Kevin Griffin Shares Lessons In Building A Successful Life And Career In His New Book, ‘The Greatest Song’
The songwriter has worked in the music industry for three decades.
Kevin Griffin; Photo by Rebecca Moore
Kevin Griffin is best known for his work as the lead singer and founder of the platinum-selling rock band, Better Than Ezra. On top of that, he’s credited as an award-winning songwriter and producer for some of the biggest names in country music. Now, he’s adding author to his resume with the release of his book, The Greatest Song: Spark Creativity, Ignite Your Career and Transform Your Life.
Throughout his three-decade-long career in the industry, Griffin has gained a surplus of knowledge and experiences that have been compiled into his new book. In speaking with Country Now about this venture, he shared that the inspiration to write a book came from a time when he was asked to speak for a group through the global leadership community known as YPO (Young Presidents’ Organization).
“I had to figure out something I was gonna speak about. These were all very successful men and women, and they wouldn’t tolerate, you know, just B.S., right? So I realized that there were things that I’ve done in my music career and my songwriting career over 30 years to stay inspired and creative and successful and always kind of evolving. I kind of developed them without really knowing it over that time and I kind of codified it into these five things that I try to do.”
Following this experience, he continued to give lectures internationally on creativity to groups and companies ranging from Live Nation, Google, Spotify and Disney to Nike, YPO/WPO and Salesforce. This eventually led him to transforming those lectures into chapters of his book.
The story of The Greatest Song centers around a fictional character named Jake Stark. Jake is a struggling songwriter who develops some of the tools and tricks of the trade that Griffin has acquired in his real life.
“Being a Nashville songwriter and, you know, living here for almost 13 years, I was like, oh my God, the perfect vehicle for this story is a Nashville songwriter,” he shared. “I came up with the character Jake Stark, this kind of journeyman songwriter who was an artist in the 90’s and had really big success and then wrote hits for Madonna and Garth Brooks and Lionel Richie and all these different artists. But we meet Jake when he’s let go by his long-time publisher, Mega Music, and that’s how the story unfolds. He gets a little bit of humble pie, and then he meets this billionaire who’s quietly become the talk of Nashville with his boutique publishing house, but they’re crushing it. That’s how the story begins.”
While Griffin made it a goal to include the captivating themes of tough love and drama, he also wrote this story in a way that pulls back the curtain on the life of a songwriter in Music City.
“If you’re in Nashville and you’re in the songwriting game or you’re in the music industry, you’re gonna be like, ‘oh, I know exactly where he is.’ The story starts at Ocean Way Recording studio and it’s, you know, all the way to some of the restaurants we go to. So for the insider, it’s like a very real, very on-point timely story about our lives.”
Throughout the 11 chapters, Griffin opens up about five key principles that are broken up as the following: Practice One: Creative Collaboration, Practice Two: Filling the Well, Practice Three: Leaving Your Comfort Zone, Practice Four: Change Your Attitude, and Practice Five: Dare to Be Stupid.
These practices that Griffin expands on were adapted from success in the music business and those immersed in the Nashville scene, but they can still be applied to anyone who is looking for the motivation to transform their career and their life. He provides the tools to develop better communication skills and also learn how to step outside of your comfort zone.
“I realize that the stuff I do as a songwriter to stay inspired, successful, engaged, and competitive are the same things you do in any business,” he began. “They’re principles that, while it’s couched in the story of a songwriter, it’s things that everybody does in every business. So when I do this speech, where I talk about it, regardless of whether it’s a nursing leadership conference or a tech conference or Live Nation, they come up to me and go, ‘oh my God, I’m gonna use this in my life.’ So that’s the universality of it.”
The singer/songwriter continued, “I can tell this story and these practices apply to everybody, not only in their careers, but also in their life. That will be exciting because it’s the music industry and it’s interesting, but it’ll apply to everybody.”
Griffin has cranked out hits for artists such as Taylor Swift, Train, Sugarland, Dierks Bentley, Christina Perri, Hunter Hayes, James Blunt, and many more. When it comes to writing a book though, he found it to be much harder to flesh out the words for hundreds of pages as opposed to the songs that are only a few minutes long.
“The great thing about songwriting is, you know, every day I go into the studio with one, two, or three people and I always have the promise that in three hours, I’ll come out with a finished song, for the most part, that can change my life,” he explained. “The DNA of that song is done and now maybe we will tweak the demo and all that kind of stuff, but then it’s done. With the book, it was a different kind of discipline.”
Writing this book took a lot of patience, as it didn’t happen over the course of a day, or even months; it was several years in the making. While penning a song may only take a few hours, sometimes it would take years for Griffin to earn another hit. In 1995, he claimed his first No. 1 with Better Than Ezra’s, “Good.” Then it would be another 10 years until he saw an outside cut that he wrote top the charts. His most recent hit single is titled “Shoot Tequila,” and was recorded by sister duo, Tigirlily Gold. This song arrived at country radio on March 13 as the second-most-added song upon impact.
“That was the most added song to radio and hopefully that’ll be another one,” Griffin said of the recent addition to airwaves. “But the point is, I just don’t quit. And seriously, you gotta keep reinventing yourself.”
“So this book is about, not only in music, but in business, how do you continue to stay on the cutting edge and you know, inspire?”
Readers will gain a tremendous amount of insight into Kevin Griffin experiences and practices throughout all the highs and lows of his book, The Greatest Song, out now.
Griffin will be heading on a book tour in celebrate of the new release. He’s kicking things off with a singing event in Atlanta, GA on April 27. He will continue with stops in Los Angeles, CA, New Orleans, LA, Nashville, TN, Naperville, IL and more before wrapping things up in Seaside, FL on May 31.
Madeleine O’Connell graduated from North Central College with a bachelors degree in Journalism and Broadcast Communications before deciding to pursue her studies further at DePaul University. There, she earned her masters degree in Digital Communication & Media Arts. O’Connell served as a freelance writer for over two years while also interning with the Academy of Country Music, SiriusXM and Circle Media and assisting with Amazon Music’s Country Heat Weekly podcast. In addition to Country Now, she has been published in American Songwriter, Music Mayhem, and Holler.Country. Madeleine O’Connell is a member of the Country Music Association and the Academy of Country Music.