Alistair Griffin

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Alistair Griffin
Cobden Club, London - Alistair Griffin 14-12-2008.JPG
Background information
Birth name Alistair Richard Griffin
Born (1977-11-01) 1 November 1977 (age 36)
Origin Middlesbrough, England
Genres Pop rock
Years active 2000–present
Labels Universal /UMTV (2003–2004)

Alistair Richard Griffin (born 1 November 1977) is an English singer-songwriter and musician. Already an established songwriter, he first became famous as a solo artist through his appearances on the BBC television show Fame Academy 2 in 2003, where he was mentored by Robin Gibb of the Bee Gees. He subsequently had two top twenty hit singles and a top twenty album in the UK.

Early career[edit]

Alistair Griffin was born in Middlesbrough, England. He started singing and writing songs whilst still a student at York St. John College (now York St. John University), playing guitar and busking on the streets of York with a small band. His wide musical influences range from classic rock and Britpop, to English and American folk music. After graduating with a BA (Hons) in English Literature and following a brief stint working as a milkman around his home town, he moved to London to pursue a career as a singer/songwriter.

In 2001, as vocalist with the pop/rock band Sugartown, he performed in front of 70,000 people at the Leeds Party in the Park. The following year, he and his occasional songwriting partner, Stuart Hanna (now part of folk duo Megson) formed the band Pulse, and co-wrote the song "Fade Away" (having recorded the song on an 8-track in Hanna's bedroom) and entered it for the 2002 Song for Europe competition on BBC Radio 2. The song was shortlisted, and a performance by Pulse was broadcast, but it failed to reach the finals.

Griffin was briefly a member of the boyband Ultra and spent some time working in Germany with DJ Sammy. It was widely reported that he auditioned for the boyband Blue, only narrowly failing to make it to the final line-up, but Griffin later dismissed this as a fabrication by the press. Although signed by music publisher Trevor Horn's company, Perfect Songs, he was unable to get a solo recording contract and in 2002, he applied to become a contestant on the first series of Fame Academy.

Fame Academy[edit]

Griffin reached the final audition stage of Fame Academy 1 on his first attempt in 2002, but was not chosen to appear on the show. He re-applied for a place on Fame Academy 2 the following year and was voted through by the public with the highest vote of the preliminary round. The vocal coaches criticized both his voice and image, calling them "unoriginal", "unidentifiable" and "boybandish"; however, guest judge Robin Gibb of the Bee Gees said Griffin had a "unique talent" as a vocalist and songwriter, an "ideal recording voice" with "an engaging vocal tone". His technically accomplished live performances and proven songwriting ability gradually gained him the support of the public. As the final approached, he was dubbed the "dark horse" of the show by BBC Three presenter Claudia Winkleman,[1] and eventually finished in second place.

The final showdown was screened live and generated so many angry messages from viewers claiming bias that the BBC were forced to close down their Points of View message boards. Daniel Bedingfield, who duetted with both finalists, later made a public apology to Griffin for his behaviour, particularly for his outburst that people should "just vote for Alex". The actual voting figures have never been publicly released.

Griffin said about Fame Academy: It helped open some doors that would otherwise have been closed to me, but equally closed quite a few which may have something to do with why it has taken me so long to come back from it all. Fame Academy was a bizarre, surreal and wonderful experience. I think it’s fair to say it was a bit of a double-edged sword in terms of how it shaped my future musically. It was a good experience and taught me a great deal about the music industry while also giving me the exposure I needed and was desperately failing to obtain going it alone for all the years previously.

After Fame Academy[edit]

Padock gig.jpg

During 2004, Griffin performed live at over 50 gigs up and down the UK and appeared on numerous television programmes, including Top of the Pops and Liquid News. In March of that year, he also competed in the European 'WorldBest' competition in Cannes, singing live with Phil Collins.

The live performances of his own material that he gave throughout that year, singing acoustically and with the backing of a regular 5-piece band, Riccardi, showed a marked difference from the generic 'pop' approach of his record company. After parting from UMTV, he abandoned his record company's 'pop style' backing tracks and his former 'boyband' image.

In the autumn, he supported Robin Gibb on his 'Magnet' tour of Germany, opening each concert with an acoustic set of his own songs, playing guitar and accompanied on keyboards by long-time friend and fellow musician, Simon Waggott (Waggo), as well as joining Gibb on stage to duet on "My Lover's Prayer". On his return, he released an independent recording of his live performances in Germany, which he showcased at a series of concerts in the North of England.

During 2005, Griffin continued to perform live, both solo and with Riccardi, but split with them later that year. He moved back to York and although there were rumours of a new recording deal, nothing materialized. In November, he assembled a new backing band and performed his first London gig for over a year at The Bedford, where he showcased several new compositions.

Albion[edit]

In April 2006, Griffin announced that he would shortly be forming a new band,[2] and that he would no longer be pursuing a solo career, but rather be concentrating on working and writing with his new band, that he called Albion. For some time, he performed solo only at charity events and small local venues.

The initial lineup proved unsuccessful, with James and Tom Martin leaving a few months later to form another indie band, The Station Club. At the end of 2006, Griffin (guitar and vocals) and Walter Laybourne (drums), were joined by Paul Banks (ex Shed Seven) (guitars and keyboard) and Paul 'Foda' Fothergill (bass).

At the beginning of 2007, Griffin set up his own recording studio called Oakwood near York. Despite writing and recording numerous songs together and releasing several free download tracks, Albion split up abruptly in August 2007 for reasons which were not made public. When interviewed, Griffin commented "Things weren’t working out the way we anticipated and it seemed the right time to call it a day".[3]

After Albion

When interviewed shortly after disbanding Albion in August 2007, he confirmed his intention to resume recording and performing as a solo artist, although he has since performed several times at society weddings and other functions as well as at charity concerts, fronting his covers band, Blue Nun.

As well as pursuing various other projects, he wrote and recorded material for his next solo album. He performed several of these brand new songs live with his own (unnamed) backing band in May 2008, during a short tour of smaller venues in the UK supporting recently signed indie band Ivyrise.

In August 2008, he headlined the Truck Stage at the H2008:Beached festival in Scarborough and was also booked to return there for Acoustic Gathering 111 in September. UK tour dates with Ivyrise were announced for September as well as an additional appearance at the Grand Opera House, York.

In December 2008, he made an impromptu appearance with David Smith and The Mojos.

Recordings[edit]

Alistair Grifin

In 1999–2000, Griffin recorded several demos of his own compositions which were made available online at Songmanagement.com.[4] These have never been officially released.

In 2002, he recorded the football anthem "Stand Up" which was included in the compilation album Boro Songs - The Sound Of The Riverside.

Several covers he recorded for the Fame Academy programme were released as download-only tracks by the BBC during the course of the show in 2003. These were also included in the compilation albums Fame Academy "Bee Gees Special" and Fame Academy - The Finalists, also released in 2003.

In October 2003, Griffin signed a record deal with UMTV and at the end of December released his first single, "Bring It On"; a double A-side also featuring "My Lover's Prayer", a duet with Robin Gibb. Although it received very little airplay, it was voted #1 for 6 consecutive weeks on the music TV channel The Box, and reached the top 5 in the UK Singles Chart. On 9 January 2004, he was therefore able to fulfil one of his lifetime ambitions to appear live on Top of the Pops.

In January 2004, he released his debut album, also titled Bring It On, featuring mainly self-penned songs. This charted at number 12 in the UK Albums Chart. His second single, "You and Me (Tonight)", reached the top 20 but Griffin parted with both his record company and management soon afterwards.

In late 2004, he released an independent solo CD, Live in Germany, featuring live recordings of the acoustic set he performed in Germany while supporting Robin Gibb. This included "Bring it On", "You and Me (Tonight)", "In Your Smile" and "I Have Lived" with a cover of "I Can't Make You Love Me". The limited edition CD was only made available for a short time at his concerts.

At his Christmas concert in December 2006, he released another independently recorded, three track solo CD, Finding Boethius, consisting of one co-written song, "Let Love Speak Its Name", a cover of "Hallelujah" which he regularly sings live, and an acoustic cover of "Love Will Tear Us Apart".

Brand new versions of four of the songs which were originally recorded with his former band Albion, but never released, are included on his most recent solo CD Alistair Griffin (May 2008), again produced independently and only available to buy at live concerts during the Ivyrise tour. These are "Blown Away", "I Have Lived", "Silent Suicide" and "Is It Me".

Unreleased demos of his own compositions are regularly previewed on his official Myspace.[5]

Griffin's third single "Just Drive" entered the UK Singles Chart at number 38, after being played in full over the BBC's F1 montage at the end of the 2010 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. The track was produced with David Watts at the Oakwood Studios, York.[6] "Just Drive" is the title song for Sky's F1 coverage.[7]

In July 2012, he released his second solo album Albion Sky, on the label Dramatico Entertainment.

Griffin's song "Always, No.1" was played in full over the BBC's F1 montage at the end of the 2012 Brazilian Grand Prix.

Recording "Hallelujah Mark Viduka"

In February 2007, Griffin sang at a charity event at the Riverside Stadium, home of Middlesbrough Football Club. After his performance of Leonard Cohen’s "Hallelujah", he asked the audience if they would like to hear an alternative version, based on Cohen’s song, but with new words dedicated to the Boro hero at that time, Australian striker Mark Viduka. Keeping faithfully to Cohen's melody, Griffin's vocals are sung to a simple acoustic backing, forming a contrast to the altered lyrics which reference the particular skills of Viduka and several other popular players in the team, as well as some of their opponents.[8]

After hearing the song, Middlesbrough manager Gareth Southgate was so taken with it, he asked Griffin to make a special recording to play at the following day’s match. It was played to the crowd at half-time and to the players in the dressing room after the game.

In an interview with the Daily Mail, Boro’s Aussie international keeper Mark Schwarzer said:

“It’s a great song. He (Mark Viduka) is already copping some stick about it and I’m going to make sure he gets some more from the Australia camp — I’m going to make sure they get to hear it as well. We played it in the dressing room afterwards and were a bit unsure about it to begin with but the chorus is pretty good. We all sang and I think Mark was a little bit embarrassed by it but I think he enjoyed it”[9]

The BBC Sports Review described the song as the "football anthem of the week, year, decade and possibly all time",[10] and the Irish Times called it "a bit on the excellent side".[11] TV and radio coverage followed. A film of Griffin performing the song with other young Middlesbrough supporters appeared on Sky Sports News, and he also appeared on the BBC's and ITV's regional news programmes. In addition to interviews on local radio stations, Griffin was also interviewed on BBC Radio Five Live. The song was also broadcast on several channels in Australia and on the BBC World Service.

Southgate embraced the tune as a way of raising money for his chosen charity, Macmillan Cancer Support. Leonard Cohen was approached and gave permission for the song to be released as a charity download.[12]

Songwriting[edit]

Griffin's songs cover a wide range of genres, from light pop and romantic ballads to anthemic rock. After recording several demos, he obtained a publishing deal with Trevor Horn's Perfect Songs. He has also co-written songs with a number of other artists, including James Hearn, Michael Harwood, Nick Keynes and Jon O'Mahony of Ultra, Robin Gibb, singer/songwriter Richard Chance, Liverpudlian songwriting duo Chris and Tony Griffiths (of ex-Britpop band The Real People), and Paul Banks (ex Shed Seven).

In 2002, "Fade Away", one of several songs co-written with Stuart Hanna, was shortlisted for the Song for Europe competition. That year Griffin also co-wrote the football anthem "England Crazy" which was recorded by Rider and Terry Venables. He also recorded his own version of the Boro anthem "Stand Up", which was included in the compilation album Boro Songs - The Sound Of The Riverside.

Several covers of his earlier songs have achieved notable chart success in the Netherlands. "You and Me" appears on the #1 album Impressed, released in 2003 by Jim Bakkum, runner-up in the Dutch series of Pop Idol; Do’s ballad "Angel By My Side" (co-written with James and Tom Martin) reached the Dutch Top 10 in 2004 and "Hungry For Love" (co-written with Greg Fitzgerald and Tom Nichols) was covered by rock band Di-rect, getting to number 3 early in 2005.

Griffin's debut album, Bring It On consisted mainly of songs that he wrote or co-wrote before being signed. During his time in Fame Academy, he also co-wrote several new songs with the students and the songwriters on the show. "Painkiller", (co-written with Greg Fitzgerald and Tom Nichols) along with "A Heart Can't Lie", co-written with fellow student Louise Griffiths, both appeared on his debut album.

He has also written and co-written songs for albums by Phixx (2004), Ultra (2006), Bel's Boys (2007), and Cascada (2009).

In 2005, he resumed his writing partnership with James and Tom Martin. He has since recorded new versions of several of these songs with Albion, which were made available as free downloads on Myspace in 2007.

Personal life[edit]

Griffin was brought up in Castleton, a small moorland village near Whitby, North Yorkshire. He has two older sisters. He has retained strong links with his family and his local community and often performs at local events to raise money for good causes. In 2003, without his knowledge, his mother, Barbara Griffin, offered a date with him as a prize in a charity raffle for the Whitby Christmas Lights Appeal. Enough money was raised to light the town for the next three years.[13] A former junior tennis champion, he played tennis and also performed with Riccardi in Sir Cliff Richard's pro/celebrity Tennis Tournament in December 2004.

Discography[edit]

Albums[edit]

Year Title Peak chart positions
UK
2004 Bring It On 12
2012 Albion Sky -

Apart from his two albums, he has also brought out the EP Mogganaut, containing four tracks.

Singles[edit]

Year Single Peak chart positions Album
UK[14]
2003 "Bring It On/My Lover's Prayer" 5 Bring It On
2004 "You and Me (Tonight)" 18
2007 "Mark Viduka" Non-album release
2010 "Just Drive" 38
Featured in
Year Single Peak chart positions Album
UK[14]
2012 "I Wish For You the World"
(The Games Maker Choir feat. Alistair Griffin)[15]
70 Non-album release

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Whitby Gazette". Whitbytoday.co.uk. Retrieved 2012-05-21. 
  2. ^ Updated 8:00pm 21 May 2012 (2006-07-29). "Bring it on Alistair ...with new band - Local News - News". Gazette Live. Retrieved 2012-05-21. 
  3. ^ Dave Robson (2007-08-23). "News - Local News - END OF ROAD". Gazette Live. Retrieved 2012-05-21. 
  4. ^ "The Leading Singh Management Site on the Net". songmanagement.com. Retrieved 2012-05-21. 
  5. ^ Un (2010-08-03). "Alistair Griffin | Gratis muziek, tourneedata, foto's, video's". Myspace.com. Retrieved 2012-05-21. 
  6. ^ Dave Robson (2010-11-16). "Alistair Griffin's new song motors up the charts - Local News - News". Gazette Live. Retrieved 2012-05-21. 
  7. ^ Channel's title music is made public (2012-03-07). "'Just Drive' for Sky Sports F1". Sky Sports. Retrieved 2012-05-21. 
  8. ^ [1][dead link]
  9. ^ "Southgate tribute to on-song Viduka | Mail Online". Dailymail.co.uk. 2007-02-25. Retrieved 2012-05-21. 
  10. ^ "606 - - A20377668 - Review of the week". BBC. Retrieved 2012-05-21. 
  11. ^ Email Us (2007-03-05). "Planet Football - The Irish Times - Mon, Mar 05, 2007". The Irish Times. Retrieved 2012-05-21. 
  12. ^ [2][dead link]
  13. ^ "Newsquest - Home". Archive.yorkpress.co.uk. Retrieved 2012-05-21. 
  14. ^ a b Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 236. ISBN 1-904994-10-5. 
  15. ^ "I Wish for You the World (feat. Alistair Griffin) - Review". iTunes. Retrieved 16 December 2012. 

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