How Kevin Griffin Of Better Than Ezra Raised Over $40K (And Counting) For MusiCares In Just An Hour On Facebook
What happens when a rock and roll singer switches on his heart and his webcam? Well, in Kevin Griffin's case, very good things! The Better Than Ezra frontman was one of the first to play a livestream concert from home to benefit MusiCares COVID-19 Releif Fund, and in just an hour, raised over $40k to help music professionals affected by the coronavirus crisis.
And, as anyone who tuned in live or has watched the video on Facebook knows, Griffin sure had fun doing it.
"I was like, 'You know what? I'm going to make this like a show. I'm going to do the things that work when I do my live solo show, but I'm going to do it in front of eight people at this house for everybody out there who wants to tune in,'" he said. He also revealed one reason why it went so smoothly, saying "I did a set list. Two days before, I asked fans what songs they want to hear. I had a sheet of paper next to me."
Many musicians these days appear to struggle with the transition from stage to screen. Not Griffin. A few minutes into the livestream, after whipping his kitchen into a frenzy with his opening song, a spirited rendition of Better Than Ezra's 1993 rock hit "Good," he shared some sage wisdom: "Rock and roll lesson number one, even if there's only eight people in the room, act like you're playing Madison Square Garden. THANK YOU!"
"I just went off on what I do," he said of the stream. "I was interacting with the people who were talking back, and sending texts backs was through the Facebook Live app, and then also the people in the room. You saw it. It was just fun, man. I think we just caught a hold of the spirit of people wanting to give and wanting to be connected."
Griffin's show felt as connected as possible in a new normal of social distancing. He ran through a brisk 60-minutes of originals, complete with fascinating backstories, '80s covers and even a sing-along (and dance-along) with his family as the grand finale. But he aslo never lost sight of the cause, providing fans with encouraging-if not surprising-on just how much they were raising for charity. Just 20 minutes in, he'd already hit $20k.
Griffin's choice to raise the money specifically for MusiCares comes from seeing the work they do first hand.
"My road manager during Katrina got a new drum set from MusiCares. People got their houses fixed, temporary housing in 2010, [after] the flood in Nashville." he said. "It's just real visible effects, people getting a check or their landlord getting a check to pay for rent. That's happening now. It's tangible."
He said he got the idea after seeing bluegrass phenom Molly Tuttle host a similar live fundraiser for MusiCares, but had no idea he'd be able to raise this much money, over $42,000 at the time of this writing, which was a pleasant surprise for everyone.
"My whole career has been based on high hopes and low expectations. That way, I'm not disappointed," he said.
But Griffin is not new to supporting MusiCares. Pilgrimage Festival, which he co-founded with in 2013, gives 50 cents of every ticket to the organization to assist with their ongoing work helping music people in need. It turns out, this kind of generous service can also be a lot of fun and very rewarding.
"It flew by for me. It was all just really special and fun, and just so easy," he said of the whole livestream fundraising experience. "And then just the gratitude that's come back to me from that has been really overwhelming and mind-blowing."
When this is all over with, Better Than Ezra has plans to head out on the road with Collective Soul and Tonic. He also tells us Pilgrimige is set for Sept. 26 and 27, with a lineup announcement coming this month.
"You have to proceed as if everything's going to get better," Griffin said. "I think we're all going to look back on this time and go, 'Man, how did I make good use of my time? What did I do? What did I do to contribute?'"
In Griffin's case, he's already contributed quite a bit. And until normalcy returns, he plans stay happy, healthy and productive, and said he's planning to do a ton of virtual co-writes. He also hopes others will take his lead and take to livestreaming to help support the music community.
"I want to see bigger artists than me [try this]," Griffin said. "If I can do 42K, just imagine what a bigger artist could do..."
Learn more about how you can donate to or apply for assistance via the Recording Academy's and MusiCares' COVID-19 Relief Fund.
Learn more about the financial, medical and personal emergencies services and resources offered by the Recording Academy and MusiCares.