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Griff Is Going Places. She’s Also (Finally) Coming To Australia.

Interview by Isobel Knight

British songwriter Griff has been making waves since her first single Mirror Talk dropped in 2019, making her way through the pop world with her own distinct voice. She’s opened for Coldplay, played Glastonbury, won a Brit award, and alongside being a producer to be reckoned with, she can hand-make an outfit or a backdrop to complete the vision she has for a live show. She sat down with Ramona to talk songwriting, live sets and what she’s learned from the big stages she’s had the chance to shine on.

RAMONA: Have you ever been to Australia before?

GRIFF: No I haven’t, I’ve wanted to for ages.

RAMONA: We’re so excited to have you coming down under, and thanks for sitting down with Ramona for a bit this morning! Are you nervous about the animals here at all?

GRIFF: Oh I hadn’t thought about it… I know it’s one of the things you think of when you’re a kid, that Australia has crocodiles and stuff haha. Am I safe?

RAMONA: Oh yeah you’re safe. They’re cute! I hope you get to meet a koala, they’re the best.

You’re playing Heaps Good in both Adelaide and Melbourne and the lineup is stacked! Is there anyone you’re particularly keen to see?

GRIFF: Well I know my friend Holly Humberstone is playing… and Declan McKenna; I think he’s amazing. A few Brits are coming over! 

RAMONA: I don’t know if you and Holly have worked together musically but I’ve had the thought with both of you – your songwriting is really honest. When you’re in a festival setting, and people are there to just have the day of their lives with a sick lineup and you’re there with your heart on a plate; how’s your headspace in those moments, how do you go into those sets?

GRIFF: Yeah I find them the most nerve wracking, because you don’t know if people know you, especially when you’re in a new country… you’re also just hoping that people turn up. When you go into those spaces they just look so big, so you’re wondering ‘how on earth are we going to fill this?’. But it’s always a really pleasant surprise. I love festivals, because those are the moments in my career that I can mark where I’m the most shocked that people know my lyrics. 

RAMONA: I know you won a Brit award for Best New Artist, which – congratulations – is a clear marker of these things but I’m sure you have  internal moments as an artist where you clock like ‘Wow, people are really listening to what I have to say’. Do you have any of those moments in your mind where you realised that this project, that ‘Griff’ was really reaching people?

GRIFF: The Brits was definitely a moment. I’d say Glastonbury was a big one for me. I don’t think I appreciated what Glastonbury was because I didn’t really grow up going to festivals, it was only after I’d done it that I was like “oh this is a really big deal’. Taylor Swift has always been really nice about my music and every now and again she’s like reached out or shouted out my music; that’s always a really surreal moment to have your hero know what songs you’re playing now.

RAMONA: I think one of her shoutouts was actually how I found your music, so she really came through on that one.

One of the things I wanted to ask; you’re playing at the Heaps Good music festivals [in Melbourne on NYE and Adelaide on January 6th] but then also at Fortitude Music Hall in Brissy. When you’re curating a set for people who came just for you, like headline shows, are there any songs that you love being able to be like ‘the people who really get my music are going to pop off when they hear this one’?

GRIFF: Yeah definitely. The festival set and the headline set are very different. The festival one is mainly about a good time, keeping the energy up. And then the headlines… I’ve been enjoying playing a lot of unreleased music. Up until this point I’ve been playing a song called ‘Astronaut’, which hadn’t come out, and that was my way of gauging whether it’s ready to come out or not. I’ve been really enjoying playing acoustic songs or covers that I really love. Last year I did an Imogen Heap cover just because I love her, and I felt like my fans would love it and her too.

RAMONA: Which Imogen song?

GRIFF: I played Hide and Seek, obviously.

RAMONA: Man, I wish I’d been there. Do you feel like your early songs, like Mirror Talk, do you play them differently now?

GRIFF: Oh they definitely feel different. In some ways I find them hard to play because they definitely feel like a different place or a different person, so sometimes when I’m coming to make the setlist I think like “should I put it in, should I not…”. But it’s also really nice that people still seem to really connect with that early stuff.

RAMONA: What do you look forward to when it comes to planning a live show? What’s the thing that lights you up?

GRIFF: I don’t know… it’s mainly nerves until I’m actually in the moment haha. But I always look forward to doing something a bit special; I think when you’re a newer artist, you’re not touring with a huge budget and I kind of love the challenge of that. Like sure we don’t have the budget but what do we want to make this feel like? I think all of my headline shows so far I’ve handmade a big backdrop. 

RAMONA: I love that. I feel like Caroline Polachek has spoken about that a bit, how she now has the budget to do the things she’s always been doing; building sets by hand as you said. And hopefully one day the budget will be there and you can still hand-make the stuff if you want to haha.

GRIFF: Exactly.

RAMONA: And I may have gotten this wrong, but do you make your own clothes as well?

GRIFF: Yeah I do, especially starting out, I used to do it all the time because I couldn’t afford a huge stylist but I wanted to wear these cool dresses, so I just decided to make my own variations of them. I still really love making my own stuff, I just have less and less time to do that.

RAMONA: When you’ve opened for people who do have the budget – when you’ve opened for Ed Sheeran or Dua Lipa – have there been things from their shows that you’d love to one day incorporate into how you do a live set?

GRIFF: Definitely. I think obviously the Coldplay tour is such a big scale and those lights are just insane. Seeing creative audience participation on that scale is just really cool. And then with Ed it’s funny because it’s almost the opposite – he can still sell all these venues and it’s literally just him and a guitar. It’s almost reassuring; I don’t need all the bells and whistles.

RAMONA: And the songs just have to be there, hey. I want to talk about ‘Astronaut’ because I love that song. When it comes to the writing process for that, when you’re playing those big stages the temptation might be to write songs that are correspondingly huge, or like something that’ll make people jump at a festival, but instead you generously gave us this song that’s so vulnerable and gentle. One of the things I’ve loved on the relisten I did to your catalogue is your production choices – do you speak into production, or is the core thing for you melody and lyrics?

GRIFF: I produce everything. Again, starting out I didn’t want to wait on a producer to come back to me with bounces, so I taught myself logic and started making beats. When I started out I made all the music, and still, I’m always producing. 

I made, like you said, a first version of ‘Astronaut’ that was quite heavy, never jumpable or dance ready but definitely more electronic, and then I got some great advice from Chris Martin, just saying that the song is great and to strip it back. So I reworked it in that way and I’m so glad I did, because now I feel like the song can really breathe.

RAMONA: I think it’s such a skill – I should have guessed or known that you were a producer because you can build something musically to have a pop hook but also you feel it the whole way through. You never switch off and just bop.

GRIFF: I feel like when I’ve heard the songs a million times I end up a bit like “well are they still good’? So that’s great to hear, thank you.

RAMONA: I want to know what you’re listening to right now – what’s Griff’s December playlist?

GRIFF: I’ve been listening to a lot of Enya lately, she’s so good. Also Dijon! I’ve also been listening to Gang of Youths actually. Magnolia is great, and Let Me Down Easy. Enya’s been really soundtracking my days though.

RAMONA: Do you think what you’re listening to shapes your songwriting at the moment? Do you go through performing and writing phases or do you write all the time?

GRIFF: I’m trying to figure that one out at the moment. I think instinctually when I got into this I was like “I’m a songwriter, and i can’t go a day without writing”, and it’s funny I think now in terms of what’s demanded of an artist I’ve gotten out of the practice of writing songs every day because the job is so much less about just music haha.

I miss the practice of being able just to train that muscle. But definitely what I listen to shapes the things I write. I think when I listen back to…like Haim and Lorde, I can definitely see parallels to what I was writing at that time. There’s going to be so much new music next year, and I feel really proud of it; it feels like the right next step for me.

RAMONA: Can you give us any hints about what’s to come in terms of the sonic flavour?

GRIFF: There was a minute between the pandemic and now where I was doing a lot of touring, and I haven’t released any music, so now it’s time to just go and release loads. It’s going to get a lot more euphoric and a lot more optimistic. 

New music is on the horizon, and Griff is an act to see as she evolves from strength to strength. Catch all the magic that she has to offer at her first live shows here in Aus; Heaps Good festival both on Kaurna country (Adelaide) and Naarm (Melbourne), and shows at Fortitude Music Hall in Meanjin (Brisbane). Details below and tickets here!


Sunday 31 December 2023 – Heaps Good, Sidney Myer Music Bowl, Melbourne

Tuesday 2 January 2024 – Fortitude Music Hall, Brisbane

Wednesday 3 January 2024 – Metro Theatre, Sydney

Saturday 6 January 2024 – Heaps Good, Adelaide Showground, Adelaide

Isobel Knight

Isobel Knight is a musician and writer from Gadigal country in Sydney. Her album Here Now is available everywhere, and she writes about international development and the arts for UN Youth and a variety of independent magazines.

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