Interview/Song Premiere: Will Griffith of The Great Dying on “Writing a Song in Blue Ink”

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photos by Michael Foster


Will Griffith of the Great Dying suffered a double blow to his heart recently when both his friend from back home, and David Berman (of the Silver Jews), committed suicide.  Taking up the pen and guitar to process the pain in the only way that made sense, “Writing a Song in Blue Ink” was born.  It was produced by Matt Patton & Bronson Tew, engineered by Bronson Tew, assisted by John Paul Foster, and recorded at Dial Back Sound in Water Valley, MS.  “Writing a Song in Blue Ink” is Will Griffith on vocals, Craig Pratt on guitar,  Merrill Sherman on pedal steel, Jimbo Mathus on organ, Matt Patton on bass, percussion, and backing vocals; and Bronson Tew on drums, and backing vocals.  We asked Will a few questions, and the song itself, with tour dates, is just below his answers.

What is the story behind this song? Was there specific inspiration or inspirations behind it, and what were they?

A friend of mine from back home killed himself earlier this month. He had been heavy on my mind when I got the news that David Berman did the same. Another friend who knew about my old buddy and of my DC fandom inspired me to write instead of going dark. I wanted to try to write like him for him, almost like a co-write. Like many I felt close to him through his writing.

What are the song’s metaphoric meanings?

I assumed that David had killed himself before it was actually known. I knew he had lived upstairs at his record label. So I used the upstairs as a metaphor for a place I’ll keep with me.. I never got to meet him so I thought about how close I’ve always felt to him but never got him in the flesh. So my life was a near miss with him and it hurts. Also the upstairs seems like heaven or wherever for a soul to rise.

How would you say the choice of instruments and the music’s arrangement helps emphasize the song’s intention?

Bronson and Matt at Dial Back had been saying I should pay more attention to the groove of my songs. The intent of my last record “Bloody Noses & Roses” was to have both slow, sad songs and over the top punk rock songs. Silver Jews especially did a great job with delivering sad or angry ideas riding atop these bouncy grooves. Pedal steel goes hand in hand with sad songs. We were working on a piano part in the studio, but none of us really plays keys. Jimbo Mathus happened by and was good enough to lay down the church organ.

What is the significance of the color blue, of the ink?

I’ve always used black pens. I found this blue pen in my tote and it called to me. I can think of several times David used blue in his music. Overall I didn’t want to write a song called “Writing A Song In Silver Ink” or something stupid.

What do you hope the song will convey to people, what’s the more universal message?

I’m thinking about the people living in the wake. I am very close to this obviously. I lost someone this way just the week before. I’m still heavy from it, but writing the song and making it with my musical family has been therapy.

This is a heartfelt song buoyed by a perfect blend of musicianship. Proceeds for the sales will be used to make a Nuci’s Space donation in February; check the tour dates beneath the song while you’re listening; and you can order it here:

Nov 2 Hattiesburg, MS – Thirsty Hippo (Will solo) [w/Royal Horses]
Nov 5 Athens, GA – Georgia Theatre Rooftop
Nov 7 Dalton, GA – Native Kitchen
Nov 8 Salem, VA – Parkway Brewing Co. [w/The Floorboards]
Nov 9 Charleston, WV – Boulevard Tavern [w/Flat Tracker]
Nov 10 Cool Ridge, WV – Weathered Ground Brewing
Nov 11 Toronto, ON – The Horseshoe Tavern [w/Dylan LeBlanc]
Nov 12  Hamilton, ON – This Ain’t Hollywood
Nov 13 Ottawa, ON – Rainbow Bistro [w/Blonde Wolf and Cassie Noble]
Nov 14 New Hope, PA – John & Peter’s
Nov 15 New York, NY – Rockwood Music Hall, Stage 2 [w/Bette Smith]
Nov 16 Brooklyn, NY – Gold Sounds [w/Captain Sugar & The Joint Chiefs]
Nov 17 Winchester, VA – Bright Box Theater [w/Jimbo Mathus]
Nov 18 Newport, KY – Southgate House Revival (Lounge) [w/Frontier Folk Nebraska]
Nov 19 Beckley, WV – Melody’s
Nov 20 Greenville, SC – Radio Room


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