Celebrate the Life of Gray Griggs By Listening to the New Generous Gods Single
This Sunday would have been Griggs' birthday, which is being celebrated with the release of "Samsaric Sacrifice."
The internet can be a curious place.
When I returned to music journalism during the early days of the pandemic, I expected the trolls, but more often than not, it’s been a positive experience. I’ve gained some great writing friends all over the western hemisphere and interviewed many artists whose music I love, but there isn’t anyone on the internet which meant more to me while refinding my footing than Gray Griggs.
I’m always happily accepting music submissions, and Griggs emailed me last spring about his new project, Generous Gods. I replied immediately, completely caught off guard with how enormous their debut single “Spilling My Blood” was. It sparked an instant and unexpected friendship, and when it came time last summer for Griggs to release Your Psyche Is Showing, there was no question that I wanted to feature the new songs on Check This Out!.
I wasn’t the only one loving where Generous Gods was heading, as the songs made Spotify’s Release Radar and Discover Weekly playlists. We messaged almost daily, discussing the creative craft and pop culture and our lives, which found him excited about marrying his longtime partner, Lauren Nossett, and me on my way down to Santa Fe for a fresh start. When I published my reviews and articles a few times a week, I could count on Gray’s feedback as he read all of them, encouraging me to keep truckin’, even when it was an album outside of his retro psychedelic taste.
When things went silent in late September, I didn’t think anything of it at first. Griggs was dedicated to working on new Generous Gods tracks, but it also wasn’t in his nature to disappear for a week at a time. In October, Lauren let me know that Gray had passed suddenly.
We live in a strange new age where someone you’ve never met in person can have such an effect on your life. It was a brief time that I knew Gray, but his kindness and generosity hit me in a place that has been buried under layers of cynicism as you go through life. Not only was he a phenomenal musician and songwriter, but also an authentically gracious soul in an industry that can be so plastic at times.
I’m not the only person to say this either. When I spoke with Lauren earlier this week, it seems that a common theme from Gray was his encouragement to pursue the creative corners of our minds. Nossett was a German literature professor, which was how they met at the University of Georgia in Athens. Before returning to Atlanta, the job took them all over, including California, North Carolina, and Virginia. Still, on their morning walks together, Griggs convinced Nossett to pursue her passion for writing seriously. This November, you’ll be able to read her debut novel, The Resemblance, available on Flatiron Books.
Vicky Torino, an Argentinian artist who is also a purveyor of all things retro psych and the person whom Griggs commissioned for Generous Gods’ album art, has similar warm memories. When Griggs reached out on Fiverr, Torino says, “he was a good guy who always knew what he wanted and was so creative. (Gray) was also so positive and saw something good in what one did, even if it perhaps wasn’t close to what he was looking for.” Torino is now regularly producing cover art, which she suggests is thanks to Griggs.
This Sunday would have been Griggs’ birthday, with Nossett brainstorming a way to celebrate him. Fortunately, the songs that Generous Gods released last year weren’t the first recordings for the project, so on February 20, there will be a listening party to debut his song “Samsaric Sacrifice” to the world.
And let me tell you, I am so excited for everyone to hear it.
“Samsaric Sacrifice” is a thirteen-minute genre-defying psychedelic epic that Griggs said was “a product of a life spent listening to music without boundaries.” While the track is lengthy, Griggs wastes no time building up the hooks as each movement flows from one to the other. What starts as a raucous rock song soon turns into a kaleidoscopic array of twinkling bells and strings before ultimately morphing into something more akin to a ballad in the back half, complete with orchestral keys. The three-minute coda that closes the song is an absolutely gorgeous smattering of so many melodies and ideas, similar to The Beatles’ “A Day in the Life.”
Griggs spent most of 2020 on the song, recording all of the instruments himself at their Richmond home studio. Nossett recalls time fondly, as it was a song Griggs wrote as himself, instead of the character he would develop for the following Generous Gods songs. It calls back to their time in Portugal and Richmond, inspired by the beauty of each location. But it’s also a song of struggle as it discusses substance abuse and Griggs’ newfound sobriety the previous year.
“The song is about the struggles that connect us all, dealing with the past, being able to look at yourself in the mirror. You hope the music is a reminder to sit in the moment, make time for yourself, and be kind. We all have struggles and are doing the best we can to move forward.” - Gray Griggs
There’s more to come from Generous Gods as well. Nossett is working with former Lights Follow bandmate Matt Heath, on piecing together other songs that Griggs was working on. A handful of lyrics and melodies are recorded to his phone, making Nossett and Heath determined to realize and honor Griggs’ legacy fully. “I’m just grateful to have his voice out there,” says Nossett.
There are many stories like Gray Griggs in creative industries. People like him, writing music for television and commercials to pay the bills while pursuing their passions after hours. For Griggs, that success came from writing the theme for the Japanese reality show Terrace House, which is pure modern pop. Generous Gods is where his heart was at though, as the project that explored his creative corners.
So find time to discover what makes you happy and stimulates your creativity. It’s what Gray would have wanted.