Hope Griffin in July 2016. Photo by Micah Mackenzie, courtesy of Hope Griffin.

Hope Griffin in July 2016. Photo by Micah Mackenzie, courtesy of Hope Griffin.

Alaska calls Hope home

Among this year’s Alaska Folk Festival lineup of artists is Hope Griffin, a singer/songwriter based out of Asheville, North Carolina, whose music has been inspired by Alaska regardless of her physical distance from the state.

Griffin was born in Anchorage and has deep family ties to Alaska, but only spent five years of her life here before moving to California. Still, the awe-inspiring land she left remained forever close to her heart.

The stories she was told by her father about his experiences in Alaska affected her and influenced the way she approaches her creative process. Many of the songs she’s written aim to capture the essence of the Last Frontier such as her song “A Fisherman’s Life” that won “Best Song” in Western North Carolina in 2016. With Alaska on the brain since the day she left it, this trip to Juneau is what she’s referring to as her “return home.”

Griffin was raised in a household where classical music thrived and singing was encouraged. Her father was a cellist and her mother a pianist. She grew up performing and exhibiting her vocal prowess at church, in choir, and at school in band. She remembers belting out songs on car rides and during other unplanned moments of her childhood too.

“Because singing’s always been such a huge part of my life it’s a running joke that I was singing since I came out of my momma,” Griffin said. “Even now it’s how (my family acts) around the holidays…randomly singing and harmonizing. Music has always been so important to me, and it’s always been something that I’ve been good at, so it was easy for me to know that’s what I wanted to pursue.”

After her father completed his music degree, the family continued to hop around the country. Griffin landed in Tennessee after high school and decided to attend Carson-Newman University, following in her father’s footsteps in pursuit of a music degree. She graduated with a bachelors degree in Classical Voice.

However, what would transform her life and ultimately sent her flying in a successful direction occurred outside of the classroom. Inside her dorm, after a full day of musical instruction, Griffin devoted her free time to learning guitar and writing songs inspired by her journal. It was after one of the songs she’d written won a talent contest at her school that she realized she had a knack for songwriting.

From that experience, a seed was planted that had the opportunity to blossom once Griffin moved to Asheville where she originally moved for a recreation job.

“I had no idea when I moved there but it turned out to have a really strong music scene,” Griffin said.

Griffin developed her sound and love for ballads while in Asheville. She’s also played with other musicians. In 2014, Griffin became interested in expanding her acoustic sound and went in search of a cellist. Jamie Leigh Bennett more than fit the bill and has been a part of Griffin’s team ever since.

She’s won the “Best Singer/Songwriter” and ‘’Best Acoustic/Folk Band” awards in Western North Carolina. She’s released a new album every year since 2015. Her first album “Say What You Will” was a four-year project. In 2016 “Where the Soil and the Stars Meet” took on the form of a full length album containing a total of 10 songs. In 2017, Griffin came out with a six-song Christmas album “And the Lights Will Shine” with holiday favorites such as “Mr. Grinch” but also one original song.

Although plenty of her music has been cultivated and performed within the North Carolina area, Griffin’s tunes have been displayed on stages throughout the United States. Griffin’s free-spirited nature comes from traveling as a youth and her connection to Alaska. Once the opportunity was presented, it didn’t take much convincing to get her to come and perform in Juneau.

“The mountains and the sea have always been calling me,” Griffin said. “’I’ve always wanted to come back to Alaska … to play music where I was from.”

It was her brother Dan’el Griffin, who, having made Juneau his home after completing school at the University of Alaska Southeast, ultimately persuaded Hope to return.

“(Alaska) is where I feel like my heart has always been,” Griffin said. “As much as it can be without living there anyway.”

Her brother swears she’ll end up living here one day to which Griffin responded — “Yeah, probably!”

Griffin’s cellist will be joining her on this trip. She promises her song, “A Fisherman’s Life” describes Alaska “through and through,” and will make it into her set for the Folk Festival along with other songs she says blends genres while “reflecting on the emotions that unite us all.”

Griffin will not only be playing at the Folk Festival Tuesday evening at 9:45 p.m., but will be taking the time to perform at UAS on the same evening at 5:30, the Downtown Heritage Coffee shop location on April 12 at 4 p.m., and the Viking on April 13 at 10:30 p.m. during her weeklong visit.

To learn more about her upcoming performances or to sample her music, go to hopegriffin.com. She expects to release more music this year.

 


 

• Mackenzie Fisher is a freelance writer living in Juneau.

 


 

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