Hot Press caught up with the singer-songwriter for a chat about becoming the band's new front man.
A piece of good news for Irish music arrived this week, as Belfast-born singer-songwriter Joe Echo – or Ciaran Gribbin as per his passport – was named the new lead singer of INXS. The Oz rockers made the announcement via INXS.com and also unveiled their first demo recording with their new vocalist. Entitled 'Tiny Summer', it was written by Gribbin and Andrew Farriss. You can check it out here.
Hot Press caught up with Gribbin – who is currently in "a very, very remote location in New South Wales… in a recording studio!" – to discuss his feelings on fronting a band that have sold over 35 million albums to date, how it all happened, and whether or not INXS are bound for Ireland in the near future.
We find the singer still processing everything that's happened…
Gribbin: "I'm getting over the initial 'wow, this is unbelievable' thing but I'm still coming to terms with it. The last 24 hours have been crazy. I've had very little sleep because I've been bombarded with phone calls from all over the world – from Los Angeles to Sydney and back again."
It's all the more special for Gribbin, considering his long-time love for the band.
"Yeah, I grew up listening to them. I'm a fan. I've three or four distinct memories of watching INXS on MTV as a kid and now I'm sitting in a studio with Andrew Farriss, the man who wrote all these incredible hits. I'm honoured."
So how did he go from respected solo artist Joe Echo to Ciaran Gribbin, singer with INXS?
"I first met Andrew about two years ago in Sydney," he explains. "I was doing a tour in support of Paolo Nutini and we met at a party through some mutual friends. We got on really well that night and it was the usual story – an acoustic guitar came out at four in the morning. I ended up singing loads of my own stuff and then someone asked me to do an INXS song. That was when it clicked for Andrew, he could see that I had potential. Standing on a balcony at four in the morning, singing 'Mystify'. That was it. We kept in contact and kept bumping into each other but it wasn't until six months ago that I got a call from Andrew to come and write some songs. At that stage they were still gigging with a singer and there was no word of me becoming the frontman. So it's been a pretty organic, natural thing."
That first demo, 'Tiny Summer', was written by both Gribbin and Andrew Farriss.
"Co-writing is quite a weird experience for any writer, because it's all about chemistry. I've never written with anyone like Andrew before. He's one of the top songwriters in the world and yet he's so humble. So open to other people's ideas. We get on well, there's a beautiful chemistry. His strengths are my weaknesses and vice versa, we really complement each other."
Of course, the live show is a very important part of the INXS monster. In terms of owning the stage and putting on a charismatic display, it will be tough to touch the late Michael Hutchence. Luckily Gribbin doesn't feel intimidated.
"Andrew doesn't want that, he doesn't buy into the rock star thing. I think the Australians and the Irish are similar in that way, the feet have to be kept on the ground. It's all very easy being comfortable in a recording studio, but walking out on stage… My first gig's in Peru to 12,000 people and two days later I walk out in Buenos Aires to 30,000 people. I understand the weight of what has come before.
"No matter what I do, I could never fill the boots of Michael Hutchence, I don't think anyone could. The guy was such a charismatic frontman, he was like a mixture of Jagger and Jim Morrison! What I need to do is earn the respect of the genuine INXS fan who loves that era.
"At the same time, none of us want to be a cover band of what's gone before. As a unit, we're very focussed on moving onto the new era of music. I'm under no illusions, I've a tough task ahead of me. But if I didn't believe I could do it myself, I wouldn't be doing it. Anyone in their right mind who's been knocking around for years in Irish bands would kill to be in my position. It's a once in a lifetime dream come true."
With Winter gigs scheduled for South America, Europe and Australia, no Irish date has been confirmed as of yet. It's a situation Gribbin is hoping to rectify.
"I actually talked to the management this morning about why there's no Irish gig happening. There's been quite a buzz about all this back home, so I made my feelings known to the band and the management – 'Get me one in Dublin, Belfast, somewhere in Ireland!' I think it's only a matter of time but whether we can pull it off before Christmas I don't know. I do know the boys want to play Ireland again – they're a bit overwhelmed by the response that's come out of Ireland."
After this new incarnation of INXS find their live feet, all eyes will be on the next studio album. With 'Tiny Summer' already under their belts, Gribbin is looking forward to finding the right sound for his new band.
"'Tiny Summer' is a taster. I feel like we're only scraping the top of the iceberg here," Ciaran Gribbin concludes.
Watch this space.
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