Dishing with Patty Griffin

Patty Griffin: Paper Napkin Interview

Photo: Michael Thad Carter

Home Base: Austin

Occupation: Singer/Songwriter

What’s on her Plate: Her new acoustic album, American Kid 

I was a late bloomer in music industry terms. I released my first album, Living with Ghosts, in 1996 when I was 32 years old. In the big pop world there’s a pretty narrow window to get going on a major label—and I missed it. That closed some doors right off the bat. But it also opened other doors that I feel really lucky about now. I’ve had room to be creative and pursue music for the reason of loving it.

When you write a song, you hope it will have a life of its own. That’s how I felt when I wrote “Up to the Mountain”—inspired by Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I’ve been to the mountaintop” speech. I was in the studio when gospel singer Solomon Burke recorded his powerful cover of it. That was a very special moment for me.

Having red hair helps you stand out. Redheads make up a very small percentage of the world’s population—and the number is dwindling. But I grew up in a family of seven kids, and we all had red hair!

If someone pays you a compliment, keep your response short and sweet. Just say, “Why, thank you. What a nice thing to say.” And then move on from it.

I’m a knitter from way back before it became a thing. I’ll make sweaters, shawls, scarves, or mittens. Sometimes I’ll get on one thing and give them as gifts. I had a big hat year once.

As you get older you realize the futility of a lot of things and learn to worry less. I like to think that when you’re young, you’re building a house—you being the house. You invest worry in what that house will be. But as you get older, you realize you’ve got the house you’re going to get. That’s challenging but also gratifying. I feel as though I don’t miss as many of the small things as I used to when I was working on building that house.

I grew up in Maine but found my way to Austin. The first year I went on tour there were five blizzards—getting home to Maine required planes, trains, automobiles, and kayaks. My manager suggested I give Nashville a try. I lived there for a year, but then found that I preferred Austin. People know how to live together here. There’s an openness to Austin—less interest in your background and more in who you are right now.

Texas feels like home to me. There’s wilderness here and space and big skies and rugged landscapes.

Southerners are full of useful turns of phrase. There’s “might could.” I might. And I could. Take your choice. You can’t really tell what that person’s going to do. I love that.

Listen to Patty’s new single, “Ohio” below:


  1. SpiritualAnimal (@SpiritualAnimal)

    Patty is a living revelation of creative songwriting!

    May 15, 2013 at 4:05 pm

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