to and even look a lot like. There's a lot of her in me" she was a soprano, but is a bit reluctant to sing for others at her age."
Although Griffin brings the comfort of these "ghosts" with her to the stage to present her life in song, she still feels ill-at-ease about how differently people have begun to perceive her offstage. "It's awfully strange to start seeing yourself being packaged, and you can easily see how it gets away from the humanity",- declares Griffin "The media is a very strange thing. And if I could communicate one thing, I wish there were some way for people to understand that I was sincere in putting this album together. And no matter what you think of it, it's really,v from my heart".