When country music fans and professionals were crying out for something unique, Andy Griggs answered the call. When he released his debut album for RCA Records last year, music lovers nationwide took notice, for when you first hear a snippet of an Andy Griggsí tune, you stop in your tracks, taken by a voice you canít quite categorize. You listen again - really listen, consciously letting every phrase, every nuance, every inflection penetrate your senses. You realize Andyís voice is distinctive and ear-catching, brimming with profound feelings and tinged with a raw, heart-wrenching power.
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In 1999, Andy scored a number one hit with his debut single, "You Won't Ever Be Lonely", becoming the only new male artist to reach the top of the charts with his first release since 1995. He followed up with "I'll Go Crazy", hitting the top 10 and firmly solidifying his spot as the new voice in country music. His album, You Won't Ever Be Lonely, entered the Billboard Country Album Chart at number 15, an impressive debut for a new artist.
The accolades have poured in. "Griggs positions himself as a man for the moment," wrote Entertainment Weekly. Country Music Magazine said, "In one fell swoop, Griggs has proven he's got it, the right stuff country careers are made of." The folks at CountryCool.com wrote, "Griggsí independent spirit has separated him from the pack & earned him a reputation as a new breed of country outlaw.Ē
As 1999 gave way to a new century, Andy was named Best New Male Country Artist of 1999 by RADIO & RECORDS and AIRPLAY MONITOR. He was also honored when his publisher, Sony/Tree, presented him with its Artist/Writer of the Year Award. "She's More," the third single to hit radio, generated more praise from Billboard, "It's yet another record that points to a long, healthy career for this talented artist."
Andy spent much of last year on the road, touring with superstars Alan Jackson, Willie Nelson and Hank Williams Jr. In between those dates, he logged more road time in clubs and honky tonks across the country, crisscrossing the U.S. with his band, Ward 8. "The excitement of playing the music is more than I thought it would be," Andy says. "I figured it would be a life worth living, and itís more than that!"
This spring, the hard-working artist heads back to the studio with David Malloy (producer of Reba McEntire, Mindy McCready, the late Eddie Rabbitt and a host of others). "Itís a hard thing to make an album," Andy admits. "I donít know if an architect has to go through that many ulcers building a house. Itís sweat, tears and laughter, and fights and love. Itís passion and itís something that canít be rushed."
And though he doesnít have a formula for his project, he'll stick with one basic philosophy. "My favorite quote is from the Bible, 'A man without vision perishes.' That says so much. Keep that vision, work toward something, and it will happen."
The Monroe, Louisiana native is cut from a cloth vastly different - more textured, more rough-hewn - than many of his contemporaries. He didnít dream of a career in music as a child, yet he understood the power of music early on. Music helped him.
In 1991, when Andy was 18, music delivered him from the depths of grief. ďMy brother played guitar, wrote, sang, had his band. He was the talent of the family. I was the athletic, outdoors kind of guy. It wasnít until he passed away that I wanted to learn how to pick and sing. That was my way of being close to him still, to learn how to play his songs. For about a year, that was all I did. I wouldnít let anybody hear me - not even Mama."
Then something started to change in Andy. He wasnít just playing his brother's music any more. He started playing songs by Merle Haggard, Buck Owens, let a few friends hear him. And most importantly, he started believing in himself.
ďSomething started progressing in me, took me away from my little scared closet. I ended up getting with my brotherís old group, singing lead and playing rhythm. Thatís where that started.Ē
Seven years later, Andy was ready to share his music with the world. The tragedies that hit him early in life have given him a worldly-wise perspective. ďI guess if you can find some good in those sad times, it's that the music made me alive, my soul. Itís made me real.Ē
The evolution from self-taught beginner to self-assured performer was gradual, as Andy took over his brother's band and began playing festivals and churches. At first unsure of his talent, he found encouragement from Jerry and Tammy Sullivan, the famed gospel duo. "They really believed in me, and when my band wasn't playin', I'd go out on the road with them."
He also found his soulmate, Stephanie Sullivan, youngest daughter of gospel great Jerry Sullivan. Her belief in his talent was the catalyst that brought him to Music City. "She's definitely my backbone. It was Stephanie, telling me before we got married, "I think you can do it.í Thatís the first time I really thought about it seriously. When she said it, I listened. We got married in February '95, loaded everything up in a truck, and moved up. Scared to death. Didnít have a job, didnít have a place to stay. That was our honeymoon."
Upon arriving in Nashville, Andy signed with manager/producer J. Gary Smith and soon joined forces with famed produced David Malloy. Smith and Malloy put Andy to work singing demos for several months before he went to the office of Joe Galante, chairman of the RCA Label Group RLG/Nashville.
If the defining moments in Andy's personal life are rooted in the personal losses he weathered early on, perhaps the defining moment of his professional life was the audition in Joe Galante's office. "I was supposed to sing this little soft love ballad," Andy recalls with a sly grin. "But that seemed too safe, too much like what everybody else was singing. I didnít want to be molded too much. Instead, I sang 'em something that no one expected. It was a hard-headed, stubborn, rebellious kind of song. I probably shouldn't have done it. But it made a point. Either they would get me, or they wouldn't."
A few weeks later, Andy got the call telling him he had a record deal. "On the way home, I bought a dozen roses and wrote on the card, ĎWe did it.í I gave them to Stephanie. She just looked at me. She didnít even read the card. She just said, ĎAndy, we canít afford roses. Is there any way we can take these back?í So I told her, and we sat and cried together."
As he prepared to head into the studio, Andy started writing songs, discovering yet another dormant talent. "I wasnít a songwriter when I moved up here. My style is different; I could not find enough songs for my album, so I started writing. Thatís not near as easy to pick up as a guitar. Itís either in you or itís not. Even if itís in you, youíve gotta learn how to do it. Pretty much, you learn how to open your soul up just right."
As a singer and songwriter, Andy has succeeded in opening his soul, holding back nothing from those who will listen. "I want to touch someone the way Merle Haggard touched me. music can be a doctor. It can break your heart. It can be universal.Ē
Of his own music, he says, "Itís really bold and aggressive. Itís in your face. Itís somewhere in between the old country and the rock and roll, southern rock. Sometimes I canít define me, so God knows I canít define my sound.Ē
Once you hear the music of Andy Griggs, you'll be able to define it, even if he can't. Itís intense. Itís heartfelt. Youíll turn up the volume. Youíll listen to each song time and again, finding deeper meaning in every lyric. This is music that is deep and alive, music that fulfills your emotions. It does exactly what music is meant to do - and more.
Andy Griggs. Music from the soul to the soul. The future of country music has arrived
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