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Better Than Ezra on upcoming album and "getting another chance at bat"

From left, Michael Jerome, Kevin Griffin and Tom Drummond of Better Than Ezra.
Rick Olivier

Better Than Ezra has been around long enough to know when the time is right to release a new album. And that time is now.

"At this point I'm not going to do a record unless I just think it's awesome," singer Kevin Griffin told CBSNews.com. "There's no reason to make a record unless it's like, 'Holy [expletive], this is Better Than Ezra?' Or like, 'They're still around? They put an album out that's really great.'

Griffin, who got his start in New Orleans, but now calls Nashville, Tenn., home, has teamed with producer Tony Hoffer (Phoenix, Beck) for the new release, due out later this year. Inspiration for the set -- Better Than Ezra's first since 2009 -- comes from everywhere, including some of the popular folk/American music of today; Griffin has been listening to a lot of Mumford & Sons and The Lumineers.

"We've always reflected what we're into and what we're listening to in our albums...I kind of like to think we've evolved...I'm always going to write the way I write and sing the way I sing." Basically, it's always going to sound like Better Than Ezra, Griffin says.

"There's so many exciting things out there. And I'd be lying if I said I wasn't inspired about what's happening. It's a lot of new influences and sounds," said Griffin, who wants a good reason to go on tour."That's the goal. So it's not like, 'Let's just do an album to tour. If I'm going to tour, it's got to be something great."

Griffin spends much of his time writing and producing for other artists, recently working with the country duo Sugarland. And in between that, he's been tucking away some tracks for an upcoming Better Than Ezra album.

But before that new album arrives, Better Than Ezra is giving fans a taste from the past -- the group has just re-released its 1998 album, "How Does Your Garden Grow?," in 5.1 surround with new packaging and photos.

"It's a really long album," Griffin said of the band's third release on Elektra Records. "It really pushed us creatively with huge string sections and programming...For the Elektra albums, it was our worst-selling album, but for fans it was one their favorite albums. Music fans and critics say, 'That was your best album.'"

It's hard to believe it's been 20 years since Better Than Ezra released its sophomore album, "Deluxe," which spawned the hit single "Good."

"We started off being played on alternative radio -- those were our roots. But then like anything, what was once cutting edge becomes the norm," Griffin said.

Nowadays, Griffin, along with bassist Tom Drummond and drummer Michael Jerome, just hope to write "clever pop songs" with good lyrics and production.

"Ezra is just a band. We've been around," Griffin said. "Every once and a while -- if you stick around like Ezra's been able to do and you have a good collection of songs -- you get another chance at bat. Radio programmers are like, 'Play it for me.'"

"That's what we always wanted to be -- just a band that sticks around and just gets to do what we love to do -- play music and tour and have fun. We're just your friendly neighborhood band."