In the final days leading up to the still somewhat unfathomable passing of Michael Busbee last September, the Grammy-nominated songwriter and producer simply known as ‘busbee’ was teaching lessons to those he chose to surround himself with…simply by living his life.
One of those people was Ryan Griffin.
“Busbee had a way of busting into your life and bringing out the best in you,” Griffin tells American Songwriter in the days leading up to the August 28 release of his major label debut EP, Name on It, which includes the Busbee-produced “Right Here Right Now.” “Every conversation started with ‘how’s your family.’ He truly cared. He loved so many people so well.”
That love translated to the studio with Griffin, as he considered the directions he could go with the new EP, which would be, for some, the first look at the aspiring recording artist.
“Busbee gave me the license to be myself,” says Griffin, who fell in love with music as a teen, helping his brother with melodies to go along with the poetry he had written. “He believed in the music I wanted to create and encouraged me to do just that. It’s a powerful thing when someone comes along and says ‘I get it, I believe in what you’re creating.’ I will always be grateful to him for the confidence he gave me to make music that is honest and vulnerable.”
That honesty and that vulnerability shines bright on Name On It, a collection of songs that illuminate the gentle and caring nature of the native Floridian. Written primarily in the year leading up to the pandemic, one of the EP’s shining moments was on the only song that was actually written during the recent quarantine.
That song is “One Prayer Left.”
“We were trying to figure out our ‘new normal’ and how we were going to go about creating in this new world,” he says of the song that was recorded primarily over Zoom, with Griffin going so far to record his master vocals in the confines of his bedroom closet. “Basically its about being thankful for the people who love you and support you and champion you in life and understanding that love is all that you really need. You don’t need the big house and the fancy cars or stuff like that.”
And while Griffin and his co-writers Cameron Bedell, Thomas Finchum and Jason Massey continued to grapple with the emotional restrictions of a zoom writing session, they began to connect with the underlying message of “One Prayer Left,” despite the troubles that continued swirling around them.
“We were all in such a vulnerable state at that time, both personally and professionally, and everything was being so flipped upside down,” remembers the Platinum-certified hit maker who co-wrote Kelsea Ballerini’s No. 1 hit “Dibs,”. “I remember getting the call that our touring was definitely cancelled for the year…it was just an eye opening moment to see the silver lining in the opportunity that we all have been given.”
For Griffin, that silver lining included spending more time as of late with his growing family of his, which includes wife Talia, four-and-a-half-year-old son Levi Hart and four week old Jude Michael Griffin.
“Without this pandemic, I would not have had this time with them,” reflects Griffin, who had shared the stage with acts such as Carly Pierce and Old Dominion before everything was shut down. “I was able to love on my family. Finding the silver lining has been the key to not going crazy for me.”
Another silver lining of life in general has always been the ability to lean on his wife Talia to ensure he always keeps his songwriting priorities in order.
“I remember on the song ‘All Over Again’…that song is so real and raw and personal to me and it’s a close look into my life and struggles and marriage and relationships,” recalls Griffin. “I literally had to step back and ask myself if I wanted to be this real and this vulnerable and that’s when my wife reminded me that all I have ever wanted was to be real with people. She reminded me that I wasn’t the only one dealing with any of this.”
In other words, he could use his vulnerability and his honesty and his music abilities to teach those around him.
“This EP serves as a reminder, not only to myself, but everyone who listens to it,” he says. “It’s a reminder to, right here right now, soak in the moment and to always lead with a grateful heart.”
It’s a piece of advice Busbee would have loved, among other things.
“When Talia (my wife) and I found out we were pregnant with our second baby boy, we wanted to honor Michael James-Ryan Busbee and the incredible man he was, so Jude’s middle name is Michael,” Griffin says quietly. “We are all so thankful for the time we got with Busbee. He forever changed my life.”