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Patricia Jean Griffin was born March 16th, 1964 in Old Town, Maine, "in between the lake regions and the ocean, just before you hit the tree-line going into Canada".
With an Irish-American father and French-Canadian mother, Patty grew up in a house filled with music. Her mother would sing as she did housework and her grandmother's family used to sing on their porch at night, watching the sun go down and harmonizing.
At sixteen, Patty bought herself a $55.00 used Honer guitar and began writing music. "I don't just like to sing, I love to sing. I used to run home from school, because I had a song in my mouth I had to get out" In high school, along with some friends, she formed the band Patty & The Executives and they would play cover songs at local venues.
In 1985, after residing briefly in Florida, Patty moved to the Boston area. While working day jobs as a pizzeria waitress and a Harvard telephone operator, Patty continued to write poetry and play her guitar. She took guitar lessons from John Curtis, who had local notoriety as a member of the Pousette-Dart Band. In a 2004 interview for the Boston Globe, John recalled, "She was shy as can be, a total wallflower. But she sang a little song, in this 8-by-8 room, and I had to peel myself off the wall. When she sang, there was no doubt. No doubt at all." Around 1991, John started booking gigs and he and Patty began singing in small clubs in the Boston area.
Scraping together enough money, she recorded a set of demos; in a room near Boston City Hospital (a couple of ambulance sirens provide the only other instrumental accompaniment on the album). The demo was produced and mixed by Steve Barry. It almost immediately attracted the attention of A&M Records, who signed her to a recording contract. "I didn't know when I did it that I was making a record!"
Patty went to Daniel Lanois' Kingsway Studios in New Orleans to record fresh versions of the same songs that had appeared on her demo tape. The full-band project was produced by Lanois protégé, Malcolm Burn. The record label hated it, but loved the demos.
Living With Ghosts is a raw work of bare and powerful songs, just a lone voice and an acoustic guitar. Patty would say of the songs, "They're pretty honest, pretty close to what I really am." After the release of the album, Patty went on tour, joined the Lilith Fair tour for several shows, moved to Nashville and began work on her next album.
Flaming Red was produced by Jay Joyce (who also provides the album's guitar work and is formerly of the rock band, Iodine). The album was released in the spring of 1998. The songs are well-crafted and still emotional and pure, yet intensified with bold electric guitars, percussion and keyboards.
As Patty toured behind Flaming Red, good things started to happen. She appeared on several late night television shows as well as recording an episode of Sessions on West 54th Street. She was opening for the likes of Lucinda Williams and Emmylou Harris and artists like Bette Midler, Martina McBride, Emmylou Harris and Linda Ronstadt were recording her songs. Most significantly, perhaps, the Dixie Chicks recorded Let Him Fly for their popular album Fly, establishing themselves as huge Patty supporters and drawing a lot of attention to the songwriter.
In early 2000, now living in Austin, Patty went back into the studio to record Silver Bell. The album was to be released in September of that year. The recording sessions again took place in the New Orleans Kingsway Studios and were produced by Malcolm Burn, along with Jay Joyce and Craig Ross. This would be one of the very last records to come out of Lanois' infamous New Orleans studio. The band consisted of Doug Lancio on guitar, Frank Swart on bass, Billy Beard on drums and John Deaderick on keyboards.
Patty and her band opened for the Dixie Chicks on their "Fly" tour that year. September passed, the release was moved to January….. then March.
Around this time, A&M was bought by Polygram, who was sold to Universal, who are owned by Seagrams, who then merged with Vivendi. Patty, being caught in the middle, was pushed to the side and Silver Bell remained on the shelf and never saw the light of day, becoming her second full album to never be released.
In 2000, Patty appeared on an Austin City Limits show with Emmylou Harris, Buddy and Julie Miller and Dave Matthews. Matthews, who was not familiar with Patty's work, was so moved when she sang Top of the World, that he quickly signed her to his artist-friendly label, ATO Records.
1000 Kisses is a humble, stripped-down acoustic album that was recorded over five days in the Nashville basement studio of Doug Lancio. With an ensemble including Lancio on guitar, Brian Standefer on cello and Michael Ramos on accordion and keyboards, Patty's talents and songs were framed perfectly. Musicians John Deaderick, Giles Reeves and Dave Jacques would also play on the recording. Traci Goudie, a graphic artist from Austin, would complement the album with her otherworldly artwork, and go on to add her visual delight to Patty's following albums.
The highly regarded 1000 Kisses was released in 2002 and was later nominated for a Grammy in the Best Contemporary Folk Album category, along with Johnny Cash, Steve Earle, The Chieftains and Nickel Creek, who would ultimately win the award for their album, This Side.
Her three piece ensemble in tow, Patty toured extensively in 2002, highlighting this unadorned, home-grown music and garnering rave reviews. Brian Owings and Dave Jacques would join the tour after the UK shows. The tour ended on January 30, 2003 at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville. It was the recording of that concert that became the ATO Records CD/DVD release, A Kiss in Time, which was released in October 2003.
In that year, Patty also participated as a part of the Songwriters Tour along with Mary Chapin Carpenter, Shawn Colvin and Dar Williams. The Dixie Chicks would again recognize Patty's songs by recording two of the unreleased Silver Bell songs (Truth #2 and Top of the World) on their award winning album, Home.
Impossible Dream, produced by Craig Ross, was released on April 20, 2004. This album is perhaps Patty's most diverse collection yet, with musical contrast to include folk, country, blues and gospel. The album explores loss and heartbreak, is desperate, but reassuring. One feels that it is the way she perceives the world today.
After touring extensively following the release of the album and during the summer of 2004, Patty also participated in the Sweet Harmony Traveling Revue tour, along with Gillian Welch, David Rawlings, Buddy Miller and Emmylou Harris. Patty again received a grammy nomination for Best Contemporary Folk Album. Other nominees were Eliza Gilkyson, a Carter Family tribute, Ani DiFranco and Steve Earle, who won the award for his album, The Revolution Starts….Now.
Patty continues to contribute her vocal support to the albums of other artists, as well as to numerous soundtracks, compilations and benefit albums. These past few years Patty has showed her diversity by appearing in several films including Roy Taylor's, Signed First Edition and Cameron Crowe's, Elizabethtown.
Patty writes the kind of songs that good singers want to record. Great arrays of artists continue to record her songs.
Patty is finally achieving overdue success and acclaim. A natural songbird that can hush an audience with her performances, her power is in her passionate storytelling and that voice… that sad and lonely voice. Patty Griffin is above all a singer.