Gryffin Is Changing the Way We Think About EDM

While some EDM artists have taken the path most traveled, trendsetters like Gryffin are continuing to pave their own way. There’s no doubt that the genre is saturated, but thanks to artists like Gryffin, dance music continues forward, becoming more progressive and more musical. The Los Angeles-based musician has had the chance to work with a plethora of emerging talent, creating in himself a unique and progressive sound. Though artists like Troye Sivan, Bipolar Sunshine and Sinead Harnett have undoubtedly lent panache to his tracks, Gryffin is a true one-man project. On stage, you’ll find the NYC-bred DJ doing more than standing behind a MacBook. A multi-instrumentalist and classically trained pianist, Gryffin bounces about stage from guitar, to keyboard and the like, crafting his music in real time before your eyes. Having only been on the scene since 2014, Gryffin’s remixes and singles launched him to tours with Kygo and record deals with Geffen. Now, he’s finally ready to drop his debut EP and embark on his own headlining North American tour.

Just ahead of his “Castle in the Sky” tour, which kicks off Oct. 4 in Eugene, Ore., Gryffin hopped on the phone with Entertainment Voice to discuss his live process, the new EP and his latest worldly adventures.

You recently dropped your new single “Love in Ruins” featuring British singer Sinead Harnett. What stands out most in your mind about this track?

I actually finished the song a year-and-a-half ago so it’s funny talking about it now. I’ve been a fan of Sinead for a while. She did a record back in the day with Disclosure and I’ve always thought her voice was amazing. Getting to do a song with her was awesome. Probably the two things that stand out the most on that track are her voice and the guitar riffs of the song. That was kind of like everything was built off of the guitar and her vocals, so I guess those are the two things that stand out the most.

It’s clear that musicianship is very important to you. You’re a classically trained pianist, you’ve posted videos in the studio showing how you actually create your music, and you take advantage of your multi-instrumentalism during live sets. Other artists in your genre like Kygo and Lido are doing the same things on stage. Do you think dance music is starting to turn towards more instrumentation as a whole? 

Kygo and Lido are definitely inspirations of mine. I’ve always thought what they were doing was so cool. The fact that they really do record their own songs with their own keyboard, guitar playing, whatever…it translates well for them live to be able to play (the way) they originally recorded. That’s originally how I wanted to do a live show and live concept, because everything you see, really, is coming from my hands, playing piano and whatnot. The question about ‘Is it totally going to head there, if that’s going to be the total shift in dance music in terms of (playing) live?’ There’s an element to (DJ-ing) today, that’s always really important in terms of being the center of the party. Being able to put your hands up and create a lot of energy, quick mixing, things like that. I don’t think it’s ever going to go away. I think giving fans of dance music a different type of performance within the genre, specifically talking about playing live instruments, it gives them diversity in what they’re seeing at festivals and concerts. I don’t think it’s going to change the dance scope entirely but I think it’s just going to give people more of an option to what they want to see at any given festival.

Are you beginning to see EDM fans crave more live context when it comes to electronic artists?

Dance music has gone into a mature stage, I guess. Back when it was really blowing up in the mainstream here, it was very…everything kind of sounded the same. Big room, four-to-the-floor, the sounds of artists like Avicii passed down (and) It was really exciting to people because it was really new and the novelty of it was awesome, but now people are realizing that there are a lot more subgenres within dance music that they can kind of get into and listen to. I think also now with concert-going, live (performances) versus DJ, you have different people that like different stuff. I think it definitely divides them too. People who really like the live stuff, with musicians and rock, that are getting into dance music, really like the live element. Then there’s people who just want to turn up and party to a DJ. It’s pretty split honestly. They’re different shows. With live music you’re kind of more watching, like you’re watching a rock concert. You’re appreciating the musicality of it. Whereas with a DJ, you’re kind of like with your friends, singing the track and kind of just being a part of the party. It’s just a different show, depends on what the fan really wants.

Below are a few exciting, new endeavors of yours. What are the first things that come to mind when thinking about… 

Your first Lollapalooza performance?

It was crazy. It was such an awesome experience. I love Chicago and Lollapalooza is one of those benchmark festivals. Like an achievement goal that as an artist to play a festival like Lollapalooza or Coachella. Those are like the really big ones. So to be able to do that this summer was absolutely unreal. I love the city. The stage I was on was really cool too. It wasn’t one of the main stages. It was like this grove with all these trees surrounding it. Definitely one of the highlights for the summer for sure.

Your recent trip/tour to Asia?

I was doing a few festivals. It was half and half (between) festivals (and) I was doing a lot of DJ-ing gigs so I wasn’t able to freight all my live show equipment out to all the stops throughout Asia. It was cool, I was gone for like two-and-a-half, three weeks and we got to do a couple dates in Indonesia, went to Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia, went to Japan. I really enjoyed it. It’s culturally very different out there. They’re starting to get really into dance music, so it’s kind of an exciting time to be going out there and playing music.

Opening for Tiësto in Vegas?

That was a big one too. Vegas is a very different market for me. I don’t really do much stuff there so to be invited there by Tiësto was an honor, something I didn’t really want to pass up on. (Tiësto’s) like a legend, so to be able to do some shows with him was really cool. It was cool to chat with him. He went and saw my Coachella set earlier this year and had been keeping tabs on me over the summer. Hopefully we might be able to work on a track together. Either he’ll be in L.A. or I’ll be in New York sometime soon and we can work on stuff.

Your headlining “Castle in the Sky” tour is just around the corner. You’ve mentioned via social media that it’ll be a “new show” with “new production.” Any insights on what fans should expect?

I’m basically finishing up, right now, a bunch of new music during the tour with a bunch of new tracks. The actual show itself is going to be a ton of new music. New staging setup for my personal rig. Also I’m bringing a ton of new visuals for the show, so it’s going to be a ton of new music plus a few surprise guests along the way. I just got back from (the shows) with Tiësto, so now I’m in super-grind mode getting up all this music and prepping for the tour. I’m really excited to see what people are going to think. I’m really pumped to get on the road and see all the fans.

Your debut EP is slated for release this fall, surely to feature your latest single “Love in Ruins,” “Heading Home” with Josef Salvat and “Feel Good” featuring Daya. Aside from that, what can you tell us about this project?    

There’s going to be three or four brand new songs that no one’s ever heard before that are going to be on there. So yea, I’m excited. I almost actually thought about stretching it to an album. I’ve got eight songs, including my back catalogue, done but I decided to make it a big EP. I think it’s my best work to date. So I’m very excited to see what people think of it and I can’t wait to start playing them live.

Gryffin’s “Castle in the Sky” tour kicks off Oct. 4 and comes to New York’s Terminal 5 Oct. 21 and Los Angeles’ The Wiltern Nov. 17.