On Friday (August 28), Warner Music Nashville/Altadena recording artist Ryan Griffin released his major label debut EP, Name On It. The six-track collection features deeply personal songs that capture Griffin’s heart, all with a flair of the country, pop and R&B influences he grew up on.
While his music may be new to some, the singer-songwriter has actually been carving his place in the music industry for a long time. In fact, his journey is one of unwavering perseverance.
The Florida native moved to the city at 18 to attend Belmont University, and later signed with Sony Music Nashville for a short stint before parting ways. In 2017, he independently released his first EP, Sake of the Summer, which featured “Woulda Left Me Too,” Griffin’s most streamed song to date (it boasts a whopping 13 million streams on Spotify alone). A year later, he followed the release with 3 singles: “Best Cold Beer,” “Play It By Heart” and “Good Company.” At long last, the Music Row stars aligned and he signed with Warner Music Nashville via a joint deal with the late producer/songwriter busbee’s Altadena label in 2019.
Releasing his highly anticipated major label EP was a longtime dream for Griffin, but was a global pandemic part of the roll-out plan?
“Gosh, I’ve worked my whole life to make this record and how’s anybody ever going to hear it now, and how are we gonna translate this to fans?” Griffin shared with Sounds Like Nashville in an exclusive interview. “And, you know, we’re not going to be interacting with them on a live stage and doing meet-and-greets and performing this music. Like, how’s anybody going to relate to it?”
But, soon, he found the silver lining: “The world’s a little slower now. People are paying attention a little more now.”
Thus began Warner Music Nashville’s plan to unveil tracks from the forthcoming project routinely. “We started trickling out songs from the EP every six weeks and letting people kinda understand who I am as a person and who I am as an artist and kinda show them the edges of who I am and kinda filling in the center.”
“All Over Again” is the sixth and final track released with the EP, and it starts off with incredibly personal lyrics: “I watched my brothers and my daddy / And I learned what not to do / I took notes on being happy / And they made sense when I met you.” In fact, the song was so personal that Griffin had to get his father’s approval before releasing it to the world.
“I had to call my Dad and explain that to him because I didn’t want him to be offended by it. My Dad is an amazing man, my brothers are amazing men,” he explains. “What it means is that I was the youngest watching every move they made, good and bad. And so much of it is coming from a really vulnerable state, you know?”
Unsurprisingly, Griffin dubs it as “the most vulnerable [song] I’ve ever written.”
“I wrote it with [producer/songwriter] Mark Trussell and Emily Weisband. We were literally sitting there talking about life. And my wife and I had an argument the night before. You know, we embellished on a couple things, like throwing a wine glass and stuff like that just for emphasis. But, we were just kinda at odds and not getting along,” the singer explains.
“I was talking to both my friends about it. The beautiful thing about all of this music and why it has the ability to be so honest is because I wrote it with my friends—people that I trust, people that I feel comfortable with sharing you know, life’s not perfect right now. And we just started diving into it.”
Besides “All Over Again,” Name On It includes earlier-released songs “Right Here Right Now,” “Going Going Gone,” “One Prayer Left,” “Down” and the title track. Each of the latter four tracks received a concept video treatment; all of which were brought to life by Justin Key.
“We went through a bunch of different directors and Key was the guy we landed on. He has a way of conveying these songs in [ways] that are so beautiful. We just shot ‘All Over Again,’ and the concept that he came up with it, a lot of them are performance-based,” Griffin shares. “The performances are always very elegant the way that he creates them and structures them in conveying the message in the best way possible. […] He’s really been able to thread that line and keep the continuity all together making sense.”
While stringing together the Name On It EP, one word constantly stood out in Griffin’s mind: “Reminder.” A reminder of the road he’s traveled, a reminder of his loved ones, and a reminder of his musical path.
“I wrote a lot of these songs as a reminder to myself. It’s been a long journey for me. I’ve been very intentional in putting out very specific music, because I want it to have the right message and say something. [But] not every song has to be this really deep song, that’s why we have ‘Down’ on it,” Griffin adds. “Down” is irrefutably the most summery, feel-good anthem that will instantly command a singalong party with just one listen, especially in the chorus.
Outside of that bonafide track, the country singer hopes his new body of music leads listeners into a light-hearted time of self-reflection. “When people listen to this record, I hope they kinda go introspective and they think about themselves and [it] also makes them feel like, you know, don’t take life so seriously all the time.”
He maintains, “Lead with a grateful heart, be a good human, but understand that like we’re all just trying to figure it out. We’re doing the best we can. And that’s kinda what I want to convey.”
In fact, the theme of gratitude also runs in the heartfelt “One Prayer Left,” a song that pays ode to Griffin’s faith and wife, Talia. “‘One Prayer Left’ has this like very heart-forward, being thankful for what you have, not letting your wants take over and overshadow your needs. That’s a really important message for me to remember,” he shares.
Faith is another big element both in Griffin’s life and the new music. Having been in the music industry hustle for over a decade, the singer credits it for anchoring him down to what’s important.
“If I didn’t have faith, I don’t know if I’ll still be standing to be honest. So much of what I’m doing on this journey I’ve been on has had ups and downs and ebbs and flows. If I didn’t feel called to do this, if I didn’t feel there was a bigger purpose, it would have been a lot easier to throw in the towel,” the country star admits. “So, knowing that I’m covered, knowing that my family’s covered, knowing that we are where we’re supposed to be, gives me the confidence to take the risk, to step out and do this whole thing.”
When asked about the biggest life lesson learnt on this journey, Griffins says it’s the realization that he’s “not defined by being an artist.”
“I’m a father and a husband, a friend and a son, first and foremost. And the artistry is something that I’m really passionate about and something I’m really thankful that I get to do,” he notes. “But, it doesn’t define me, you know what I mean?”
In country radio land, while “Going Going Gone” has been spotlighted and played on SiriusXM The Highway’s On The Horizon show, his official debut single has not been locked in yet. But even so, Griffin is far from worried about it.
“Thankfully I have an incredible team that I trust that’s a huge part of this. […] We’ll kinda make the decision all together,” the singer says. “To me, there’s not a wrong song, because they’re all my babies. Like, I love every single one of them. I’m just excited they’re out in the world, I’m excited to get them heard.”