IN 1992, singer Nanci Griffith took a step back from a 14-year
career as a gifted songwriter to make an album filled with her
interpretations of 17 songs by writers who had helped influence her
own folk-informed style.
The album, "Other Voices, Other Rooms," won Griffith a Grammy
Award and was widely acclaimed as one of her most satisfying
Ironically, when Griffith put down her own songwriting pen to
immerse herself in the songs of her favorite writers, she made an
important discovery - one that helped spur a pronounced shift in
Griffith's own music on her 11th and most recent record, "Flyer."
After specializing in songs that featured finely detailed,
emotionally engaging stories about fictional characters, Griffith
has opened the window to her own world, revealing much about her
heart and soul over the course of the 15 highly personal, often
moving original songs on "Flyer."
In a recent interview, Griffith explained how the songwriters
she paid tribute to on "Other Voices, Other Rooms" changed the way
she looked at her own abilities.
"Going back and studying their work, it's all so internal and
propelled from inside as well," Griffith said. "Certainly it's
never crying-in-your-beer stuff, but it was all very introspective
and very helpful to me. And I think that influenced me to go ahead
and write personal (songs), even though I'll always be very
endeared to my fictional characters."
Another event that helped confirm the new direction in
Griffith's writing was a visit to a card reader in New York City
during the "Flyer" recording sessions.
"My father had told me, `You've never had a good time in your
entire life. You're so intense,' " Griffith said. " `Even when you
were a baby you were so intense,' he said.
"And the card reader told me the same thing, not knowing me
from Adam. She said, `You've had a really hard life, and you've
done a lot of work inside to try and overcome that, but don't you
think you ought to have fun now?' "
Finally, Griffith said, she was able to "let go" and begin
allowing herself to enjoy the freedom to express her own thoughts
and experiences in song when she felt inspired to do so.
Some of Griffith's revelations on "Flyer" will surprise even
longtime fans, especially on songs where Griffith, 40, wonders
whether her single-minded pursuit of her career has cost her a
chance for lasting love.
"Some of the songs are so personal, it's still difficult to
perform them," Griffith observed.
"Like `These Days in an Open Book' and `Goodnight to a Mother's
Dream' - I think a lot of people were really surprised. They might
have thought, `Well, Nanci Griffith should be a really happy
person. She's been very successful at the one thing she wanted to
do, which was to be a songwriter. She probably has everything she
ever wanted in life.'
"And (for me) to voice my insecurity and my grief for having
pursued all of those things professionally that I wanted without
pursuing anything personal is something that I think a lot of women
my age are going through right now."
One song sure to generate curiosity among fans is the title
song, "The Flyer," which tells of Griffith's chance meeting with an
Air Force pilot at a Pittsburgh airport one day when bad weather
had delayed her flight to London. …