Review Fix chats with singer/songwriter Griffin Robillard, who discusses his upcoming album, “Cracks in the Ceiling.”
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About Griffin Robillard:
Both a songwriter and a frontman, his music has drawn comparisons to the point at which old meets new–“Rufus Wainwright meets Neil Diamond,” being amongst the most amusing. The Minneapolis native, raised on his musician father’s record collection of Jackson Browne and CSNY, began writing songs at age six and started to experiment with recording in high school out west in Salt Lake City, Utah. Playing everything from folk to grunge in various bands, Robillard eventually relocated to Boston to attend college, when he became serious about writing. “For a long time it was something I did in my spare time. A poem or song here and there. I went into college pursuing a biology degree. I failed spectacularly,” explains Robillard. Discouraged, he decided to go back to basics and hone his craft on the page first without his guitar, nurtured and mentored by novelist professors Elizabeth Graver, Christopher Boucher, and poet Kim Garcia. “Writing fiction and poetry was an itch that I could never satisfy and because what I was writing was just so bad, it just made it more frustrating. That’s probably why I ended up studying it at a university.”
Review Fix: How did you get started in music?
Griffin Robillard: My dad was a musician himself, so that certainly helped. I got my first guitar when I was in 3rd grade and just wanted to play Beatles and Dylan songs. I remember my dad was listening to a lot of “The Byrds Play Dylan.” It seems so odd now, but I remember getting unfathomably excited to go to Best Buy and pick out some new CD’s with gift cards I got or my allowance. I bought Led Zeppelin, The Who, and loads of classic rock. That was a suburban right of passage back in the day.
I didn’t really start playing guitar seriously again until I got hormonal enough to start blowing steam off on the guitar when I was about 15. There was a year of my life where I swear I only listened to the Pixies, Pearl Jam, and Soundgarden. I can’t get that time back, but I’m sure it ingrained really technically sound vocal habits….
Review Fix: Who inspires you musically?
Robillard: Lately I’ve been most amazed by the musicians that have been in it for the long haul. Leonard Cohen, Nick Cave, and Bowie come to mind. Bowie and Cohen never stopped putting out work, and Nick Cave shows no signs of slowing down. I think it’s a sort of zen-like dedication to their craft that interests me, and the sheer diversity of each of their respective bodies of work.
On another note, I’ve become really interested in film scores and how films can incorporate music. I’m fairly obsessed with PT Anderson, and like the aforementioned artists, he’s never really stayed the same. Unlike a filmmaker such as Tarantino his films are all stylistically independent of each other. It’s been a lot of non-musical ideas seeping into my consciousness lately.
Review Fix: Who are your guilty pleasure favorites?
Robillard: Oh man. I feel like Tears for Fears never get their due. I’m a total sucker for some big drums and two dudes with great hair belting it in harmony.
Review Fix: What makes this album special?
Robillard: It’s cohesive and I think that can be rare these days. The way I would describe it is as a full picture. I also think it sounds great.
Review Fix: What’s the standout track?
Robillard: Secretly, I hope there isn’t one. I think some of the catchier songs are “Cracks in the Ceiling” and “Ghost,” but my sleeper pick is the last on on the album called “Tired of Being Cruel.”
Review Fix: Is there a story behind it?
Robillard: Half of the album was written while living in the states and the other half was written in Copenhagen, Denmark. I’d had a couple rough years and was starting over in Denmark. I met my now-girlfriend there and things turned around. So, emotionally I think the album chronicles some lows and highs fairly well.
Review Fix: How important is this tour for you?
Robillard: It’s my first big one, so I’m not sure what to expect. Eternal fame and glory?… If my voice holds up for 20 dates in a month, I’ll be satisfied. It’s ultimately a test of how well the songs hold up live. Crossing my fingers I don’t catch anyone sleeping through my set.
Review Fix: What are your goals the rest of the year?
Robillard: I’m looking at doing a west coast tour at some point, but I’m also hoping I’ll get some down time. The most tangible goal that comes to mind is finishing Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan trilogy. My pipe dream is to not live in my cousin’s attic by Christmas.
Review Fix: Bottom line, why must someone listen to this album?
Robillard: There’s a useful song for every part of life. Doing the dishes, driving, making love, showering, filing taxes etc. The possibilities are endless. Also, they should because I promise I won’t be as annoying as Arcade Fire during this album promotion.