Better Than Ezra’s Kevin Griffin to play hits, quirky covers at Musikfest Cafe in Bethlehem

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Expect more than just a one-man acoustic show of Better Than Ezra songs.
“I remember most of the Better Than Ezra songs (by heart),” said that band’s singer, Kevin Griffin, who at the time of this phone interview was taking his twin 7-year-old sons to Dollywood.
Since first appearing on MTV in the mid-90s singing songs like “Good,” “In the Blood” and “Desperately Wanting,” Griffin has also become an in-demand songwriter, co-writing both Howie Day’s 2006 hit “Collide” and Sugarland’s 2010 smash “Stuck Like Glue.”

What: Kevin Griffin in concert.
When: 7:30 p.m. Oct. 29.
Where: Musikfest Cafe, presented by Yuengling, at SteelStacks, 101 Founders Way, Bethlehem.
Tickets: $17-$22 in advance, $20-$25 at the door.
Info.: Visit www.steelstacks.org or call (610) 297-7100.

“It’s a difficult discipline,” he said about composing country songs like “Stuck Like Glue.” “It makes you really, really crazy about your lyrics. It’s very specific, and it needs to be buttoned up. ‘Is this a bulletproof Nashville lyric?’”
During his solo shows, Griffin also enjoys telling the stories behind the songs he’s written for other artists. “People like hearing the ‘Behind the Music.’ They don’t always know,” he said.
His song selections on any particular night have to do with “whatever inspires me that day,” which means Griffin’s Oct. 29 show at SteelStacks in Bethlehem could very well include references to local current events.
“The first time I wrote a song for somebody was Meat Loaf,” Griffin said, remembering the day Better Than Ezra was recording in Los Angeles, sandwiched between Meat Loaf working in one studio next door, and Justin Timberlake laying down tracks on the other side of them.
If you add it all up — including writer, co-writer or producer credits for David Cook, Barenaked Ladies, James Blunt, Augustana, Tristan Prettyman, Missy Higgins, Train, Blondie, Shinedown, Daniel Powter and others — Griffin has been involved in albums and songs that have sold in excess of 30 million copies.

And then Taylor Swift decided she wanted to perform the Better Than Ezra song “Breathless” at the Hope for Haiti telethon, and during her recent world tour. Griffin appreciated the gesture. “That was just nuts. When someone covers you, that’s just a very flattering thing. You gotta say to yourself: ‘This band (Taylor Swift is covering) is cool,’” he said.


Better Than Ezra’s video for the 1996 single “King of New Orleans” featured homeless/runaway “gutter punks” in New Orleans’ French Quarter. Kevin Griffin said what inspired the song was “this one kid, he seemed like a ringleader. I imagined him being this kind of … ‘Prince of Thieves’ character.”
“Then five years later at this show in Buffalo, this beautiful woman came up to me and said she was one of those kids. Life was going well for her,” he said, unsure if the “King of New Orleans” video may have been the turning point in her life. According to Griffin, the woman married and had a child.

In fact, a concert calling card of Griffin’s is slipping in unexpected cover songs — from the Pete Townshend solo rendition of “Pinball Wizard” as performed during the 1981 British comedy special “The Secret Policeman’s Other Ball,” to “Feel Good Inc.” by Gorillaz.
One day Griffin hopes to write a worldwide No. 1 like Adele’s “Someone Like You” (written by his friend Dan Wilson of Semisonic) or “Happy” by Pharrell — something big enough to cover his kids’ college fund and pay off the mortgage on his house in the Nashville area. “I’m never gonna come out with a bluegrass record or a super-pop record (solo or with Better Than Ezra). But as a songwriter, I can do that,” he said.

Kevin Griffin Courtesy photo

Kevin Griffin
Courtesy photo

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