Ryan Griffin Shares How Rascal Flatts’ Jay DeMarcus Encouraged Him While Recording “Heart to Break”

Griffin’s new single “Heart To Break” was written by Adam Hambrick, Ben Stennis and David Fanning and produced by Sam Ellis and Rascal Flatts’ Jay DeMarcus.


Nicole Palsa


Posted on April 24, 2023

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Ryan Griffin; Photo Provided

Red Street Records’ artist Ryan Griffin has released his newest single “Heart to Break,” written by Adam Hambrick, Ben Stennis and David Fanning and produced by Sam Ellis and Rascal Flatts’ Jay DeMarcus.

Griffin describes heartbreak in a non-traditional way, singing, “Don’t take it personal if she don’t wanna talk / You got to understand that girl has heard it all / She’ll take the drink you buy / And then she’ll walk away / She’s just all out of heart to break.”

“Heart To Break”

YouTube video

DeMarcus (CEO of Red Street Records) shared his enthusiasm for the song in a press release.

“I feel like this is the perfect marriage of a big song with a big voice. Ryan delivers an emotionally charged, powerful performance, maybe one of his best ever, on what I believe is one of the best songs I’ve heard in a long, long time. I’m very proud of this one.”

Griffin has had previous success as a songwriter, co-writing Kelsea Ballerini’s No. 1 hit song “Dibs,” and as an artist, he has opened for acts like Lady A and Old Dominion. He became the flagship artist for the Red Street Country label last year, releasing his debut single “Salt, Lime & Tequila” which hit number three on the Billboard Country Digital Song Sales chart and claimed the No. 1 spot on SiriusXM The Highway’s Hot 30 Countdown.

Griffin sat down with Music Mayhem to chat about his journey as a new artist, how he approaches songwriting, and what it’s been like working with DeMarcus as both a producer and head of his record label.

Ryan Griffin; Photo Provided
Ryan Griffin; Photo Provided

Describe the journey of your new single “Heart to Break”

Griffin: We put it up on social media and it just kind of took off. It connected, and it was so cool to see that because when Jay and I were sitting in the room, this is actually one of the songs that I did not write, but one of my good friends did, and it sounded like a song I would’ve written. And so we grabbed it and it kind of had this pop vibe to it almost too much. I was like, Jay, I love this song, but I don’t know if we can put it in the country, make it feel country enough. And he’s like, trust me, dude. I got you. This song’s a hit. You connected with it. We all connected within the room.

Everybody that’s heard it, he’s like, just trust me. I was like, all right, buddy. So we went in the studio and l let it go in a way, and just had faith in him and trusted that he knew what he was doing because Jay DeMarcus, he’s got the history to prove it. And that song came out. It’s my favorite song I’ve ever cut, completely being completely honest with you. And he was a hundred percent right. We changed a little bit of melody here.

Ryan Griffin, Jay DeMarcus; Photo by Andrew Wendowski
Ryan Griffin, Jay DeMarcus; Photo by Andrew Wendowski

We changed a little bit of the instrumentation here, added a little bit of a country element. It fits perfectly in the genre now. When we cut the vocal, I was really apprehensive and just nervous about cutting this vocal, pretty rangy song. The phrasing was a little challenging for me. And I got in there and he just championed me and encouraged me the whole time and was like, ‘dude, you got this. You’re a hell of a singer, blah, blah, blah. Oh, that was an amazing take.’ And I’ve had a couple different producers, and not everybody’s like that. Not everybody sits there and encourages you and pulls out the best. And he did. He pulled out the best in me, and it’s one of my favorite vocals I’ve ever cut.

What has life been like for you in the past year?

Griffin: It’s been good. It’s been crazy. We were out on the road, I don’t know, 260 days last year, 280 days, something like that. And I got two little boys and a wife at home and it’s like, thank God for FaceTime.

What have you learned about promoting your music at country radio?

Griffin: I’ve always heard about it cause I’ve been in town for a little bit and had a lot of friends that have done it, and I just didn’t understand, just grind honestly, because sometimes you’re on four airplanes a day and you’re hitting four different cities and you wake up and you’re like, I’ll never forget.

One time I was like, I woke up and I’m like, where am I have no idea where I’m at because every hotel room looks the same, but it’s a blast. It’s so much fun getting out and introducing yourself to some radio folks and getting to play your music for ’em and seeing their reaction and then getting to hear it on the radio for the first time. Just that whole cycle was what I did last year and it was a first for me and it was really, really exciting.

What is your approach to releasing music?

Griffin: We’re going to release an EP, like a five or six song EP towards the end of spring. That’s kind of the path we’re taking right now. And it’s all about just continuing to put out music and feed that part of it.

From a creative standpoint, what is it like trying to create music to fit a singles’ strategy versus a collection of songs?

Griffin: So Jay DeMarcus is the head of our label, and as we know, he’s had an amazing career and he and I were actually talking last week about how different it is. He used to write for a couple months and he’d write 20 or 30 songs and then he’d pick the best four and they’d make the record. And it all kind of had a concept behind it. These days it seems like you just go into a write and you’re writing every day.

And as an artist, I know what I want to say, so I know whether the song that I’m writing that day is to pitch for other artists, because that’s another aspect of my career. Or if it’s something for me, I’ll be really specific with who I want in the room when I pitch those ideas, because I want the people that I’ve kind of grown up with my class, my crew, and the people that know how I talk, what I’d say, and just who I am as a human.

When you’re writing songs, which messages or themes do you gravitate toward?

Griffin: When I’m writing, I write mid-tempos and ballads. I write things that are vulnerable. I write things that I feel like that matter, that have meaning to ’em. I’m not the best when it comes to writing party songs. It’s just the truth. And it’s not where I live, but I really want to write music and put out music that people can grab onto and be like, yo, he’s going through this too, as a guy too.

That’s the other thing. It’s like there’s this line of vulnerability that you have to walk, you have to balance. So I just really want to be the dude that’s out there that’s telling the real stories of saying, I love my wife in this song and she’s amazing and she’s what I live for. And then also telling the truth about marriage is hard and love is hard and it’s okay. And then the song about heartbreak, which I’m pulling from these other experiences that I had kind of the broken road that led me to my wife. So the central message is all about just real life and love and loving people.

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