kevin griffin interview

Kevin Griffin Interview (of Better Than Ezra) Live Review + Photos | Alexis & Jim Pugh Theater at Dr. Phillips Center Orlando | Friday, December 11, 2015

by • December 22, 2015

I have been listening to Better Than Ezra for over twenty years. I can still remember the first time I heard “Good” on the radio when I was eleven years old, which isn’t something I can say about many songs. Last Friday, I was given the opportunity to interview Kevin Griffin of Better Than Ezra and see him perform an intimate solo show in the beautiful Alexis & Jim Pugh Theater at Dr. Phillips Center. This was my eighth time seeing Kevin Griffin perform, but my first without his full band so I didn’t know what to expect. I was able to catch up with Kevin Griffin before his show at Dr. Phillips Center for an exclusive Shows I Go To Kevin Griffin Interview (below). But first, let’s talk about his show in Orlando.

Kevin Griffin Interview

It was also my first time seeing a show in the Alexis & Jim Pugh Theater at Dr. Phillips Center and I can’t imagine a better venue for this show. Kevin Griffin took the stage just a few minutes after show time, quickly tuning his guitar before opening with a few Better Than Ezra classics, encouraging the audience to sing along. The intimacy of the venue made it feel like we were a bunch of old friends sitting around the campfire with an acoustic guitar. He was soon joined by his percussionist, Jen Lowe who proved she could create some killer beats with her very limited set up.

The two spent the rest of the night playing a mix of Better Than Ezra hits and fan favorites, as well as a few songs he had written for other artists. I never knew that Howie Day’s “Collide” was written by Kevin Griffin but after hearing him perform it live, it all made sense. It was clear that this guy knew his music, playing cuts from Tom Petty and R.E.M., even snippets of “Can’t Feel My Face” and “Hotline Bling.” After teasing several other songs, Kevin joked that he is “not the kind of guy you want picking up a guitar at a party.”

Kevin Griffin Interview

Griffin also played several others covers, like a blistering rendition “Laid” by James and one of my all time favorites, “Feel Good Inc.” by Gorillaz. I had never seen anyone cover this song before so I was really anxious to hear how his version would sound. This was one of my favorite moments of the night. He ended up nailing the rap part performed by De Le Soul on the original song. I told him after the show that I thought he actually sounded better than De La Soul! (Check out Kevin Griffin’s amazing rendition of “Feel Good Inc. below.)

Kevin Griffin closed the night by taking a few requests from the audience.  Oddly enough, an audience member said he wanted to play the cowbell on stage. Griffin granted his wish by bringing the man on stage to play a makeshift cowbell on a cover of Blue Oyster Cult’s “Don’t Fear the Reaper”. He ended his set with the beautiful fan favorite “At the Stars” and encouraged fans to hang around and meet him after the show.
Kevin Griffin Interview

As the year comes to an end, I have been to nearly a hundred shows, and Kevin Griffin’s was one of the best. His passionate dedication to music and witty humor shines brightly through his live show. I haven’t left a performance feeling that satisfied in ages. Kevin Griffin is a true all-around entertainer and I can’t wait to see what he has in store for us for the future.

Kevin Griffin Interview

[EXCLUSIVE] Kevin Griffin Interview:

Trevor: You grew up in Louisiana before deciding to move to Nashville, what was it like making the transition from Louisiana to Nashville and how did you come to the decision to move to Nashville?

Kevin: “Well it’s a little different. I was in born in Atlanta. I did grow up in Louisiana. I went to LSU. After LSU, Better Than Ezra was already together. I was trying to avoid going to law school or whatever. I went out to Aspen, Colorado and lived out there for years. Then I moved out to L.A. and that’s where Better Than Ezra made the Deluxe record, an apartment out in L.A. Then I moved back in ’93 or ’94 to Louisiana and I lived there until ’05 when Katrina hit. And when Katrina hit, I was already writing a lot for other artists. They were coming to see me down in New Orleans and you didn’t wanna be in New Orleans after Katrina hit. At least I didn’t. It just wasn’t the right place for me. At that time I didn’t even consider Nashville really to move to … maybe a little. I knew it still as a country songwriting town so I moved to L.A. with my wife and son and we were out there for five years. And suddenly we went from one child to three, we had twins. We had three boys. I was writing in Nashville a bit. I had some hits out there and I saw that Nashville wasn’t just about Country music anymore. It was a great place to live as songwriter regardless of the genre that you write.  We decided with kind of rash move. Really we were like Let’s Do it. We moved to Franklin, which is fifteen miles south of Nashville. It has been really good. Nashville is the one true music center of the country across the board whether it’s tour buses, staging, rigging, lights, all the way up to rehearsal rooms, publishers, labels, management. It’s all there in Nashville. It’s a really robust, healthy, music center so that’s really attractive, and it works for me. Also, for touring we are centrally located. Just across the board it’s a really smart place for me. I really miss California but it’s a smart place for me to be and it’s beautiful and it’s a great place for the kids. I just put on a music festival in Franklin called the Pilgrimage Music Festival. It was a festival that I put on with a couple of partners that was at the end of September.”

Trevor: Yeah, That was a great lineup. I wish I could have went to that.

Kevin: Well, look. Come next year! (Pilgrimage Music Festival info here.)

Trevor: This bring me to my next question. Over the years you’ve had a successful career writing songs for other artists like James Blunt, Barenaked Ladies, Howie Day and even Meatloaf, how does that writing process differ from your writing process with Better Than Ezra?

Kevin: It’s really different. Most of the songs are collaborations. You get with the artist and you write. You are kind of putting on a different act. What works for me is I kind of get into the artist, listen to what they’ve done and try to see where they’re coming from, and try to write a song that takes their strengths as a songwriter or their voice and we try to write a great song. I like to bring something to what they’re already doing. So those are collaborations, those are different. Those kind of have a goal in mind when you’re writing the song. And then Ezra songs are usually just me, though the last couple of albums I’ve collaborated a lot I guess, but all the old albums, most of the Better Than Ezra stuff is just me. It’s just some different considerations when it’s your own music. You scrutinize your songs more I think when it’s your own. It’s not necessarily a good thing. You’re like, Have I sang about this before? Have I used this chord progression?. Suddenly, when you’ve been around a while, you’ve just got a lot of songs and you’re like, Wow, have I already done this? Did this sound like an old song? and then Is this cool? Is this what I wanna say at this point in my life in my career? You think all these things … and when you are writing for someone else, you kind of take those restrictions off and just write. You don’t know what that person wrote. You’re just writing a song for them and that’s kind of freeing. So they are really different processes.

Trevor: In recent years, many bands have been celebrating the anniversary of their albums by playing them in their entirety. Next year is the 20th anniversary of Friction, Baby and the 15th Anniversary of Closer, do you have any plans to tour or do anything special for the anniversary of these albums?

Kevin: Closer Friction, Baby or Friction, Closer. I don’t know. You know, when we were doing our Mardi Gras event, we called it the Krewe of Rocckus in New Orleans where people would come and we kind of had this whole package put together for people experiencing Mardi Gras shows. We did it three years in a row and we would play an album in its entirety and that was a blast. To go around touring and do it? Yeah, maybe? That could be cool. Do the whole album. Maybe so.

Trevor: I’ve been collecting vinyl for years and I’ve noticed that only Friction, Baby and All Together Now are available on vinyl, do you have any plans to release any of your other albums on vinyl?

Kevin: I think it would be cool to have Deluxe on vinyl. That would be nice. We’re not in the process of it but there is a company called Omnivore. It’s a label out of L.A. and maybe we’ll do that. It’s an idea we’ve kicked around we just haven’t got around to it.

Trevor: On your current solo tour you have been playing Better Than Ezra songs and songs you have written for other artists as well as a diverse list of covers, how do you decide which songs go into the set list each night?

Kevin: I actually kinda go to and look at my other solo shows. I usually come out and do some songs truly by myself and then my percussionist comes out and joins me. There are always a core setlist of the songs that you know people wanna hear, whether it’s a hit or an album track that fans love. I know those songs are gonna be in the set. Then it’s really just “I haven’t played “Under You” in awhile, I’m gonna play “Under You.” Then I just kind of relearn it or I hear a song on the radio or I’m like, What band is from Orlando? I’m not gonna do any Matchbox 20 so what else can I do? You know who Lou Pearlman is right? Maybe I’ll do a medley of all the bands he put together. If only I knew the boy bands better. I like to play something that has something to do with where I’m at.

Trevor: I’ve been noticing you’ve been playing “Feel Good Inc.” I’m really curious to hear that one.

Kevin: Oh, it sounds killer. It sounds so good.

Trevor: Well if you feel like playing it tonight, I would love to hear it.

Kevin: Oh, I’ll definitely do it!

Trevor: Thanks! I’m always searching for new music, so I always ask this question … Are there any new, up and coming artists that you think we should know about?

Kevin: Absolutely, a few great records. They are all actually produced by a guy named Dave Cobb. I’m into Jason Isbell right now. His two records Something More Than Free and Southeastern. The past two albums are freaking amazing. The lyrics, the melodies, and the Dave Cobb production is nuts. It makes me think of Sturgil Simpson, who is produced by Dave Cobb too, and even Chris Stapleton. Those three artists are just stunningly good. You know what I listen to a lot? I listen to the Ryan Adams Pandora radio. It’s just so good. It’s just great music to do things to whether you’re flying or hanging around the house, the Ryan Adams Pandora station is brilliant. I like Father John Misty. He is really great. I like The Kills. I love the new Dawes album, I’m a big Dawes fan. I’ve been kind of listening to the more Americana kind of stuff but then I love the Bastille record and I love the band White Denim. There’s just great music happening. Saint Motel, I dig. There’s just a lot of cool music out now.  It’s a great time to be a music fan. As a promoter now I’m a lot more in touch with different bands and what’s going on out there. It’s exciting because I’m getting a flood of new bands pushed to me by agents. I’m doing investigations, seeing who is out there for the festival and who is about to blow up. We had Chris Stapleton for our festival and now he is probably gonna win the album of the year Grammy. I think he is. It’s just good music.  It’s country but it’s just fucking great.

Trevor: What do you have planned after the conclusion of your solo tour? Do you have any current plans to release a solo album of new songs or songs you have written for other artists?

Kevin: I really wanna dig in. We are doing Pilgrimage Music Festival 2016. That’s September 24-25 of 2016. I’m all over the country right now promoting. I’ve been doing TV these last three weeks for this Christmas band that I formed with a guy named Sam Hollander, we’ve signed to Sony Records and the name of the band is Band of Merrymakers. (, go check it out. We just did Kimmel the night before last [with Tyler Glenn of Neon Trees, Mark McGrath (Sugar Ray), Fitz from Fitz & The Tantrums, and more]. I’ve been doing the Today Show and tons of stuff promoting that. We’ll be doing a tour next December building that thing into something that benefits music charity every year. I think Ezra will release a single or an EP in the Spring. I’ll release some solo songs. I wanna do a solo record that sounds like my favorite Neil Young stuff, like Standing on the Beach or Harvest era Neil Young. With no other consideration than just kind of capturing the sound and not thinking about radio, just about really cool songs and fun production. I’m really digging in and writing with a lot of new artists that I’m really digging. For me, I always like changing and just evolving as an artist and new challenges. I’m also managing an artist called Nawas and you can check his music out at

For me, I always like changing and just evolving as an artist and new challenges.”

Trevor: I’ll definitely check it out and I’m looking forward to hearing the the Neil Young music. That sounds amazing. I can’t wait for the show tonight. Thank you, I appreciate your time!

Kevin Griffin Interview by Trevor Bosmans.
Kevin Griffin Live Review by Trevor Bosmans.
Kevin Griffin Live Concert Photos by Richie Williams, “The Sober Goat.”

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