Keeping It Real
Griffin Anthony at the Ridgefield Playhouse
Photograph: Erin Stark
Dark curls, tan skin, thin frame and almond eyes—what you have here is a man destined for the limelight of center stage. There's no "but" to follow, because singer/songwriter and guitarist Griffin Anthony makes performing look and sound natural. He caught the performing bug early, playing in a preteen band, which led to backstage work at the Newport Jazz Festival as a teen. He was able to assist such legendary performers as Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles, Diana Krall, Wynton Marsalis and Al Jarreau, and that jazz influence infuses itself yet in the twenty-nine-year-old's music.
His first, Crazy Ways, was recorded in 2009 in Nashville, New York and Miami, and touched on as many genres: blues, pop and jazz. Live@305, a live EP featuring his performance at Kitchen 305 in Florida, was released in August 2011. His latest and fourth album, The Canyon, was recorded in his adopted stomping grounds of Nashville and Miami. He's not all jazz or all blues or all pop—he moves where he likes.
That jazz history though is fun when it pops out in songs like "Keep It Honest," which is both playful and smooth—the kind of song you'd like to see performed live, so when you tap you fingers or sway your head, you're surrounded by friends doing the same thing.
Anthony's got a sexy whisper in his singing voice, like John Mayer or even Robin Thicke—just not as overt or crass, thankfully. Rather, he seems more interested in the song than in seduction, and that makes his sound considerably warmer; his lyrics, too, lean to a more complex mix of darkness and hope. "Calico Queen," off The Canyon, even has a growl. He reveals a lot by naming his biggest influence: Marvin Gaye. "Although our voices and musical production and arrangements styles are different," he says, "I always fall back on his 1971 What's Going On album for inspiration. His knack for melody, soulful delivery and song content is unparalleled. I stole that CD from my mom in middle school and still get goose-bumps every time I hear it."
As for those other comparisons, he says, "I can't seem to shake the John Mayer, Dave Matthews and Jason Mraz comparisons no matter how hard I try," though he adds that he probably draws "from Jackson Browne, Stephen Stills, Daryl Hall and James Taylor a whole lot more often."
His is the sound of a young musician, working the evening gigs, recording and writing and submitting to photo shoots and interviews and managing the variables of a life in music—in short, it's authentic. And he has all the makings of a hero story that you root for.
He dreams of playing Radio City Music Hall, Madison Square Garden, Red Rocks Amphitheater & The Hollywood Bowl, and one unexpected venue: The Dalhalla in Sweden. "It's an amphitheater built inside an old limestone quarry. I've never been to Sweden. I might have to go there now [laughs]. But, if I had a time machine, I'd love to open up for The Beatles at Shea Stadium in '65!"
In the meanwhile, catch him while he tours the area—most notably on September 11, when he'll be playing with Michael McDonald at the Ridgefield Playhouse. Anthony says, "My band and I have had some of our largest crowds in the Miami area, but since moving to Fairfield County, I've been overwhelmed with the warm local welcome. I love it here and hope to call it 'home' for a long time to come."
Tickets at ridgefieldplayhouse.org.