Better Than Ezra recorded a pair of shows in their native New Orleans last summer for Live at House of Blues New Orleans, due out September 28th. Thanks to the CD/DVD, frontman Kevin Griffin got to experience his band live in his very own living room.
“It really captures the spirit of the band and what we’ve been doing for years,” he says. “All our favorite New Orleans players were in town that weekend. We had this great horn section there, and they got dressed up in these Earth, Wind and Fire outfits. It was just a special moment.”
The live disc includes a pair of bonus studio tracks “Cold Year” and “Stall,” while the DVD features a cover of Bill Withers’ “Use Me.”
“It starts off pretty faithful, and then we decided to give it a second line,” Griffin says of the Withers track. “Our drummer Travis [McNabb] is a big fan of the Meters, so that comes in, and then a horn section comes in, which was never in the original. And the horn parts I wrote with the trombonist are really cool . . . It’s as close as Better Than Ezra gets to being a jam band. If we ever play Bonnaroo, we’ll do that song.”
In addition to his continued duties with Better Than Ezra, Griffin has found success moonlighting as a songwriter for an eclectic cast that includes Howie Day, Blondie, Graham Colton and the artist who kick-started his new gig, Meatloaf.
“At some point Meatloaf’s manager asked if I wanted to write a song for him,” Griffin says. “Two hours later, I’m in a candlelit room with Meatloaf talking about redemption. And I just decided, ‘What the hell, I’m going to write this song.’ So I just started writing this song about a truck driver who’s addicted to crystal meth. His truck pulls over at the side of road, breaks down, and he stumbles into a tentside revival and is saved. And there’s gospel choirs and devils and angels all wrapped into one.”
Meatloaf liked the song, “Testify,” so much, he recorded it and released it as a single last year.
As for Griffin’s Better Than Ezra material, he, McNabb and bassist Tom Drummond plan to release a new album early next year, on the heels of their December greatest hits album. While they may be a decade removed from their biggest hit, “Good,” they clearly have no plans of stopping.
“The more you play, the more respect you have for everybody who survives in this business — whether they’re super pop or something like Fugazi or LL Cool J,” Griffin says. “We played a show with Aerosmith last year at this festival in Fort Worth, Texas. If the alligator is the survivor of the Jurassic era, Steven Tyler is one of the survivors of the early rock era. Somebody asked him, ‘What is the key to your success and the reason you’re still here?’ And he was like, ‘Don’t quit. Just keep playing.’ And that’s what we’re doing.”