At 21-years-old, Griffin Oskar packed his bags, grabbed his guitar, and moved from Portland, OR to Los Angeles, CA. At first glance, it might sound like a familiar story, but he had no intentions of chasing the spotlight. Rather, he wanted to be behind the scenes.
“I didn’t plan on becoming an artist at all,” he admits. “I thought the skills I had were that of a songwriter or producer, so I figured I would go that route.”
In Portland, he had written a song called "Hostage.”. In 2015, as he began working with a myriad of artists around Los Angeles, he returned to that track to properly finish it. Rolling the dice, he uploaded it online under the name Småland, named after a small village in Sweden—the country of his father’s birth. Swedish electronic dance music producer Danrell heard the song and reached out to do a remix. The remix would eventually amass over 6 million Soundcloud plays, and went #1 on the US Viral and Global Viral charts, while an unofficial Spotify upload garnered 7.2 million streams.
“I wanted the focus to be on the song,” Griffin goes on. “I didn’t want it to be based on what I look like or anything else but the music. That’s why I chose that name. I’d visited the town of Småland as a kid with my father. That moniker served its purpose, and I felt like it was okay to go by who I am after the reaction.”
Republic Records reached out and signed Griffin the same day of their initial meeting. In between writing for other artists, he put the finishing touches on his debut EP, Hostage. Evoking the poetic lyricism of Jeff Buckley and Leonard Cohen, emotional delivery, and a production palette that nods to everything from Coldplay to B.o.B, he crafts a signature style that’s equally soulful and striking. The lead single and title track tempers an electro-tinged cinematic soundscape with a hypnotic hook that’s impossible to shake.
“The song is about the stage you sometimes get to in a relationship where there are a lot of good things and a lot of bad things, and you’re not sure which one outweighs the other,” he explains.
Whether it’s the airy blues of the piano-driven “Bulletproof” or the upbeat, yet confessional catchiness of “Never Loved Me,” Hostage hints at the scope of Griffin’s creative oeuvre. Ultimately, each emotion connects in its own right.
“I feel like people have had their fill of party music,” he loves off. “I think there’s a desire for something a little more soulful. I’ve never been a fan of super dark music. There are enough sad things as it is. Why write songs that remind people of that? You can spread a little happiness a different way. That’s the take away.”