- 24 Feb 21
After earning the praise of Taylor Swift, lending her voice to Disney’s acclaimed Christmas ad, and making the Top 5 in the BBC’s prestigious Sound of 2021 poll, English bedroom-pop star Griff sits down to discuss her remarkable journey so far and her ultimate goals as an artist.
With over 3.7 million monthly listeners on Spotify, and an innovative approach that captivatingly combines the worlds of fashion, style, art and music, 20-year-old rising star Griff has established herself as one of the most hotly tipped talents in international pop – despite the fact that her ascent to fame has largely occurred under the shadow of lockdown.
Rather than wait out the storm, Griff has reached her ever-growing global audience by tapping into the far-reaching powers of social media – performing a dazzling live-streamed show at London’s The Tate Museum in October, and kicking off her own YouTube series, Against The Clock. As part of the series, Griff and her various guest stars set themselves the challenge of reproducing a classic song from scratch in one hour. Her recreation of Taylor Swift’s ‘Exile’ with Maisie Peters even caught the attention of the American megastar herself.
“I’m a huge fan of these two already but seeing them create magic in the studio together just makes me even more excited to hear what they do in the future,” Swift told her 88 million followers on Twitter. “Absolutely love this, what a gift.”
I’m a huge fan of these two already but seeing them create magic in the studio together just makes me even more excited to hear what they do in the future - absolutely love this, what a gift 🎁🥺🥰 https://t.co/hTTIhuM3pq
— Taylor Swift (@taylorswift13) December 17, 2020
“My manager sent me a screenshot of her tweet, and honestly I just stared at it for a good ten minutes with my mouth open,” Griff tells me now. “It was really fulfilling, having one of my biggest songwriting role models saying that she was already a fan of my music. I’ve been a fan of hers since day one. She’s definitely influenced me a lot in the way I write songs – through the way she puts together melodies and lyrics. I look up to her loads.”
Griff's Against The Clock series, which has also featured guest appearances from Nina Nesbitt, Birdy and HONNE, offers fans an insight into Griff’s considerable musical gifts behind-the-scenes – having initially taught herself to produce songs in secret, using her brother’s Logic software.
“When lockdown came, I was like, ‘What do I do know? How do we do things and keep people connected still, without being there in person?’” she says of the inspiration behind the series. “That’s what kickstarted it. I love making things – and I wanted to show people more how I make things, and how I am in my natural habitat. That’s me at most natural – making music, and just messing around with other people.”
Following a string of acclaimed singles released over the course of 2020 and 2019, she shared her latest track, ‘Black Hole’, earlier this year – alongside a powerful music video, in which she appears alongside the co-star of her dreams: a horse named Prince.
“That was so random!” Griff laughs. “But the instrumental to me is very trotty – so I was like, ‘Guys, I want to be on a horse’. And we actually made it happen. The day before the shoot I went to this stables, and had an hour with the horse – to see if I could actually get on it…”
While the instrumental is certainly “trotty”, it’s juxtaposed with lyrics that delve into the dark reality of heartbreak. This raw authenticity is found throughout Griff's releases – having explored everything from negative body image ('Mirror Talk') to her relationship with the children her family have fostered over the years ('Good Stuff').
She admits that showing that vulnerability can be difficult – but “it’s the only way to write really good songs.”
“It’s the only way I can write songs that people will connect to,” she continues. “So even if it does get tiring, or even if it feels a bit exposing, it’s worth it in the end. That's what our job is, as creatives and writers – to take all these personal experiences, and try to articulate them in a way that people can connect to.”
Although she’s rising to fame at a relatively young age (she released her debut single when she was just 18) the reality of being stuck at home in lockdown has kept her notably grounded.
“Because of lockdown, I’m experiencing all these amazing things just from my bedroom,” she shrugs. “Even though I can see the numbers growing, they don’t feel like real people yet. So it doesn’t feel like I’m getting more famous.”
Speaking to Hot Press last year, Griff also revealed that growing up in her English village with Chinese and Jamaican parents has played a role in shaping the way she approaches her career.
"I've grown up in a small village called Kings Langley, which is very quintessential British," she explained. “So I was one of the only people of colour in my school, or in my friendship group. Growing up, I’ve been used to standing out a little bit, and being the odd one out. So that's definitely influenced the way that I feel comfortable in making music, and doing things that are a little bit different. I can separate myself from the crowd."
Another factor that has influenced her approach is her self-described competitive streak.
“Even when you get to the top, you’re always thinking, ‘Alright, what next?’” she reflects now. “It’s a bit of a curse, when you’re that competitive. You never fully feel like you’ve made it. But it’s also what hopefully will keep driving me. It’s made me work really hard at music – but sometimes it can mean that you’re always comparing yourself to other people, when you don’t actually need to.”
Right now, Griff's central focus is on releasing an EP before summer. But her ultimate goal as an artist?
“I'll feel really happy and fulfilled with what I've achieved if I can reach 50, and look back at my career and know that I’ve written some really timeless songs that I know have impacted loads of people,” she muses. “Also, if I know I've put on live shows that have an element of theatre production and unforgettable art around them. Things like the Grammys, or those kinds of landmarks, don’t matter as much to me – it’s more about knowing that I’m proud of everything I’ve put out.”
'Black Hole' is out now.