Nanci Griffith's 'Hell No' Connects With Occupy Movement
Nanci Griffith says her forthcoming new album, "Intersection," is perhaps "the most personal" of her career. But she's finding that at least one of its songs -- the buoyant protest anthem "Hell No (I'm Not Alright)" -- already has universal appeal.
"There's so many other songs on the record I have so much personally invested in, but that song is people's cup of tea," Griffith, who's been previewing the tune during her live shows, tells Billboard.com. "People come to their feet out in the audience and put their fists in the air and really get into it."
She says they're also following the Clap Brothers (tour manager Phil Kaufman and production manager Bruce Mackay) and are even requesting that the homemade "Hell No" T-shirts the duo sports onstage become part of her official souvenir offerings.
"It's one of those phenomenons I just can't explain," says Griffith, who wrote the song during the Occupy movements around the country. "The song is very personal to me. It's all about people dropping out and not wanting to deal with things. Certainly when I wrote it I was sitting alone with my guitar and it came along and I felt like, 'Well, I don't know what it means, but this is the song.' I'm happy that it's doing so good and people are identifying with it."
Griffith is confident listeners will find even more to relate to when "Intersection," her first new album in three years, comes out on April 10. The 12-songs, including a new version of her 1991 tune "Just Another Morning Here," deal mostly with life transitions -- from romantic break-ups to family issues and economic challenges -- with a sense of defiant empowerment. "I was just making changes in my life, and stuff gets done to you and I was going back and saying, 'Hey man, that was not cool," Griffith explains. " 'Intersection' is all about me saying, 'No, you can't do this anymore. I'm in charge here.'"
One of those changes Griffith made was in her working arrangement. She moved the recording of the album into her home in Nashville, with musical cohorts Pete and Maura Kennedy and Pat McInerney hunkering down on the material and bringing in guests such as the Steeldrivers' Richard Bailey, Robbin Bach, Eric Brace, Peter Cooper and Bruce MacKay also helping out.
"The whole record is homegrown," Griffith says. "I have this massive upstairs, and it wasn't really being used except as a guest quarters when people came to visit. So Pete set up a studio, and it was great because I could come downstairs and read and be kind of away from the whole thing that was going on upstairs." One of the lyrics in "Bethlehem Steel," in fact, was conceived when Griffith and Maura Kennedy were taking a break to watch "The Dear Hunter" -- "It's about 47 minutes into the film before Robert DeNiro runs naked down the street in Bethlehem (Pennsylvania), and I thought, 'That image would be so great in the song," Griffith recalls.
"The whole record was very different for me," she says. "We had a good time making it. It's been a real blessing, this record. It was very special for me, so I hope people love it."
Griffith is currently on the road in the U.K. until March 23. A North American tour kicks off April 12 in Blacksburg, Va., with dates currently booked into July and still being added.