We all have those artists and songs we hear that strike the right chord and make us fall in love at first listen. They’re the reason we refresh social media pages, tour schedules, and Spotify profiles — because we can’t miss a single release. This is Love at First Listen — a new series introducing you to the emerging, and established, artists with new music guaranteed to upgrade your playlist.
In February, I spotlighted rising country artist Griffen Palmer, who quickly established himself as an Artist to Watch in 2023 with his still-trending introductory release “Second Guessing.” There was certainly no “second guessing” his star talent and he is showcasing it again on his debut album, ‘Unlearn,’ out today (Apr. 28). Boasting some of the most vulnerable tracks of his songwriting career, ‘Unlearn’ is a musical journey covering life, love, family, relationships, and all the moments in between. The album also has several jam-out moments, perfectly suited for the upcoming summer festival season.
To celebrate album release day, I caught up with Griffen for a Love at First Listen (Round Two) to reflect on his whirlwind year to date (a single, two music videos, and this album — and it’s only April!), hear his message for teenage Griffen, and reveal where he will be performing this summer.
It feels like just weeks ago you were making your introduction to the world as an artist with “Second Guessing.” What was going through your mind when you pressed publish on that first social media post announcing today’s album release?
It’s crazy how last time we talked was before the first song came out and now here we are again with so much going on. At the time, I just felt like, ‘We’re here!’ This whole project has been four years in the making, so it’s fun now that all the hard work is behind me—for the most part—and I can share it all with people. It’s a really awesome feeling.
Let’s talk about the title — ‘Unlearn.’ What does that word mean to you in the context of this album?
The title track is the most personal song on the record, by far. My parents split up when I was eight years old, so relationships looked a little confusing to me when I was a kid. The song is about growing up, learning to make the decision of what that looks like for yourself, and unlearning some of the bad habits or things you thought were true but aren’t necessarily true. It was one of the last songs we added to the record because it was one that I felt pretty overwhelmed about sharing, but the more I started playing it for people, the more I realized it was a universal feeling. It felt like if I was going to put out one song for people to get to know me and a bit of my story, this seemed like the one.
This album is the culmination of four years spent writing hundreds of songs. How did you narrow that all down to eight songs, and were there any that called out to you first?
“Second Guessing” was such a big part of my story. “Came Here to Leave” was a song I really loved and had a fresh take for the record. “Bottles on the Table” was also always a frontrunner in my mind. A lot of them just felt like they needed to be a part of this. They felt different, they felt like me, and they were ones I was most excited for people to hear.
I’m a big fan of weaving song titles into questions, so was there a song you were “second guessing” putting on the final tracklist but are ultimately glad made the cut?
“Unlearn” is that one for me. I’d never released a very personal song as an artist before, so I just wasn’t sure how vulnerable I really wanted to be. I’m so glad in the end I decided to do it.
You mentioned on Instagram that you’ve been “dreaming of putting out [your] own album for as long as [you] can remember.” What message do you have for young Griffen now that the big day is finally here?
This is actually funny. My dad just found a letter I’d written in seventh or eighth grade that was supposed to be written to myself in college. In it, I’m asking myself, ‘Are you still playing guitar and writing songs? What’s going on with that? I hope you haven’t given it up yet.’ So, this really has been something I’ve been doing for a long time. I would write a letter back saying, ‘All those times you are regretting or nervous about if it’s going to work out, just try to keep having fun and you’ll get there eventually.’ I would save myself some sleepless nights worrying if it’ll ever work out for me.
You just wrapped a run of tour dates opening for your Big Loud labelmate, Lily Rose. What does the rest of this spring and summer have in store for you? (Last time we spoke, you mentioned more opportunities for fans to see you live!)
Our festival dates are just getting announced now. We’ll have the whole band out playing in British Columbia, Lasso in Montreal, and a bunch of shows in Ontario, along with some U.S. stuff including CMA Fest. I can’t wait to just sweat in the streets of Nashville with everybody. It’ll be great, and it’s all fun stuff on the horizon.