Kevin Griffin has been coming around the Dallas area for a long time, but it’s usually been with his band Better Than Ezra. Thirty years after the band formed in Baton Rouge (and later based in New Orleans), Griffin will play a solo show in Dallas for the first time.
Though he’s played private events in Dallas before, this show will be open to the public, playing at the Kessler.
“It’s odd because Dallas has always been one of Better Than Ezra’s biggest markets,” Griffin says via phone. “I’m excited that I’ll be doing it in Dallas at the Kessler Theater because it’s such a cool room. I’ve always dug it.”
BTE’s longtime drummer (and Dallas native) Michael Jerome will join him. “When you’re playing songs by yourself and with a percussionist, I can take all kinds of detours, ill-advised or not, and it’s always a fun show,” Griffin says. The interesting part is what he’ll play.
Griffin does music 24/7 and is based in Franklin, Tenn., these days. He even has time to work for the major music festival, Pilgrimage. Whether it’s songs from his Better Than Ezra catalog or songs he’s written for somebody else, he has no shortage of material to play in a solo performance.
“Better Than Ezra is the definition of a band that paid its dues in a van, touring around, playing for $50,” Griffin says. “That was our M.O.”
He has a healthy backlog of co-writing credits with well-known artists, like Sugarland, Barenaked Ladies, Blondie, Howie Day and James Blunt, to name a few. “I love getting to play songs that I didn’t record that were recorded by someone else,” he says.
But getting to this point required a lot of hard work for him and his band. They were a staple of college towns in their early years, including a circuit with many Texas dates, especially Dallas and Fort Worth.
“Better Than Ezra is the definition of a band that paid its dues in a van, touring around, playing for $50,” Griffin says. “That was our M.O.” They played the Deep Ellum area a lot when their second LP, Deluxe, spawned radio hits like “Good” and “In the Blood.”
The band kept going, touring and releasing albums regularly ever since. Later this year, there will be a vinyl reissue of Deluxe along with a tour with Barenaked Ladies.
They survived the ’90s alternative rock gold rush by having a logical approach as a band.
“We didn’t quit,” Griffin says. “We stayed together. So many of our peers . . . when their record sales weren’t what they were, got dropped, bands quit. They didn’t have the work ethic. The reason why we didn’t quit is because our touring has always been good.”
Spending seven years on the road, getting better with each show and giving people a good show is what gave a Better Than Ezra a solid fanbase. The band members have the luxury to do what they want musically.
“We’ve always been able to tour when we weren’t the hot band,” he says.
Kevin Griffin plays March 11 at the Kessler Theater.