When ISIS fighters attacked Paris last month, musician Griffin House had a new song, “Paris Calling (Sweet Sensation),” that was perfect for the moment.
He had already written the song for his upcoming album, So On and So Forth, which will be released in March 2016. But after the attacks, he decided to release the song on iTunes with proceeds from the sale of the song through the end of the year going to a non-profit in France.
Since then, House’s relief efforts have gotten him noticed by CNN and a slew of other media outlets around the country. He performed the song on CNN’s “Newsroom.”
“On Monday night they did a live interview on the air and I played the song acoustically on the air,” House said. “And it aired all over the world….It was a really nice preview of the record.” House said that the songs from his new album are similar to “Paris Calling (Sweet Sensation),” in which the Nashville-based singer/songwriter sings, “I’m Tennessee dreaming of the City of Lights.”
“I had a bunch of pictures from this summer when I had visited France when I finished the record. I went to southern France and spent a couple days in Paris,” House said.
“When I was there I took a bunch of footage on my phone and pictures, so we scrambled to get a little music video together and made a collage out of a lot of my video and then combined it with some live performance shots that we shot in Nashville.”
House’s efforts to help the people of France in the wake of the Paris attacks are his second attempt to use his musical talents to benefit others in as many years. His most recent release, Songs for a Prisoner, was recorded live inside a prison in Nashville in 2014. House said that a friend of his reached out to him with the idea of recording at a prison.
“He wanted to take music into some prisons and he’s a buddy of mine who likes my music and he invited me to come in and do it,” House said. “So I agreed and we went in to play for about 300 inmates and he ended up recording it, so we got a live prison album out of it. It was pretty fun.”
House said that he was nervous to perform in front of the inmates, since he doesn’t have nearly the notoriety of a say, Johnny Cash, whose 1968 album At Folsom Prison revitalized his already legendary career.
“I didn’t think it was going to be fun at all,” House said. “I thought these guys were going to be really bored because I’m just this guy with an acoustic guitar and they probably don’t listen to my genre of music. They probably listen to something else….I’m thinking these guys aren’t going to know me and they aren’t going to like my style of music, so it’s not going to go well.”
House was presently surprised by the reception he got from the inmates, though. “When I went in there they were just very receptive and I told some jokes and kinda got on their good side,” House said.
Another way he won the prisoners over was by breaking the prison warden’s request that he censor the curse words from his songs.
“I looked at the guys and thought, you know, I think I’m just going to try to go for some street cred with them because they know I’m not supposed to sing it,” House said. “So I did it anyway and they loved it and they started yelling and clapping and whooping and hollering and it was great. It was a really fun moment and they got into it from the very first song.”
• For more information about Griffin House, visit griffinhousemusic.com.