Excerpted from the magazine for Billboard.com.
For Andy Griggs, the Aug. 10 release of his latest RCA album, "This I Gotta See," signaled the start of a new chapter in his career.
Many things have changed since the release of his sophomore album, "Freedom," two years ago. The Louisiana-born singer/songwriter changed some band members, his management company and his record producer and went through a divorce. He says he decided to make the career moves all at once.
"Slowly but surely, I was becoming a little bit unhappy," he says. "I didn't want to drag it out and make one change here and then go a couple months and make one change there ... I [wanted to] get it over with and start this new direction."
Tapping Randy Scruggs to produce his third album seemed like an easy decision.
"Randy has always been one of my favorite players and producers in Nashville," says Griggs, who invited Scruggs to attend a showcase that led to their collaboration. "We decided to jump in the saddle together and do it."
Joe Galante, chairman of RCA Label Group, says Scruggs was a good fit.
"Andy is a quilt, if you will, of a lot of different styles," Galante says. "There's traditional country music. There's bluegrass. There's gospel. There's rock'n'roll in him. Randy was able to take each of those various elements and make sure they had their own little environment to flourish in. The most difficult thing with Andy has really been finding the production that marries the various elements of Andy, and Randy Scruggs definitely did that."
David Malloy produced Griggs' first two albums, 1998's "You Won't Ever Be Lonely" (which spawned such hits as the title track, "I'll Go Crazy" and "She's More") and "Freedom" (featuring "Tonight I Wanna Be Your Man" and "Practice Life"). Although he praises Malloy and says the two are still friends, Griggs says he wanted to make a change.
"Randy is one of the few producers who can record a tremendous punk rock album and then turn around and do a bluegrass record that's out of this world," Griggs says. "He covers a lot of bases. I grew up listening to Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs, but I also grew up listening to the Rolling Stones ... With this record, there's a touch of everything."
Griggs also appreciates Scruggs' penchant for keeping the vocals out front. "One of my biggest concerns [was that] I didn't want to sound like there was a thousand tracks and a thousand different things going on," he says. "Too often albums are made where the singer is just one of many instruments in there."
The first single from "This I Gotta See" is "She Thinks She Needs Me," which has reached No. 9 on the Billboard Hot Country Singles & Tracks chart.
Griggs is particularly proud of the track "If Heaven," penned by Gretchen Peters, which will be the next single.
"When I think about this record, 'If Heaven' is the center point," he says. "It is the heart of the album because, lyrically, I think it speaks to all of us, especially me. I've had a lot of losses in my life. That's why I was so attached to it."
Griggs co-wrote two cuts on the album, but for the most part relied on such top songwriters as Bob DiPiero, Neil Thrasher, Casey Beathard and Mark Nesler.
"I'm my own worst critic," Griggs says of his songwriting. "I love to write, but I came to Nashville to sing. So that's top priority. It doesn't matter whose name is behind the song, if the song speaks to my heart, I want to record it."
Griggs thinks the new album represents him better than anything he has recorded.
"This is a brand-new page," he says. "I'm glad I have had some success behind me. I've also had some real friends behind me. We're all looking at it like it all starts right here. This is the new chapter."
Excerpted from the "Jazz Notes" column in the Aug. 21, 2004, issue of Billboard. The full original text is available to Billboard.com subscribers.
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