It is not often you find voices that change the way you listen to music.
When I first heard Griffin Anthony, I had just moved to New York from Oklahoma. I had completely new surroundings and didn’t know a soul, yet music was my pillar. Throughout my whole life, music has been a constant comforter and protector. This became very apparent when I dove into collecting vinyl, a hobby that kept me busy in my first lonely months here. Music became my refuge in a new world.
Music also took a new place in my life when I began to proactively write and blog about my favorite choices and artists. My writings have brought me into contact with some amazing musicians. That’s exactly how I got word of Griffin Anthony’s music.
Griffin’s voice is authentic. I believe it ranks with some of the greatest modern and classic country artists, from Chris Stapleton and Sturgill Simpson to Merle Haggard and Kris Kristofferson. Griffin’s unique vocal interpretations mixed with his ingenious songwriting makes for a prolific adventure in song. He has created a new standard in how I consume music.
Refuge, Griffin Anthony’s latest album, follows this same tradition. The album picks up where he left off with 2015’s The Making of a Man. Refuge shows the raw beauty and nuance of maturing both artistically and as a human being. I caught up with Anthony recently to gain his thoughts on the new album and to explore what he has accomplished with this new volume of songs.
What does the album title Refuge mean? How does it relate to the songs?
The album’s title suggests a destination where safe-haven (or happiness) exists. And the tunes trace narratives of men and women on their quest to find that destination; together or alone, through failures and celebrations. The word ‘refuge’ also drums up a ‘rustic’ and ‘natural’ connotation- which ties into some of the lyrical themes, the style of production, and album artwork.
What message or messages would you like listeners to take away from this album? Is there a central theme?
I really tried to somehow capture the feeling of Hope with each tune. Jon Estes and I spoke at length about that during our pre-production pow-wows and tracking. From a songwriting perspective, no matter how much uncertainty the main character is dealing with, he or she still maintains that better days are ahead. There are tunes on celebrate oxytocin-drenched romance, the joys of parenting, and the beauty of nature- where the personal and the pastoral converge… On the other hand, the album wades into some murkier waters of escapism, separation, isolation, the construct of religion, and the horrors of war.
This album was made purely analog. Why did you choose to go this route?
Well, most of the music that moves me was recorded that way. ‘Refuge’ is intended to be a refreshing departure from the sterilized sounds of the digital age. It’s human. There’s nothing to hide behind and I think that translates through the music. Elements of the performances I may have once regarded as ‘mistakes’ become ‘moments”… There are more rough-ends on this project and I love that about it. With the convenience of digital recording, it’s way too easy to clean shit up and quite often, it results in white-washing all the emotion… Everything just becomes antiseptic and colorless. Plus, I don’t want to sound like a robot, ya know?
Pick one song. What is the story behind the song and what is the inspiration?
‘1954’ is probably my favorite tune on the album for a couple reasons; one, because I feel the understated musical arrangement best supports the lyric, and two, because of what the song represents as a storyteller… On the ten-year anniversary of D-day, the subject reflects on his past and tries to cope with the meaning of war; balancing pride and ambition with humility and loss. During a time in US history that’s often celebrated for it’s economic prosperity and baby-boom, PTSD wasn’t ever discussed… The glory associated with that era overshadows what my grandfathers and hundreds of thousands of young men had to endure.
How does this album pair with your previous album, The Making of A Man?
‘The Making of a Man’ has more overall melody and hooks for sure. And aside from the completely different production approaches of two very different producers and session bands, I wrote ‘The Making of a Man’ on the piano- whereas ‘Refuge’ was written predominantly on the acoustic. ‘Refuge’ has a greater focus on lyrics-first song construction and capturing a live performance. Plus, I’m five years older from when I wrote “The Making of a Man.” I’ve experienced some life-defining highs and lows in that period- I’d like to think that contributes to a sharper pen.
“Refuge” listens like planks of an old oak tree. Each piece is distinctively different, but they all fit together. Anthony has woven an intricate placement of work that possesses universal truths in tandem with nature. This album serves as a vanguard to musical authenticity in a world of manufactured melodies.
As Griffin Anthony alluded in the answers above, this album suggests a destination in the proverbial journey of life, mixed with the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. This album accomplishes its mission by providing a safe harbor, a refuge, for all those seeking a glimpse of truth with a glimmer of hope.