Award-winning songwriter, producer and performer Kevin Griffin has lived a myriad of lives in the music business.
He’s best known as the singer and founding member of the Platinum-selling rock band, Better Than Ezra, whose hits include “Good,” “Desperately Wanting,” “Extra Ordinary” and “A Lifetime.” Griffin is also a hit songwriter with No. 1s such as Howie Day’s “Collide” and Sugarland’s “Stuck Like Glue.” His songs have been recorded and performed by artists such as Taylor Swift, Train, Dierks Bentley, Christina Perri, Hunter Hayes, James Blunt, and many more.
Additionally, Griffin is a co-founder and partner in Pilgrimage Music & Cultural Festival located in Franklin, Tennessee, and has served as a writer-in-residence at NYU’s Clive Davis School of Music. Griffin lectures internationally on creativity to groups and companies ranging from Live Nation, Google, Spotify and Disney to Nike, YPO/WPO and Salesforce. So, he knows a thing or two about how to make a career in the entertainment industry.
Griffin culminated his experiences in a business parable called The Greatest Song: Spark Creativity, Ignite Your Career, and Transform Your Life, out today (April 25). Though the book is not a memoir and is based on a fictional character, singer-songwriter Jake Stark, The Greatest Song is inspired by Griffin’s life and career.
The book begins as Stark is dropped by his publishing company, MegaMusic Publishing, beginning an epic journey to the pinnacle of creative expression and commercial success. Crushed by being dropped, Stark thinks his career is over until he meets the eccentric young billionaire Sir Daniel Smith-Daniels, who swoops in and offers Stark an opportunity at his avant-garde publishing house, The Row.
In order to secure a contract with this publisher, Stark must complete the five music-writing trials of “The Method,” each demonstrating a key component in both getting and keeping success. What Stark realizes after completing “The Method” is that he has the tools to make the metaphorical song of, not just his career, but also his life, which is the “Greatest Song.”
Griffin was inspired to form the tale of Jake Stark after a friend asked him to speak about his life and career at a corporate meeting.
“They say that nothing good happens in a bar after 2:00 a.m., but I ran into an old friend in New Orleans during Mardi Gras. Over some late night jambalaya, he asked me if I wanted to speak to a group of his YPO (Young Presidents’ Organization) members,” Griffin tells MusicRow. “I had done some public speaking back in college, but not in the past 20 years. I said ‘yes’ without hesitation and then I realized I needed to speak about something.
“At the same time, I had been mentoring younger writers, going onto podcasts and stuff like that. People were asking me ,’How have you stayed successful in this super fickle business?’ I realized that there were things I could speak about—things that I had to do after getting dropped, going from having hits to having no hits to having hits again.”
The speech was a hit, leading Griffin to deliver it to corporate groups at Live Nation, Google, Nike, Disney and more. The universal message of going after a dream resonated with a lot of folks, no matter what industry they were in. After such a positive reception, Griffin knew that he wanted to write a book.
Inspired by books such as Who Moved My Cheese? and Tuesdays with Morrie, Griffin felt that he could give readers real advice without writing a memoir. His inclination for creativity led him to crafting the story of Jake Stark.
“As a songwriter, I write narratives. I write stories,” Griffin says. “The character Jake Stark is a little bit of me—you write what you know—but it’s fiction. Woven into these different chapters are five different practices that I do that the enigmatic Sir Daniel Smith-Daniels calls ‘The Method.’
“The same week that Jake Stark has been let go of his longtime music publisher, MegaMusic, he is asked to write with these five different writers at The Row [Smith-Daniels’ publishing company], who have become the talk of Nashville. These writers are crushing it in pop and in country. In those five crazy writes with these characters, he turns his career around, but he also turns his life around with his family.”
So, who are these Music City hit-makers and what do they teach Stark? Without giving much away, Griffin breaks it down as creative collaboration, filling the well (or continuing your education/inspiration as a songwriter), changing your attitude, leaving your comfort zone and dare be stupid.
Drawing off of his experiences writing on Music Row, some of Griffin’s characters are loosely based on hitmakers such as J.T. Harding and Brad and Brett Warren.
“In the audio book that Audible is putting out, you hear those songs in the chapters where I talk about them being written. You hear a guitar, a beat and someone humming a melody. The full song is at the end of the chapter.”
Griffin’s hopes for the book is that it resonates with creatives, and helps guide them to success.
“That life-changing song is floating in the room somewhere. You just have to have the tools to allow yourself to capture it. That’s what I wanted to share in the book: how do you stay nimble and open to those crazy ideas? It’s about staying optimistic, listening and daring to be stupid,” Griffin says. “What I really wanted to do in this story was [provide] a real snapshot of what our life is like as songwriters. Where we eat lunch, how it all happens. The sincerity, the insincerity, and the grind of being a songwriter and how awesome it is.”
Griffin’s The Greatest Song: Spark Creativity, Ignite Your Career, and Transform Your Life is available for purchase now.
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