Brighton’s latest pop sensation Ben Griffith and new face of the Ford Focus talks to Charles Whitworth about his forthcoming EP ‘Tea & Sympathy’ and the power of the media…
CW: Hello Ben, and thank you for taking the time to talk to us.
Your MySpace site defines you as a psych-pop acoustic artist. Can you tell us a bit about this genre and how it differs from other music in the charts at the moment?
BG:Wow what a first question! Well that definition is a quote from Time-out,
but there have been a number of attempts to sum up my style and define
what I write.
I think the nicest definition so far is Serene and Slightly Melancholic,
Acoustic indie but again a journalist at Time-out wrote that too.
I find it very difficult to define myself and my music in a few words
because I hate the idea of a definition restricting my writing or my
audience. I write what I write, and there are no limitations except those that I impose on myself.
I like to think of my tunes as honest and emotional bundles of joy, with some catchiness thrown in to give them some bounce. If people can relate to a tune and it turns out to be popular once all the parts are in place I guess that’s just an added bonus. And I guess that’s where the psych-pop acoustic definition comes from…?
CW: You also state that your main influences are Gomez, The Beach Boys and Turin Brakes. What was it about these bands that appealed to you and how does each of these bands influence your music?
BG: To be honest I’ve been influenced by loads of artists over the years but I think the main musical influences on anyone are those that surround you when you are growing up. My folks were into The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Simon and Garfunkel, Cat Stevens, Pink Floyd, The Police, to name but a few and I was encouraged to listen to some classical music too. But as a teenager I fell in love with Grunge. Bands like Sonic Youth, Nirvana and Pearl Jam and the English bands pushing that scene in the UK like The Verve and Ride. The Grunge bands had such artistic freedom and emotional expression, and as a teenager I really loved that scene. For me “Nirvana Unplugged” is still one of the best Albums of all time.
CW: Your new EP ‘Tea & Sympathy’ is released on iTunes on 1st October on your own record label ‘Cakewalk Records’ – what advice do you have for the nation’s students who are struggling to find themselves a deal or even setting up their own?
BG: I’m incredibly excited about my first release. It feels like everything I’ve been working towards and pushing for over the last 10 years is finally happening for me, and what I’ve learnt about the business along the way will hopefully stand me in good stead with this self-release. The path I’m following isn’t the easiest and is fairly untrodden. But I really believe in myself, my songs and my band, and that is the foundation to this whole thing, the music. And the music is the priority, don’t take it for granted or lose focus of that. It’s a cliché to say if you believe in what your doing and you don’t give up then someday you’ll achieve what you set-out to do, but it is so important to believe, because if you don’t, other people will have trouble believing in you too.
CW: You have harnessed the media very successfully in order to promote your material resulting in you becoming the face of the Ford Focus – how did this venture come about?
BG: I certainly have been fortunate with the exposure I’ve received in the press and on radio courtesy of Ford; but these things happen for a reason. The exposure my music is getting is as a result of a sustained effort from myself, my band and those around me for many years.
In my experience there are three limiting factors to success in anything, the first is talent, the second is how hard you are prepared to work and the third is LUCK. Only one of these factors can you do anything about and that’s how hard you’re gonna work. Ford believe in my efforts and my song-writing, but I definitely feel very fortunate too.
CW: Q Magazine and Time Out have earmarked you for definite success in the future. How did it feel to read these kinds of story for the first time?
BG: Of course it feels fantastic to read that respected music journalists rate your tunes and believe you can be a real success. But it’s also scary because people will start looking at your work much more critically. The most important thing is to keep working hard, to keep writing and to not sit back or get distracted by press attention.
CW: Brighton must have been a really exciting place to grow up – especially musically. How do you think this effected your decision to become a musician?
BG: I actually grew up in the East End of London, born in the depths of Hackney. But I suppose I did a lot of my musical growing up in Essex, where we moved to when I was a teenager. I had friends at Brighton Uni and used to visit them a fair bit, and fell in love with the place. I’ve been in Brighton 6 years now and it really feels like home. Musically Brighton is very diverse and exciting, a real hot-bed of song-writing talent. There are so many great bands and soloists to see all around town any night of the week.
CW: Your debut tour begins in October – how are the preparations for this going and has it been as gruelling as you originally thought?
BG: I just feel so fortunate to be going on tour with my band, and playing in such great venues. We’re playing 13 dates in 2 weeks, from October 7th in Southampton through to the 20th when we return to Brighton. The preparations have actually been a lot of fun and are all finalised now. So I guess the count down’s begun. We really can’t wait!
CW: And one for fun! Who would be your dream band or singer to support (or even have supporting you!)?
BG: I’d loved to have supported The Beatles back in the day, but I guess now I’d really love to support Beck or Morrissey. They’re both lyrical heroes of mine.
CW: Thank you very much for your time Ben and the best of luck with your single release and UK Tour.