Griffin House is a performer.
The Ohio native possesses a talent for literally sucking the background noise out of a concert venue, turning it into his own musical vacuum.
Go to a show in any city, and you’ll find House playing a small, crowded venue. You’ve probably never heard his oddball name (is it one guy or a band?) before, but decide to pay attention between trips to the bar.
An intense House approaches the mic, sings a few lyrics over a simple chord progression, and instantly you’re locked on him. You can’t look away, you can’t think of anything else and wouldn’t want to if you could.
The room is silent, save the frequency from the amplifiers. Interrupted only by his own nervous chatter, House plays a brief but immaculate set of folksy rock tunes that sends you dashing to the merchandise table to buy up all the CDs you can get your hands on.
This is how most fans, including VH1 Senior Vice President Bill Flanagan, have come to pay him accolades.
“I bought (House’s) CD (after a show in New York City), and this never happens. I took it home and must have listened to it 20 times that weekend,” Flanagan said on the Aug. 28 edition of “CBS Sunday Morning.” (A clip of the show is available at http://www.myspace.com/griffinhouse)
Flanagan put House on an esteemed list of the five best emerging songwriters in the U.S., alongside Ray Lamontagne and Joseph Arthur.
At 25, House is a study in ambition. He tirelessly writes lyrics and works out melodies on his Martin acoustic. House’s career is in its adolescence, but it’s also something of a quick success. After the CBS feature, House’s second album “Lost & Found” went to No. 1 at Amazon.com and remained in the top spot for several days.
“I think we are in the very beginning,” House said. “Even Lost & Found, it was not a record that had any money pushed behind it. I’m hoping with the next record and with the touring and having a fan base, people will take better notice when it hits the stores.”
His newest tracks, yet to be released but played in heavy rotation at live shows, are a collection of gutsy rock songs like “Murder in the First,” “Czech Republic,” “Cause I Miss You,” along with the quixotic “The Guy that Says Goodbye to You is Out of his Mind.” House said he hopes to finish the new record, with about 14 new songs, by April and release it in late summer.
A former golf phenom from Southwest Ohio suburbia, House carries himself as one might picture a young, sinewy Neal Cassady, with all the infectious energy. House is his own muse.
He’s a chameleon — audiences are never quite sure which guy will show up. Will it be the quiet, bearded troubadour who gently strums on a bare stage with only drum and keyboard accompaniment? Or perhaps a lucky crowd will get to catch a glimpse of a leaping gnome disguised as a front man for a band composed of Nashville musicians Ian Fitchuk on drums, Cason Cooley on piano, Court Clement on lead guitar and Jeff Irwin on bass.
Despite not yet signing with a major label, House acknowledged there are certain perks of being unsigned.
“I’ve met with labels that are interested in what we are doing, but no one’s involved in giving us money to make a record, but nobody’s telling us what to — we have complete freedom to do what we want,” he said.
House has said he didn’t learn how to write songs until he heard Springsteen and Woody Guthrie, who he discovered after hearing to Wilco and Billy Bragg’s Mermaid Avenue albums. VH1’s Flanagan noted House’s influences as a blend of Wilco, U2 and Ryan Adams.
“He’s a young man with a young man’s influences,” Flanagan said.
His Nettwerk America debut, “Lost & Found,” released in 2004 and recorded in Nashville, highlights the best of what House has to offer. In it, he expresses conflicting themes of spirituality, love, redemption and betrayal with lush melodies and clever lyrics.
The experience of playing live shows and getting better at performing his songs has given House a new perspective.
“In terms of learning about arrangements and learning how to keep a song interesting from start to finish is something I’ve gotten better at. I feel like I have writer’s block 95 percent of the time. You’ll hear a melody or a part that you’ve been kicking around in your head, a myriad of words that are the best way to express how you feel,” he said.
“I feel like words are guests who are knocking at your door and you either let them in or turn them away.”
Unlike those unwanted words, House has no intentions of ever being turned away.