You've heard Andy Griggs smoldering on romantic ballads like "Tonight I Wanna Be Your Man." And you've heard Andy Griggs storming through firecracker country rockers like "I'll Go Crazy." But you haven't yet heard the full range of this Gold Record winning artist's music, and that's something he wants to correct.
"There's a big variety of music inside of me," Andy says. "I think people have heard it when I sing and play live. But I felt like it was missing on my records. It's nothing for me to listen to KISS and then put on a Bill Monroe record. There's a lot of room in between those two."
For his third RCA album, This I Gotta See, Andy Griggs enlisted the aid of Grammy Award- winning guitarist/ songwriter/ producer Randy Scruggs to bring new textures to his sound.
"Randy has produced a wide variety of music, from punk rock to bluegrass. He's a big-name producer who still comes from the 'old school.' His records have grit and integrity. He's one of the few who can make an artistic record that's also a radio record. When I thought about all that, I thought, 'Man, how can you miss with Randy?' He's real. "I said to him, 'I only want one thing: I want my vocals to be in-your-face.' I want people to feel like I'm really singing to them. Vocally, this is the first time I've really been recorded in this style."
Andy's vocal performances on This I Gotta See are, indeed, more vibrant than ever before. And, as promised, they're also more stylistically diverse. "She Thinks She Needs Me," the album's first hit single, is as gloriously romantic as "She's More," "You Won't Ever Be Lonely" or any of the other ballads that have brought him fame.
But this collection also contains the soulful swamp rocker "I Never Had a Chance" that reflects Andy's Louisiana roots. The soaring strings and passionate vocal of the album's title tune recall the classic countrypolitan hits.
Andy's gospel roots come to the fore on the profoundly moving "If Heaven." He dips into a blues mode for "No Mississippi," which features vocal collaborators Delbert McClinton and Bekka Bramlett. There's a ferocious intensity in Andy's singing on the dynamic "My Kind of Beautiful" and "Long Enough." But then he turns in a swooning, tenderly nuanced vocal on the beautifully melodic "Be Still."
He's a gut-bucket twang-rocker on "Hillbilly Band," and a sizzling, sexy stud on "Careful Where You Kiss Me." He's haunted and aching on "Why Do I Still Want You." What unites all of these performances is the sheer, honest, fiery conviction in his red-hot voice.
"Delbert McClinton listened to a couple of my records before he came in to record with me. He said, 'Son, I really like your singing. You don't sound like anybody else. Don't lose this, because nobody else in Nashville has got it.' The more I thought about that, I realized that coming from Delbert, it was a great compliment."
It was Andy Griggs' striking individuality that earned him a recording contract in the first place. At the time, he actually hadn't been making music for very long.
Raised in West Monroe, LA, Andy was exposed to country music at an early age by his guitar-playing father. After his dad died of cancer when Andy was 10, the boy and his brother dealt with their grief by listening to their father's favorite Merle Haggard album. But as a teen, Andy was much more interested in high school football than music.
Older brother Mason, however, was a songwriter and musician working in a country-gospel band. But when Andy was 18, Mason died of a heart attack. In mourning, he picked up his brother's guitar and began to follow in his footsteps.
With some vague sense of making music for a living, Andy Griggs wandered into Nashville in 1994. He had no tape, no contacts, nothing. All he had was his voice. An impromptu performance of George Jones's oldie "Somebody Wants Me Out of the Way" was enough to open a recording studio's doors. Back in Louisiana, Andy worked as a sideman in The Sullivans bluegrass-gospel band. But the Nashville dream didn't die. He finally made the move to Music City in 1995.
Thanks to the efforts of producer/songwriter David Malloy, he auditioned live for Joe Galante at RCA Records two years later. Instead of the love ballad that was expected, Andy tore into Hank Williams Jr.'s harrowing "In the Arms of Cocaine." It was that edgy "rebel" gesture that did the trick.
As he began to work on his debut CD, 1998's You Won't Ever Be Lonely, Andy once again looked back to his mentor, brother Mason, and began writing songs. Four of his works appeared on that collection, including his first two top 10 hits in 1999, the title tune and "I'll Go Crazy." In 2000, the CD's "She's More" became his third consecutive top 10 hit. "Waitin' on Sundown" and the top 20 success "You Made Me That Way" also emerged as radio favorites from his disc debut. His "Shine on Me" duet with Waylon Jennings and his ripping rendition of Rodney Crowell's "Ain't Livin' Long Like This" were also much admired. You Won't Ever Be Lonely was declared a Gold Record that fall.
For Freedom, his second CD, Andy penned six cuts, including the title tune and "How Cool Is That," the collection's introductory single. "Tonight I Wanna Be Your Man" sailed into the top 10 in early 2002. It was followed by Andy's co-written "Practice Life," to which Martina McBride lent her voice. Other guests on the album included David Lee Murphy, Union Station's Ron Block, and Cinderella's Tom Keifer.
For This I Gotta See, Andy Griggs co-wrote eight songs. But this time he thought long and hard before recording them. He became so passionate about songs like "This I Gotta See," "Why Do I Still Want You," "If Heaven" and "Be Still," that he replaced his own tunes with them. When the dust settled, only two of his songs remained.
"I did write a lot for this album," he comments. "But I am my own worst critic, and as we were putting it together there were some great songs coming in. Whether I wrote it or not, each song is about stuff going on in my life."
Andy Griggs stands out among his peers for the amount of charity work he applies his music to. In his short career he has aligned himself with cancer survivors, the Muscular Dystrophy Association, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, St. Jude's Children's Hospital, MusiCares, Alzheimer's, Nashville READ, Crisis Center of Nashville, and The Tennessee Historic Commission. Inspired by the dramatic lyrics of "Waitin' on Sundown," he was the national spokesman of the Family Violence Prevention Fund in 1999-2000.
"The biggest reason I support these things is because I feel like it's my job. I feel like if you're looked at by someone, if they see you give, it makes them want to give."
St. Jude's and M.D.A. have been the beneficiaries of his annual Archery Tournament. During the past three years it has become one of the most popular events at Nashville's CMA Music Festival.
"It started as a joke more than anything else. I hate golf, and I don't like to play with serious golfers. As much as I want to support charity, I was sick of having to go out on a golf course to do it. So what's something else that's fun? Well, I hunt with Blake Shelton, Tracy Byrd and Craig Morgan and I knew there were several others who hunted, too. Obviously, firearms wouldn't work with crowds. What about archery? I thought there probably wouldn't even be 100 to show up. It was huge! And it's gotten bigger and bigger each year."
With "She Thinks She Needs Me" already a solid hit, Andy Griggs' new album promises to make him bigger and bigger as well.
"There was a certain sound I felt like I was still fishing for. I think this album here and the changes I've made have put me exactly in the right spot."
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