Meet Ryan Griffin, Country’s Soulful Newcomer
Ask Ryan Griffin who his influences are and the first two people he names are George Strait and Brian McKnight. Yep, the famous R&B singer. And the King of Country Music. Understandably, it took some time for the Floridian to define a sound that's his own.
Actually it took about a decade, the last two years of which have been spent seriously fine-tuning. When you listen to the acoustic version of an original called "Oxygen," you'll hear McNight's soulful stylings, but you'll also embrace the warm storytelling someone like Strait brings to a song.
"I said something about my wife," Griffin tells Taste of Country about how he wrote the song. "It was related to 'I don’t really know how I would have gotten this far without her' kind of thing."
From there the hook fell out of the sky, and writers Micah Wilshire and Chad Carlson helped him make it perfect. “That was really the true inspiration behind that song. ‘It can all go away. As long as I got you we’re good.”
You’re my oxygen, oxygen / Baby I need you to survive / I take a breath and breathe you in / Your love keeps me alive / I wouldn’t last a minute without you baby / You’re the only one that can ever save me / Oxygen, Oxygen.
How he got to the song is as interesting as his future with Sony Nashville. After high school he drove north to attend Belmont University. During Griffin's senior year he took an internship at Broken Bow Records. Craig Morgan was their big artist at the time, but they had this new guy named Jason Aldean, and they needed someone to go on the road with him. Griffin, not far removed from being able to legally buy beer, became Aldean's tour manager.
“I think they paid me $300 a month to go out there," he says, laughing, "which I think just covered my rent.”
Ultimately he wanted to be an artist himself, however, so he returned to Belmont, finished, spent a few years working clubs and playing for tips, wrote some, got really serious about writing and then signed a publishing deal with Dan Hodges (they'd met years earlier) and began to recall all the things he learned on the road with Aldean. Somewhere in there he helped write a song called "Dibs," currently a single for newcomer Kelsea Ballerini.
He's been recording his debut album in bits and pieces, a few songs here and a few songs there. Previously finished cuts are available at his website, while others have been leaking to outlets like Taste of Country. In addition to "Oxygen," Griffin shared a song called "Drinkin' to Do" with TOC, seen below. That's his wife singing high harmonies. She's six months pregnant with a baby boy, the couple's first.
Watch Ryan Griffin Sing "Drinkin' to Do"