Never one to ignore the call of his muse, Rouse traded in his trusty acoustic guitar for a synthesizer, a move that quickly pulled him in a slew of exciting, unexpected directions as he found himself freshly inspired by the endless array of possibilities at his fingertips. Where ‘Embers’ was a deeply personal, countrypolitan contemplation on identity and anxiety, the new material that poured out of him was breezier and more carefree, crafted with an 80’s-inspired sonic palette that complemented the shift from somber introspection to more playful observation. The end result, ‘Love In The Modern Age,’ is an album that still bears Rouse’s distinct fingerprints, even as it pushes his limits and forges a bold new chapter more than twenty years into his celebrated career.
Hailed as “a talent to outrank Ryan Adams or Conor Oberst” by Uncut and praised for his “spare and easy sounding guitar songs” by NPR, Rouse first emerged in 1998 with his debut album, ‘Dressed Up Like Nebraska,’ which Billboard called a “dark horse gem.” Over the next two decades, he’d go on to release a steady stream of critically lauded records that would solidify his status as one of the his generation’s most acclaimed songwriters, both in the US and Europe, where he’s lived on and off since 2004. Q called his breakout album, ‘1972,’ “the most intimate record of the year,” while Rolling Stone dubbed his follow-up, ‘Nashville,’ “a landmark album,” and EW described 2013’s ‘The Happiness Waltz’ as “a big contender for Rouse’s best work.” In 2014, Rouse won a Goya Award (the Spanish equivalent of an Oscar) for best song for “Do You Really Want To Be In Love,” from the film ‘La Gran Familia Española.
As he began work on ‘Love In The Modern Age,’ Rouse was caught in a moment of international limbo. He was ready to relocate from Spain back to Nashville with his family, but his wife’s green card process was stretching out interminably. As they awaited news from the US government, their Tennessee home sat empty for more than a year, and Rouse found himself making regular trips across the Atlantic to check in on the property.
“I started working on songs with my old friend and writing partner Daniel Tashian on those trips,” Rouse explains. “I’d just finished reading Sylvie Simmons’ great Leonard Cohen biography, ‘I’m Your Man,’ and it got me really into Cohen’s synthier records. I told Daniel that I thought it’d be fun to write some stuff in that vein, so we’d start with these moody soundscapes, and then I’d write lyrics on top of them.”
Inspired by Cohen and cult heroes The Blue Nile, as well as the English bands Rouse grew up listening to like The Cure and The Smiths, the songs were cinematic and enveloping. Each track created its own entrancing world out of dense synthesizer textures and shimmering electric guitar lines. While many of his previous albums were recorded with a full band performing live in one room, Rouse built up the tracks on ‘Love In The Modern Age’ a layer at a time, recording the majority of the instruments himself between Spain and Nashville.
in me that wouldn’t have happened with just an acoustic guitar.”
Much like love in our modern age, the album is defined by the coming together of those physical and digital worlds. Underneath it all, though, lays the same endless search for human connection that drives each and every one of us. Times may change, but the song remains the same.
It is a true, and nowadays rare, musician who writes lyrics so vulnerable and authentic that an audience is irrevocably captured by the powerful experience of sharing the journey. An album that is essentially an autobiographical account of personal mistakes, change, and growth, offers listeners a chance to reflect on their own experiences and connect with another’s story.
With Griffin House’s upcoming album, So On and So Forth, it is clear the artist digs deep and offers up his narrative after much reflection. House is now a young family man and artist who is choosing sobriety and celebrating the path to his success, through songs which share his perspective on how people remember the past with rose-colored glasses, how we grow up and realize what we deeply need, and how we must find happiness in ourselves in the present.
“The record has a lot to do with recognizing the ego in one’s self and letting it die. It can feel like your whole identity is being wiped away, and you don’t even know who you are anymore. For the person singing these songs, holding on to one’s own individuality in order to remain special or important in the world has started to became far less important than being content with being a good, decent, and loving person. But old habits die hard,” adds House.
The project was tracked last summer at Lakehouse Recording Studios, in Asbury Park, New Jersey. House’s ties to Asbury Park go all the back to 2004, when he was invited to tour with Patti Scialfa. His first show in the boardwalk town was opening a show for Scialfa at the Paramount Theatre. It was there that Griffin met her husband, Bruce Springsteen, and all the wonderful characters in their crew and band. Those memories and experiences made returning to Asbury Park over a decade later to record So On and So Forth feel like a full circle moment in his career.
House recorded the essentially live project with no click track and very little overdubbing. Lakehouse owner, Jon Leidersdorff, helped assemble the band. Prior to walking into the studio, House had never met the musicians and had no idea how the songs would turn out. He adds, “The experience ended up being one of the most fun and positive of my career. The process was stress-free and freeing.” The resulting album reflects this journey — a leap of faith with triumphant results.
Recording and performing for over a decade, House has toured with Ron Sexsmith, Patti Scialfa, Josh Ritter, John Mellencamp, Mat Kearney, and The Cranberries. He received early critical acclaim on the CBS Sunday Morning, and his songs have since been featured in countless films and television shows such as One Tree Hill, Army Wives, and Brothers and Sisters. He has also appeared on Late Night with Craig Ferguson. Most recently, CNN Newsroom invited House to perform “Paris Calling,” from So On and So Forth, live on the air, and the song has been picked up by radio prior to being serviced. House has released ten albums and continues to headline his own national tours. He lives in Nashville, Tennessee with his wife Jane and their two daughters.