LEAK - CD Magazine
Patty Griffin "Mad Mission"
by Rob Patterson
Patty Griffin is an inspiration to all those countless souls singing away in their rooms. After all, it wasn't so long ago that Griffin herself was doing the very same thing. She had sung all her life, the youngest of seven kids whose mother "was a housework singer. Couldn't be stopped. Sang every minute of the day. We sort of all followed her around and sang along with her.
Growing up in a small town in Maine, Patty got her first guitar at sixteen, and later sang with a cover band when she was in her late teens. "It was always something I knew how to do," she says of singing. But after moving to Boston to get serious about her music, Griffin says she "didn't really know how to get back on stage. I wasn't brave enough to try out for a band so I kinda sat around and sang in my room for a couple. Well, more than a couple of years.
Her first A&M Records album, Living With Ghosts, is like having Griffin and her smart songs and gutsy vocals right there in the room with you. Recorded with just her voice and guitar, it's an arresting major label debut for no other reason than Griffin's obviously abundant talent. It's also an album that brims with power and confidence, yet the material comes from a time of crisis. "My whole life"everything that was normal and going on a regular basis"all sort of fell apart within a period of six months. I lost a manager, an agent, and a husband," she confesses with a smile. "I wasn't even really playing out that much. but I got much more committed to my music. I really, really, really did not want to be a waitress anymore and thought that I might be able to make a living with music.''
And out of adversity came growth. "I started using it to express myself, as opposed to getting up there and showing people what I could do with my singing,'' she says of her music. It was sort of like doing line drawing and and line drawing and line drawing, and then suddenly you're painting and texturing things with oil paints and instinctively knowing where to stop painting, and things like that, and you become an artist. But there's alot of work that goes into that.''
Winning a deal with A&M Records, she recorded a fully produced album with backing' musicians, but the final results didn't feel right. " A&M was not crazy about the record, and they were pretty attached to the solo performances," Griffin explains. "I thought, this is what I do, why don't I ask?" So the same unadorned passion that won her a deal will now hopefully win Griffin fans as well.
With lines like "We were drinking like
the Irish but we were drinking scotch.'' and a voice that falls somewhere
between Ricki Lee Jones and Bonnie Raitt. Griffin definitely writes and
sings from her heart. "I feel like I need it for my mental health, my soul,''
she concludes. "There's a big backlog of anger and sadness there that I
kinda spilled out on this record. It helps my life out, thank you very
Pulse! -AUGUST 1996
Nothing about Patty Griffin seems loud, except her voice. She's petite, shy and soft spoken; she plays an acoustic guitar, solo. Some of the songs on her debut, Living with Ghosts (A&M), are as gentle as she is. Others rupture with fiery force, as she cathartically pours everything she has into the performance.
"When people first hear me, they're a little shocked," she says. "I'm not a huge person. But I can get loud." She cites living on the edge of a forest in Maine for her vocal power. "We used to play in a field that was a few acres back from the house," she says. "My mother is pretty small, but she has this huge yelling voice. She had to, so we could hear her. And we had to shout so she could hear us back."
But her family only screamed across a distance. The youngest of seven kids in a working-class clan, she grew up in an atmosphere where feelings were controlled, not exposed. "Emotions like anger were not in the vocabulary," she says. "They were not welcome."
Anger is definitely part of her vocabulary now. "Holding all of that stuff in started to make life very difficult," she says. "Writing definitely helped me to heal. When I started performing, it was my first experience at letting emotions flow. I started expressing these things I'd never been able to show. It helped me in everyday life."
She had moved to Boston and married in the mid-'8Os, but it wasn't until she split with her husband in late 1992 that she got up the nerve to give performing a try. "Until then, I had a real reluctance to confront anything " she says
Single and working as a waitress, she decided to take her songs public. "I wasn't brave enough to audition for bands, so I ended up doing it solo," she says. "But it was a real struggle to get relaxed on stage. It didn't really happen until a couple of 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."
As she gained a reputation in Boston, she got approached with offers to give her music a fuller, more polished sound. After A&M Records showed interest, she tried to work with a producer. "I'd never really worked with a lot of musicians," she says. "When we tried it, it was hard for me to express myself to a producer. My lack of experience and my insecurity made it hard."
She shifted gears, with A&M's support. Instead of a studio, she recorded songs in the closet of an apartment near Boston Hospital and in a kitchen in Nashville. A&M reacted to the new work enthusiastically.
"It represents what I've been doing for the last few years," she says. "It's kind of scary to put it out this way. If someone wants to pan it, they're panning me. But it's what I do, so I'm real happy we were able to do it like this."
Patty Griffin Living With Ghosts
by lauren sarafan
Patty Griffin is showing no signs of fatigue from her long day as she greets me with a smile at her hotel. She's enjoying all facets of promoting her debut album Living with Ghosts (A&M) and is ready to have at it when I turn on the tape recorder.
Patty grew up in Old Town, Maine, where the cold weather inspired some of her songs, but she says, 'You can only write so many songs that celebrate winter and by the time the tenth blizzard has come along you're already sick of hot chocolate.'
At first glance, Patty looks sweet, gentle, maybe even fragile, but her voice is strong and confident when she speaks about her music. 'I'm really driven. I was born into a family of driven people.' Patty is the youngest of seven children. Naturally, her parents were concerned about her aspirations of being a musician. They told me it was going to be hard and they were right. I didn't want to go to college, I wanted to be in a band. They said, 'Okay, but you have to go to typing school.' parents I don't want their children I to take the frequently disappointing path that music omen brings to young hopefuls. You spend so much of your time waitressing, and when people ask you what you do, you feel really stupid saying, 'I sing.' Every waitress says that, so finally, you just say, 'I'm a waitress,' because that's what you are. It makes you operate from within on defining who you are. Are you a waitress or an artist first?'
Patty's voice is not one that should be wasted in asking if you'd enjoy another decaf latte. Her album is a heartfelt compilation of her truth. She's had the good fortune of hooking up with A&M who understands her style. They've allowed her unique sound to remain untouched.
In a town where many artists get overproduced or remixed to death, just to keep the sound that gained them recognition in the first place, is rare. 'The songs come in cycles. There are a ton of melodies floating around.' Patty is 'turned-in,' her work brave and honest. 'I tend to write about the same things. My best friend never bothers listening to my work because she's heard it all before.'
Patty adds an edge to the routine relationship songs that always find their way to the radio. In Patty's 'Every Little Bit,' the lyrics read, "It's funny how a morning turns a love to shame/Disguised and disfigured and thought I tasted like rain/There's nothing here but a shadow nothing here/Now you know."
Griffin acknowledges musicians that have inspired her: Rickie Lee Jones, Liz Phair and Bruce Springsteen. She is a calm and centered individual. Her unbridled passion is manifest in her compelling stage presence and her poignant songs. Pick up her album and live with her ghosts. You won't be disappointed. -
Los Angeles Times -Sept. 1, 1996
Patty Griffin touches a nerve with her bare-bones, folkystyle and sensitive songwriting. But the shy musician says she's still 'a rock chick at heart '
By Elysa Gardner
Patty Griffin is putting up a brave front. For the past half an hour, the petite, raven-haired, soft-spoken singer has been sitting in the bar of a midtown Manhattan hotel, sipping wine and discussing a variety of fairly personal subjects- her family, the breakup of her marriage, her creative process- in what seems like a gently self-possessed manner, littering her comments with warm laughter and witty asides.
Then, suddenly, Griffin pauses for a moment looks up from her glass and makes a confession, "As I sit here talking," she says, I can feel this place in my belly that is seized with terror."
Griffin is, it turns out painfully shy by nature. It's a condition that has plagued the 32-year-old artist for as long as she can remember. And as she prepares for the fan leg of a club tour to promote her debut album, "Living Wily Ghosts," she's reflecting on how her timidity has influenced her choices as an artist.
"When I started performing." she explains. "I played acoustic music, partly because that may you don't have to worry about interacting too much with other people creatively. Asserting myself in that way was not really a strong point for me.
In fact, Griffin recorded "Living With Ghosts" without a band accompanying her. She deliberately opted for a bare-bones approach, crafting simple folk- and country-flavored arrangements dominated by her vocals and acoustic guitar work.
But if you're beginning to picture Griffin as a delicate flower, think again. The singer claims to be "a rock chick at heart' She grew up listening to powerful rock and soul voices-Robert Plant and Aretha Franklin were a among her favorites-and her own supple, vibrant soprano has garnered comparisons to Bonnie Raitt, Maria McKee and Rickie Lee Jones. And the thoughtful, lyrical songs Griffin writes deal unflinchingly with subjects ranging from romantic turmoil to domestic violence and death.
"I don't actually have to think very hard when I'm writing," Griffin muses. "I mean, there are times where it's a task, and you have to plug away and plug away. But then there are times when a song writes itself in 15 minutes, and you're just struggling to keep up with it. It feels like a visitation like an out-of~body experience. Stuff just starts shooting out-stuff that you're maybe too repressed to deal with consciously. It's kinda neat how that works.
"I was brought up to express myself only when asked to express myself, and then to do so in a way that's pleasing to hear. But I've always had a need to make my presence known. I was just sort of born that way, I guess. It's my natural tendency."
Griffin grew up in a small community called Old Town near the Canadian border in Maine. Her father and mother met while both were teaching high school, After marrying, they had seven children in seven years ending with Patty. ("A busy Catholic family," Griffin notes.) One of Griffin's earliest memories is hearing nuns sing in church and feeling compelled to join in-much to the chagrin of her mother, who limited her own performing to improvising songs with her children while doing housework.
Griffin found a safer outlet for her musical ambitions in the school orchestra, where she played flute for five years. She wanted to switch to the saxophone after that because the flute "didn't have a big enough voice." But the school didn't have an extra sax available, and Griffin's financially struggling parent couldn't afford to buy her one. So she began singing and writing songs in her bedroom, and in her late teens joined an amateur band in which she explored her rock-chick side by singing Pat Benatar songs.
After graduating from high school, Griffin moved to Florida and waited tables for a while, then relocated to Boston in her early 20s. "I told people I was gonna go to college," she says, "but I never did." Instead, she got another waitressing job, and at 24 married one of her co-workers. The marriage dissolved about four years later but Griffin says that her ex-husband's encouragement played a key role in her decision to pursue a professional career as a singer-songwriter.
"He thought I had a gift musically, and he was one of the first' people in my life to point that out," Griffin says. "He was really adamant about it. But it wasn't possible for him to be a mentor because, we were trying to have a relationship, . . . I guess I really shouldn't talk about that though. It's kinds deep down there, and I should leave it alone until I figure it out-when I'm about 60."
Predictably, making the transition from performing her songs in her room to performing them for live audiences wasn't easy. "The first time I went onstage alone, I couldn't get a note out-I was literally squeaking," she recalls. Her confidence grew, though, as her gigs drew increasingly large and enthusiastic crowds.
"For me, performing is really an excuse to just let it all hang out," Griffin says. "When you're onstage, people aren't really sure if they're seeing you or a character that you're playing. That gives you alot of freedom to sort of move around and be whatever you'd like to be. You can really grow from that experience."
In 1993, Griffin signed with A&M Records and began recording the material that would end up on "Living With Ghosts." At first, the label teamed her with a producer and several supporting musicians. But when it became clear that she was more comfortable working in relative solitude, she was allowed to do so. The stripped-down tracks Griffin eventually handed to her record company to release actually didn't differ much from her original demos.
"It was clear to us as Patty recorded this record that the songs just work best this way," says Al Cafaro, president of A&M. "And early reaction to the project has been very positive, so I feel like we have legitimate opportunity to go beyond what might have appeared to be our limitations. We're kind of bullish right now. We feel like she's gonna win some fans, and we're gonna sell some records. And how she will evolve in the future will depend on her particular vision."
At the moment, Griffin says she has no set ideas about how that' vision will change or expand. The one thing that this shy artist with a fierce need for self-expression is sure of is that she wants to take more chances in the future. "The way I perform best right now is solo," Griffin says. "But there are so many wonderful records out there made by bands. I'm gonna try like hell to branch out. But I've got to be patient with myself and to let myself figure things out."
Chicago Sun Times 10/18/96
Griffin's music maps
out lifes' hills and valleys
by Jae-Ha Kim
There is nothing excessive about Patty Griffin. She travels light. Her voice and guitar are the only baggage she brings onstage.
And the voice, pristine and sometimes fragile, conveys the strength and conviction of someone who has lived a full life with just enough sorrow to balance the joyous times.
"I think unpleasant times throughout your lifetime and tines never completely disappear.' said Griffin, 32, who will open for the Badlees on Saturday at Schubas. "What I've learned is to really appreciate the balance in my life more and not to get so attached to the highs. Because then the lows are a lot less scary to deal with when they come and slap you in the face."
Although she played the flute in her school orchestra in Portland, Maine, and in bad chick bands" during high school, Griffin didn't seriously pursue a career in music until four years ago, shortly after getting divorced.
"My ex-husband would actually tell me all the time that he thought I had talent and would make a great musician,'' she said, phoning from Providence, R.I., before a show. "But I only pursued music half-assed during our marriage. I was brought up to believe you had to be a certain way in married life. And l didn't think that a music career fell into that domain. So my marriage did take away focus from my music. But I have no regrets about anything I've done."
Asked how she decided music was the right thing for her at that point in her life, Griffin recalled. "The alternative was to go to school with people much younger than me or to keep on waiting tables or answering phones. And I felt that I had something in me that was creative, and that I could make a living doing it. I basically believed in myself and just went for it."
Playing even small cafes and clubs was no easy feat for her back then. Griffin recalled that the acute stage fright she experienced made it difficult for her to utter a peep- much less singing an hour long set. Now, she uses that nervous adrenalin to fuel her live shows, which, not surprisingly, come more naturally to her these days. "I think all of the experiences you live through shape who you are.'' Griffin said. 'So if they're only good experiences, then you end up unbalanced in a way."
Gently laughing, she added, "Although I don t know anyone who has only had good things happen to them."
If such people exist, they don't inhabit Griffin's songs. She creates vivid vignettes that succinctly dissect the frailties of human life. She captures the comic awkwardness of an ill-fated affair with the line. "It s funny how, a morning turns a love to shame in "Every Little Bit". Even when she's detailing the more sordid aspects of life such as child abuse and death, Griffin avoids easy cliches.
"I think that because I have a solo-act, it's easier for people to assume that all the songs I sing are about me specifically, Griffin said. "Some are right from my heart. But others are just outside stories that I've kind of developed and felt out.
"In a way, that's why it's difficult for me to read reviews about myself, even the positive ones. It is interesting to see yourself being interpreted in print because it gives you a new perspective, but it freaks me out, too. I don't want to risk reading things people said about me and think " Oh, right, maybe they know something I don't and I should change. "
The only aspect of her music that Griffin is considering altering in the future is going from solo artist to collaborating with a band. I love being solo because I think you can really connect with individuals [in the audience], she said. "I've worked with bands in some format or another for the past 10 years, but I've never been really serious about it. I'm really comfortable doing solo work, but in order to grow musically. I think I'll have to learn to play with other musicians."
Music writers have compared Griffin to artists such as Alanis Morissette, Sheryl Crow and Joan Osborne, a fact that she said she finds bewildering.
"I think that because women in rock still are considered a novelty on radio, that's to be expected." Griffin said. "It's definitely sexist. If an artist like Sting came out, nobody would compare him to Bryan Adams. And I think the comparisons are on about the same level."