Better Than Ezra Rocks Tulsa Club

Wednesday, June 3rd 2009, 9:58 am
By: News On 6

TULSA, OK - The biggest question about the rock group Better Than Ezra is one the members refuse to answer.

"We've never told anyone the meaning behind Better Than Ezra so it remains one of the great rock and roll secrets," lead singer and guitarist Kevin Griffin said with a grin.

The band was in Tulsa Tuesday for a show at the FlyTrap Music Hall and caught up with the group during sound check on Tuesday afternoon.

We tried to get Griffin to open up about the name, but with no luck.

"It shall remain that way," Griffin pledged.   "It's our only gimmick."

BTE made its stop in Tulsa to promote its latest CD, Paper Empire.

Griffin said the title is his take on the fragility of life, relationships, even government and the economy.

This is the band's first tour since a change in personnel.   Long-time drummer Travis McNabb has decided to make his side project, the country/bluegrass band Sugarland, his main gig (Sugarland will be performing at Tulsa's BOK Center with Keith Urban on August 7th).

Playing percussion now is well-known session drummer Michael Jerome, with original member Tom Drummond on bass.  On tour the band is joined by James Arthur Payne, who plays a variety of instruments and sings back-up vocals.

Tuesday afternoon the band warmed up with "Let My Love Open The Door," a Pete Townshend song from 1980, as well as "All In," a cut from BTE's new CD.

As with its previous CDs, dating back to 1993's Deluxe, all the songs on the new CD were written by Griffin.  He said he started off writing about personal experiences.  When those ran out, he started using ideas based on his voracious reading.

He also keeps "replenishing the well" by listening to new music.  "I've always devoured new music.  I've always been on a kind of journey of discovery with music."

He said for many bands the first album is the best.  "It's the culmination of everything they've learned up to that point."  But Griffin believes it's important to keep learning, to keep sampling other people's ideas.

A native of Monroe, Louisiana, Griffin formed Better Than Ezra while a student at Louisiana State University in the 1980's.

Griffin said he can understand why other bands don't like to play their own hit songs, but BTE will never tire of playing its hits, most especially "Good" from Deluxe.  "I guess they bristle at having a hit or a song that kind of ties them to a certain time, but you know that song was good to us, no pun intended."

The band was happy to be back in Tulsa for the first time in about eight years.  The members know several musicians with Tulsa ties, and Griffin has written songs for David Cook, last year's American Idol winner who spent time in the city before his big win.

Griffin said he's not directly related to the Griffin family which owns KOTV and, but he said all Griffins are distant relations.  "I'm from the Griffin clan in Atlanta, Georgia.  But I'm sure if you trace our roots we'd all end up in County Cork, Ireland."

Music may also be in the genes.  Griffin said his 3rd-grade son has already picked up a guitar.  The two songs in his repertoire:  "Johnny Be Good" and "Back In Black."