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Creative Inspiration with Kevin Griffin

George Grombacher April 20, 2023

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Creative Inspiration with Kevin Griffin

LifeBlood: We talked about the value and importance of creative inspiration, the impact creativity can have on every aspect of our lives, how to get your message across through story, and why it’s never too late, with Kevin Griffin, lead singer of Better Than Ezra, songwriter, and author.   

Listen to learn why we’re all creative and how to start bringing it back out!

You can learn more about Kevin at, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.

Get your copy of The Greatest Song HERE

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Our Guests

George Grombacher

Kevin Griffin

Kevin Griffin

Episode Transcript

george grombacher 0:01
Well lipo This is George G. And the time is right. welcome today’s guest strong, powerful Kevin Griffin. Kevin, are you ready to do this?

Kevin Griffin 0:08
I’m getting to do this. It’s bright and early in the morning, I’m caffeinated and ready to go. So fire away George go.

george grombacher 0:16
Kevin is a singer and a songwriter. He’s the lead singer for the band Better Than Ezra. He’s written songs for artists, the likes of Taylor Swift, and train and many others. He is a record producer. His debut book is the greatest song, spark creativity, ignite your career and transform your life. Kevin excited to have you on Telcel do about your personal life’s more about your work and why you do what you do,

Kevin Griffin 0:43
why I do what I do. That was great. And I realized the title of my book, really, it’s a high bar that I’m setting, transform your life by reading this book. Um, when you said, I’m a songwriter, first performer I’ve been doing, I’ve been playing and better Than Ezra since the 90s. And, and that continues, we’re doing a summer tour with train the summer starting in July. And then anything we’re doing to do with music, I have a finger in you know, I publish people and I have a music festival pilgrimage festival in Franklin, Tennessee, you can check it out and pilgrimage But um, a few years ago, I started a book. And I started the book, because a few years part of that maybe eight years total, I started, I got asked by a friend, I say nothing great. Nothing good happens in a bar after 2am. But this one moment during Mardi Gras in New Orleans, but this one moment was the exception. And he asked me to do a speech, we had been friends for years to some a group in Dallas. And I did it and before I did the speech, I realized, you know, I had to talk about something and, and I kind of realized, you know, at that point, that there were things that I had to do. And I really hadn’t, you know, codified it, you know, in my career just to stay successful and stay engaged and stay inspired, and nimble. And I put it into a speech. And four years ago, I started a book. And it really the book progress really accelerated during the pandemic, of course, that’s there has to be, there’s going to be some type of analytics done that will show the explosion of books post COVID, there has to be, let’s wait for that that will address that the SEC next time, this will be a podcast episode George. But I finished the book. And when I talked about these tools, I call them you know, practices of the method. And I didn’t want it to be prosaic, and just just really just like the speech or the performance. And so I decided to do it as a parable, a story. And almost my songs, lyrically tend to be narratives, you know, stories and characters that aren’t necessarily at least on the surface. They’re not about me, but then I do a little more digging. And I realize what I write is always about me, this book is any any exception, it’s about a character named Jake Stark, a journeyman songwriter who had a huge career as a pop artist played all over the world. And we meet him as despite hits for Garth Brooks and Madonna and Lionel, Richie and our and we meet Him just as He is being dropped from his longtime publisher, and the worlds kind of crumbling around them. And that’s where the story opens.

george grombacher 3:41
That is where it begins. Well, I think that that’s that makes a ton of sense. Somebody asked you to do a speech on a particular topic, you say yes, and all of a sudden the wheels start turning and you realize you’ve got a lot to share and offer but you don’t want to just do it in a for lack of a better term boring method. And so you get characters and story around it like that. That’s great.

Kevin Griffin 4:07
Well, it’s, you know, I had read a lot of the business parables in from Who Moved My Cheese to Rich Dad, Poor Dad, all those ones we’ve all read. Usually I would read about half and I’d be like, I get it next. You know, I graduated in English. I’m a graduate of Louisiana State University Go Tigers. And I’ve always been a bit of a snob when it came comes to books, even though I’ll read I’ll read my Booker Prize winning book and then I’ll read you know, some some trashy novel a high and low culture is my motto, George. But after reading a lot of those books, I was like, wow, these are really poorly written books. And that way this sold 14 million copies, I can do this. And and so I started in you know, and I created a character Daniel Smith. Daniel’s a 28 year old, enigmatic billionaire who is now living in Nashville with this, this hot music publishing boutique publishing company and, and then I want her to have fun with it too. And also, in the book, there are songs written as well, during, basically, the protagonist, Jake agrees to write with these five different writers from this publishing company, and they illustrate him teach him these five practices in the method. And songs are written in the book. And what I thought would be fun is to actually write those songs. And so when the book comes out, April 25, there will be a link in the book, to the playlists on whatever streaming platform you use, but also, in the audio book, which I’m just finishing, you actually hear the songs being performed in written as, as I’m talking about it in the narrative of the story. You know, a beat happens, a guitar part or BritCon Nuka, the songwriter from Barbados says a song title you actually hear it. So it’s really it’s kind of different in the in that that really isn’t done very often. So it’s been fun. If nothing else, my friends and loved ones will are gonna have a lot of fun. After they listen to the audiobook razzing me about my impersonation abilities, or lack thereof.

george grombacher 6:28
They put that’s awesome. And you obviously have have the unique ability to, to write and perform songs. And we have the technology to be able to sort of enable an audio book or whatever kind of book to be just more interactive. So super cool that that that makes

Kevin Griffin 6:45
technology you just was that just a slightly veiled $6 million ref, man reference.

george grombacher 6:53
I wish I were that clever. Kevin

Kevin Griffin 6:57
was one we already reported. Before we went live, we already did a Escape from New York and escape from LA Snake Plissken. Reference. So I want to take it back even further to Lee Majors. Let’s do it. Let’s just change the whole format of this podcast.

george grombacher 7:13
I’m fine with it. So practices of the method. So yes, the greatest song and then transform your life. I’m all about audacious claims. What What Can somebody who’s not in the music industry take from this?

Kevin Griffin 7:34
What I realize was that the tool, the things that I do, the tools I use, weren’t just they weren’t mutually exclusive to music, that it applied. And that’s why the speaking of stuff just kind of blew up. Because it’s stuff that we, if we if we all do it, it helps whatever endeavor whatever career you’re in. What I found, though, is that music is is interesting and sexy, to everybody, you know, so if I couched it in, you know, the story of a musician, then it would actually be interesting. Um, I just found that, that as you, you know, inspiration. And creativity seems for a lot of people to be when they’re younger, because, you know, one of the practices is filling the well, which is really continuing education throughout your life that the idea is that when you’re young, is you inspiration lies in this find out well, and when we’re being creative, we’re drawing upon those reserves, right? So if being creative animals, all of us are all of us are creative, it just doesn’t have to be a song, it could be a business plan. But when we’re drawing on that inspiration, it’s incumbent on you to continue putting inspiration back. So how do you how do you avoid creative bankruptcy. So I think that as you go through life, you have to have intent, it can’t just be a passive process. Otherwise, you’re just not going to continue evolving. So five of the things I’ve talked about in the book, the practices are creative collaboration, and what that looks like in a songwriting situation, but also in a business situation, surrounding yourself with people who bring a skill set that’s different than your own. actually listening, not micromanaging, checking your ego, that there’s a theme that runs through the book about how the ego gets in the way of any type of progress in your life. And one of the characters James Sawyer, who’s kind of a Sam Elliott character in the book, and I do I do a good Sam Elliot impression in the audio book. He has a saying My ego is not my amigo. And so that’s creative collaboration. The second practice is, is filling the well and I go through in the book just practical ways of continuing to be inspired. Not only like through music, but also knowing the business of your business how to connect At the dots, embracing the success of your competition, the third practice is changing your attitude, which isn’t like how your parents would tell you to change your attitude. But it’s in the book, there’s a scene where our songwriter goes up in a Cessna 150. And he learns it very quickly in a harrowing scene. That’s, that’s funny as well, that your attitude and aviation terms is your orientation to the earth, or more specifically, your angle of approach when you’re landing. And that scene illustrates that when you’re into creative deadlock, whether it’s music or business, when you’re trying to figure out a problem, that’s vexing. You change your angle approach on how you solve that problem. In music, you know, for me, it might be starting, instead of starting with the guitar part, I’ll start with a B, I’ll start with a lyric, I will reverse engineer a great song I Love and you can apply that to anything in your life. The fourth tool is changing. Not changing, your attitude is leaving your comfort zone, which we’ve heard about but a lot. But in the book, it’s it’s dealt with little differently on a pontoon boat in the middle of Old Hickory lake. And it’s just the idea. And look, you hear it again. And again, cliches are cliches because they’re the truth, that that when you leave your comfort zone, that’s when you’re, you enter a growth zone. And often when you’re feeling uncomfortable, and little off balance, and life is in flux. That’s often when you’re forced to be your most creative, that’s when I’ve had my best songs written. In the fifth, the fifth a practice is illustrated by Sir Daniel Smith Daniels, and there is a bit of a wink and a nod to spinal tap the movie there, I want it to just be the most preposterous name. The fifth one is dare to be stupid. And the idea that you’ll never come up with anything truly groundbreaking unless you’re prepared to fail. And that is a quote I take from Sir Kenneth Robinson, who had one of the best TED Talks ever, he sadly passed away, he’s a sir as well. Or was, is the idea that you know, in work in life, you know, create an environment where big ideas are encouraged and failure isn’t stigmatize that the people who are the best in business, you know, don’t have a filter, and they throw crazy ideas out. And those are the ones that stick whether it’s a crazy idea, or lyric or a crazy concept in tech, or whatever it is. Throughout the book, though, you know, I think the reason the book works is that that character, Jake Stark, also starts to see that by listening more, being willing to change and evolve, changing his approach to his marriage, getting out of his comfort zone and daring to be silly, that his life turns around his relationship with his wife and his son. And then he actually finally understands what the greatest song is about. But you got to read the book. George, you got to read the book to understand there’s a twist. It’s not an M Night Shama. I can’t even say his name in knights jemalloc. John Milan level, it’s not. It’s right on the level of the Sixth Sense. Nice. It’s bright. It’s that kind of twist. I love it. In my car, and who knows, we may turn this into a movie if at the very least, it will be a Hallmark movie.

george grombacher 13:39
I think it’d be stupid not to

Kevin Griffin 13:41
you know, there’s a great I realized just now I’m writing I’m gonna have a country right later today. I’m going to I’m going to pitch the song title Hallmark movie. But like, I want my life to be

george grombacher 13:54
that there’s not a existing country song. That

Kevin Griffin 13:58
next Miranda lamb banger will be Hallmark movie.

george grombacher 14:02
Okay, there it is. The thing just right away.

Kevin Griffin 14:05
You’re part of it. Now you get you get awesome. That’s the monster in Nashville right away, you get a third.

george grombacher 14:11
I think that that’s fantastic. I certainly deserve some credit for it. I’m here. I flood. A big big part of success is just showing up. Kevin, I don’t know if you’re aware of that or not. So doubt, doubt fear regret. I guess I shouldn’t have said that. Why do we have a problem with with creativity. We just the average run of the mill massive Americans out there.

Kevin Griffin 14:44
I think the problem is that a lot of this lose it. One of my favorite quotes is Picasso. famously said Pablo, let’s call him a first name. I’m famously said that we’re all born artists. And the challenge is how do we stay artists as we get older? Or put another way? How do you how do we grow into our creativity as opposed to out of it. And my challenge in life is, is pushing back to the wave of cynicism, and being jaded. And continuing to keep wonder because, you know, when you’re young, and just starting out, wonder is something you don’t even you don’t even say you’re just full of it. And optimism, you know, the problem is, if you allow it, you you get older you realize there’s no Santa Claus, you know, metaphorically throughout your life. And, and so it’s easy to just quit being creative, quit daring to be stupid, quit. And so this book and is really about how do I keep that wander? How do I stay an artist, because I think that everybody is a creative animal, and Anna, and I don’t think the castle meant that we’re all going to be, you know, Basquiat or, or Jackson Pollock doing a drip painting. But I think the means whether it’s, you know, a podcaster, or a musician, or a baker or plumber that everybody brings artistry to their daily tasks. And so I think the problem is, is how do we continue to staying wide eyed and full of wonder, in seeking and having intent on being creative and being inspired? You know, there’s Osmosis is a powerful thing. And, you know, I’m always gonna have my antenna open, you know, as a songwriter? How do I get influenced by new inspiration, songs and stuff? And whether whatever business you’re in, are not businesses, you know, being at home with your kids, how do I continue getting inspired and just just being silly. And that pays so many dividends creatively. So I hope the book in a small way can can help people stay more creative, and in nimble in their life,

george grombacher 17:12
and all those things certainly lead to a richer, more fuller, more colorful, more enjoyable life.

Kevin Griffin 17:19
Absolutely. Because, you know, I, I don’t buy that, you know, that I’m all about a third act, and a fourth act and a fifth act. And, and I love stories about people who continuing to do amazing things throughout their life. And I And I’ve never subscribed to the notion that all your best days are behind you, I’m not that guy, you know, I’m an optimist to a fault. So, in part of that was writing this book, you know, as in wanting to share that. And, you know, again, there are certain things though, you don’t want to, you know, as you get older, again, it’s a cliche, a little bit, but something that your life should, what you do, should have some purpose. And then you get a little older, and if you’re, if you’re have your eyes open, you’re like, I want what I do to have some purpose. And so doing this book was was, was wanting to leave something, you know, just give Hey, this has worked for me, man. You know, here’s a cow study and a fun story, see, if you get something out of it, you know, and that was really the big part of it, because you don’t make any money from above George. This was this had to be about just sharing something that I really love.

george grombacher 18:47
Yeah. And challenge of a new medium for you.

Kevin Griffin 18:55
I’d love learning all the lexicon, you know, the line at the developmental edit the galleys, you know, and that’s, that’s really what I’ve done in music. And in business, I’ve continued to like, Okay, I’m in this music business. But there’s this whole other discipline in my business that I know nothing about. I want to put that hat on, and I want to go through that learning curve. So whether it was in nine years ago, starting a music festival, like okay, I’m a performer. And then I’ve realized that within my own industry, there’s a whole world that I don’t know about, you know, being a promoter, being a producer. I have a relationship with my agent, you know, like, it’s great. I’ve been with him for years and he goes out and gets me shows. And I’m always like, hey, I need I need shows. I’ve got bills, you know, but then I realized as a as a producer of a festival. Oh, there’s a whole other relationship with a festival producer and the agent you have to kiss the ring. They are they are in a in an ivory tower that you want. If you want Chris staple To our Justin Timberlake or the Foo Fighters, you gotta kiss the ring. And that’s really in life though. It’s, it’s like how do I continue wearing different hats and and being challenged because the more I’m challenged, the more those neural pathways that might be getting a little ossified or dusty, you know, shake off the dust so to speak. And, and then it’s just, you know, it gives me a reason to wake up to so. Here I am speaking of waking up, bright eyed and bushy tailed

george grombacher 20:35
ego is not my amigo, give me the salmon.

Kevin Griffin 20:38
Mommy go. That’s my that’s my sound. That’s, that’s as good as I can do at this early hour. I think that that is well done. We can we could do a whole podcast but let’s do a podcast mean you is called Talking Sam Elliot. Okay, we just talk about salmonellae and we do it in a similar voice

george grombacher 20:58
as he ever is. Is he ever sung? Is he a singer?

Kevin Griffin 21:04
I don’t know. Gosh, I know my wife would buy it.

george grombacher 21:09
I’m sure everybody would like the man is an American.

Kevin Griffin 21:11
have a crush on Sam Elliot. Most of you know,

george grombacher 21:15
I mean, or man.

Kevin Griffin 21:17
I’ve got a crush on Sam Elliot. Sure. Where’s you know what? In the book the character? Shane Sawyer is my Sam Elliot. And he always wears what we call it Tennessee tuxedo. tenancy tuxedo is head to toe denim. It’s a denim jacket, a chambray shirt, denim jeans and you can do denim shoes, but I wouldn’t. I wouldn’t advise that. There’s no good denim shoes dumpster Skechers makes a denim shoe. But it Skechers so

george grombacher 21:48
another opportunity are that denim cowboy boots. Give me a break.

Kevin Griffin 21:52
Didn’t. But no, we always laugh when we see somebody head to toe denim. Every once in a while you find yourself like you walk out and you’re like, What am I doing? I’m wearing head to toe denim. I need to go I need to go change.

george grombacher 22:08
do much. Kevin, thank you so much for coming on.

Kevin Griffin 22:11
And thanks for having me.

george grombacher 22:13
Thank you for all your work. Where can people learn more about you? Where can they learn about the pilgrim Music Festival and where can they get their copy of the greatest song spark creativity ignite your career and transform your life.

Kevin Griffin 22:28
The greatest song that you can go to Kevin Griffin forward slash book or you can just put into greatest song Kevin Griffin and at Amazon Barnes and Noble wherever you’d like to get your your book on or audible book. On Instagram go to Kevin M. Griffin, Amazon Michael. And go to pilgrimage. this year. We have Who do we have? We have the Lumineers we have Zack Bryan we have the head in the heart. Nathaniel Ratliff in the Knights with sweats. Ashley McBride, the Black Crowes James Bay, that happens September 23, and 24th Better Than Ezra will be playing and I’ll be doing a book signing at the event. Also at Kevin Griffin I have a book tour. So I booked tour dates all through May, June and July so check it out. And thank you again for having me.

george grombacher 23:24
It was a pleasure. If you enjoyed this as much as I did so Kevin your appreciation and share today share with a friend who also appreciates good ideas go to Kevin Griffin to Kevin G ri f f i n Check out the pilgrimage festival. Yes September 23. Find them on Instagram Kevin M. Griffin and pick up your copy of The Greatest Songs for creativity, ignite your career and transform your life. Wherever you buy. Your books are on his website and I’ll link all those in the notes of the show. Next good Kevin.

Kevin Griffin 24:00
Thank you for having me, man. Have a good one.

george grombacher 24:02
And until next time, remember, do your part by doing your best

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