Better Than Ezra Succeeding On Their Own Terms

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Rick Olivier
It's been a hot minute since we've heard from '90s hitmakers Better Than Ezra, but they've reconvened over the last year, releasing their seventh album Paper Empire and embarking on a "Road to Mardi Gras" tour which winds down New Years Eve in the band's hometown of New Orleans.

While BTE has enjoyed a few years of down time after a successful run that included 1995's Deluxe ("Good") and 1996's Friction, Baby ("Desperately Wanting"), front man Kevin Griffin hasn't exactly been kicking his feet up in leisure. The band released two quasi-under-the-radar albums, Closer and Before the Robots, in 2001 and 2005 respectively.

After Katrina, the songwriter relocated to Los Angeles, penning songs for artists including Sugarland and Howie Day and has since moved yet again to the music mecca of Nashville. Rocks Off fired off a few email questions to Griffin to discuss Ezra's resurgence and future plans, in anticipation of their Wednesday night House of Blues show.

Rocks Off: What was the impetus that made you want to start the recording/touring process again after taking a few years off?

Kevin Griffin: It's a combination of things. To start off, we have an incredibly loyal fan base. Always have. This was apparent during our annual shows at New Orleans House of Blues and the great feedback we received from fans when we launched Paper Empire.

This particular tour (Road to Mardi Gras) really grew out of the idea for Krewe of Rocckus. We'd been thinking about doing our own take on the 'rock cruise' and we knew New Orleans had to be the place. We felt we could feasibly create a platform for us to launch a big event like Krewe of Rocckus, which is more than just an incredible vacation package. It's really something that ties all the things we're about together -- the fans, the music, the city, the food -- and it is set up to grow and progress down the line.

RO: In the years off, did you maintain contact between band members? Did you do any songwriting with BTE in mind?

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KG: Absolutely. Not only do we play our annual Mardi Gras and New Years + New Year's Eve shows in New Orleans but our foundation (The Better Than Ezra Foundation) hosts a fundraising event each year. Our next event will be April 2 in New Orleans, where we are hosting a celebrity bowling tournament at Rock N Bowl followed by a concert/auction/party at Harrah's Casino.

Since 2005, we've raised over a million dollars and look to keep growing bigger and better events. Anyone interested in coming or with questions should check out the Web site and contact the director about getting involved.

As for songwriting, I'm always playing around with ideas and different hooks that could work for Better Than Ezra. That never stops.

RO: How did the band re-rev its engines to head back in the studio and go on tour?

KG: We haven't gotten in the studio yet but we've have a bunch of new songs that we are looking forward to recording. For this recent tour, The Road to Mardi Gras, we wanted to take the spirit of Mardi Gras to cities across the country along with urban funk powerhouse Big Sam's Funky Nation. Essentially, we wanted to create one big second line that would end in New Orleans with our Mardi Gras event, Krewe of Rocckus.

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