For this edition of Beyond the Song, I caught up with Rodney Griffin and talked about his writing career. Rodney has been selected as “Best Songwriter” many times, by many award programs.
Jantina Baksteen: What was your first song that you wrote? At what age?
Rodney Griffin: It was a non-recorded song, not very good: “When Will We Care,” written in 1989 at 23 years old.
JB: When did you feel the calling to be a songwriter?
RG:1989, I was working at Newport News Shipbuilding in Newport News, Virginia. Song ideas would come to me during the day and I would write them down during lunch break.
JB: Is there a song you wish you had written?
RG: Oh yes, several…but I really don’t think about that. I’m just grateful for the ones God has allowed me to write. Anytime I hear a congregation sing a hymn, I think about how meaningful that would be to those songwriters if they were still living.
JB: Which song, of all you have written, do you think has the most important message for people to hear?
RG: I wrote “Faces” to encourage those who never get credit for their Christian work while here on earth. What I didn’t know is how many people would come to me and tell me that the song put them under conviction for not doing enough for the Lord. That is the most important message I could write about…encouraging people to witness for the Lord.
JB: What works for you, writing the lyrics first or the melody first, or both at the same time?
RG: The initial idea usually lends itself to a musical meter..fast or slow. Then, I work them both at the same time until I feel the song is the best it can be. The best advice for young writers is to concentrate more on the structure of great songs that have stood the test of time, over studying your songs. Ask yourself: ”Why is this song great and why do people love singing this song?” I usually find that it’s a simple, but profound, lyric that sings well. Those are the songs that seem to stick.
JB: Who do you wish you had written a song with that is no longer here?
RG: I would love to have had the chance to have written with Dottie Rambo…unbelievably gifted writer, for sure!
JB: What’s your favorite song you have written?
RG: I used to say “The Spirit Of Brokenness,“ because of its message of humility, but these days, I say “Faces” is my favorite. Seems it’s being used by a special “pastor appreciation” or “missionary appreciation” service every week somewhere. I believe it will be around for a long time.
JB: What is the fastest you wrote an entire song?
RG: I remember my first cut was with the Dixie Melody Boys, “I Have A New Song To Sing,” back when I sang with them in 1992. I wrote that song in my pickup truck in about 10 minutes. When you hear the song, it’s obvious (as it is) really simple.
JB: Do others ask you for advice for songs they have written?
RG: Always. Yes, I receive songs every week from songwriters who are asking for advice. I’m honored and certainly don’t feel like the “go to” writer or anything like that. I’m just like them, trying to hone my craft and be the best I’m capable of.
JB: What if you were were not able to be a singer or a songwriter, what would you have done?
RG: My degree is in Biology with a lot of horticulture classes. I enjoy landscape design and installation as well as forestry. I guess that’s why I enjoy four-wheeling through the woods when I get a chance to on a day off.
Thank you, Rodney, for your time sharing your gift to the readers of SGNScoops. Your songs will touch many ‘Faces’ you might never meet.