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By Laura Phillips
Cover photo by Mike Cavanaugh
Todd Griffin was signed by Geffen Records in the 90's as the lead vocalist of The Graveyard Train. Today Griffin has broken away from the major labels and is in total control of driving his solo career in his chosen direction away from the darkness style of The Graveyard Train. Griffin's debut solo album ‘Trial By Fire’ on the Northern Mechanical label shows his blended mystical and spiritual hard rock style that has a calming effect enveloped in the light which is about this artist reinventing himself not trying to make it in the business in a commercial sense. Todd Griffin's performance was a fitting end for the recent "sold out" House of Blues show. The audience who appreciated good music stuck around with Griffin's growing fan base, that has transformed and changed over the years but still retains many of his former Graveyard Train fans. The final lineup of Griffin's supporting band has been finalized but under wraps until his new recording is completed. Todd Griffin's lead vocals standout, and he has given well-received performances at the Viper Room and The Joint. With credits such as being the vocalist for the original theme song of "That 70's Show on fox TV their first two seasons, he is also working as a music director. Griffin's future looks promising as he further develops his solo career.
Catching up with Todd Griffin after his House of Blues performance and listening to his music established that he's a busy and caring musician. Todd is currently in the studio working on his third, solo release to follow his well-received debut solo album ‘Trial By Fire’ and inspirational sophomore album ‘Griffin’. The follow-up self-titled album digs deeper beneath the surface exposing light instead of darkness and celebrating the sensation of the way life and music should be with Griffin's heavy alternative rock sound and outstanding vocals. Todd Griffin has joined in continued music fusion of Black Sabbath meets Led Zeppelin with influences including timeless artists Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, and Neil Young, all prolific song writers, and Griffin meeting with Neil Young was a career highlight. Audioslave and System of a Down are also two of Griffin's favorite bands. Jack Russell (Great White) mentored Todd Griffin giving him a chance when "his chips were down". "No Love In America," from Griffin's debut, "Trail By Fire", deals with the problem of keeping the idea of breeding hate from spreading and expresses that when these evil thoughts are kept alive sadly these circumstances lead to war and despair. "Free Me" and "Ashes" start and set the inspirational tone for Griffin, which ends with a lucky "Seven."
The late record producer David Briggs was scheduled to work with Todd Griffin before he passed away. Briggs inspired and influenced Griffin "to keep going and put the music first." David Briggs had worked with Neil Young, but it was Elliot Roberts who was responsible for the backstage meeting of Todd Griffin and Neil Young who Griffin has the utmost respect for and was at awe at the introduction. Neil Young had the appearance of a life long musician with delicate hands and well-mannered emotions to match. Griffin gave Young a special necklace that had been his Great grandfather's at the meeting. As soon as he turned around Briggs motioned to Griffin that Neil Young was wearing the necklace, as he was so cool to have sensed how important the necklace was to him. Neil Young's manager Elliot Roberts had also worked with Todd Griffin during The Graveyard Train era.
When Todd Griffin first arrived in Hollywood he started singing for a local band called NRG that would soon play on the same bill as Guns N' Roses and Poison at the Troubadour. Soon Griffin's haunting vocals became the talk of the town and industry insiders took notice. While in NRG a tape of Todd Griffin was given by Aaron Jacobes (an A&R scout for A&M records), to the Jon Bon Jovi camp. After receiving the tape Griffin was flown by the band to London in which Jon Bon Jovi treated him like royalty by having him picked up from Heathrow airport in a white Jaguar limo and driven to a castle that was converted into a five star hotel. This was Todd Griffin's moment of breaking into the coveted rock star world in which he came with $40 in his pocket but was well taken care of in London so he didn't have to worry about spending $27 for bacon and eggs which was the cheapest thing on the menu. Shortly after, Todd Griffin was looking for a band and solely founded, The Graveyard Train, taken the name from an old Creedence Clearwater song. The band performed five shows throughout Hollywood-Ca and was quickly in the middle of a bidding war with 8 major labels. Geffen Records was the highest bidder and Todd Griffins mind was made up, The Graveyard Train would be signed to Geffen Records. Life became a constant party 24/7, and priorities became mixed up for the band with music not being the main focus and distractions taking over. As Griffin said, "When you're junked up you're not your true self, and to be jacked up 24/7 leads to no where. There's a time to party and a time to be sober." Todd Griffin was treated like rock royalty with everything at his disposal including cars, houses, and huge portraits along with being portrayed as "the love god;" but the constant partying and fan worship took its toll, and The Graveyard Train "rode the track till they derailed."
According to Todd Griffin, when you hit the city and you lose your band and record deal "The real test is when the chips are down". As an artist, do you stay the course or quit? Todd Griffin chooses to stay the course and not by being a weekend warrior. Success is all the obstacles that you have overcome. In rock there is no place to play it safe." In other words, Griffin knows that he wants to keep going and that music has a double benefit for an artist since, "Inspiration eases the pain, and music soothes the sole." Going from major label artist to Indie has been an absolutely positive experience for Griffin who enjoys the control of Indie but would welcome another major label deal as long as he didn't lose creative control. Todd Griffin states that, "If I get picked up by a major label fine, if not I will keep going Indie." Music runs through Griffin's veins and continuously remains in his heart. He's "a lot more optimistic" now and this has benefited his career as, "Optimism draws a lot of positive response."
Griffin stresses to musicians that, "Once you get there, you know who put you there;" in others words, be grateful. Todd Griffin "didn't want to be another Hollywood statistic," and the first person he contacted after he split with Geffen was Jack Russell who immediately arranged for Todd Griffin solely to open up on tour for Great White. Griffin also appreciated Russell's advice of saving money when he's out touring verses spending it, and this mentoring experience turned Todd Griffin's fate around. Griffin feels today, "There are many roads to the top of the mountain and there's room for everyone. I climbed the mountain of success opening as a solo artist for Great White for five months with just a guitar and a harmonica, without a band. It was really a cool experience, and I'll never forget it."
Todd Griffin states that, "The corporate thing was great, but it was a distraction to my creativity and I got sidetracked. I am a timeless artist, not a rock star corporate artist or the flavor of the month." Griffin's advice to aspiring musicians is about inspiration and having something to say. Use your talent to touch people's lives. People take their talent for granted, but if you give it back it evolves and comes full circle making you complete as an artist." Griffin is happy following his own advice, which is, "Keep going till the wheels fall off." Todd Griffin won't give up no matter how tough the situation gets, and this philosophy has handsomely paid off for him as he's "carries the torch" of the prolific song writer, and continues on the journey of making good music and being true to himself. Close to home he has advised and mentored fellow musicians that he has played with on how to stay in the game and avoid pitfalls that lead to destruction. Competition is rubbish to Griffin who feels, "There's room for everyone in art and music. Bands and musicians all have a place and are all part of a solid movement." At present Griffin is presently in the studio working on his 3rd highly anticipated solo album, which promises to be full of sensational surprises. Todd Griffin has staying power in his song writing and vocal talent as well as his guitar talents with the major label deals or as an Independent artist. He has found content as an artist and his place in the ever-evolving music industry. All Access Magazine looks forward to hearing Griffin’s new music and welcomes Griffin to the AAM family. Thanks so much Todd Griffin for sharing your story and music with us!
By Laura Phillips
Additional photos by Mike Cavanaugh
Todd Griffin was signed by Geffen Records in the 90's as the lead vocalist of The Graveyard Train. Today Griffin has broken away from the major labels and is in total control of driving his solo career in his chosen direction away from the darkness style of The Graveyard Train. Griffin's debut solo album "Trial By Fire" on the Northern Mechanical label shows his blended mystical spiritual hard rock style that has a calming effect filled with lightness which is about this artist reinventing himself not trying to make it in the business in a commercial sense. Todd Griffin's performance was a fitting end for the final after midnight spot Jan. 7th at the House of Blues. The audience consisted of both Wood fans who appreciate good music and stuck around and Griffin's growing fan base that has transformed and changed over the years but still retains many of his former Graveyard Train fans. The final lineup of Griffin's supporting band is still forming and developing since his band is currently going through membership changes. Todd Griffin's lead vocals standout, and he has given well-received performances at the The Viper Room and The Joint. With credits such as being the vocalist for "That 70's Song" during the opening season of "That 70's Show," and also working as a music director, Griffin's future looks promising as he further develops his solo career.
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