Andy Griffin

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Essex-based singer/songwriter Andy Griffin released his third album ‘Unsocial Media’ in November. This album is a social commentry on the world around us and focuses on the dark side of social media and in particular, its effect on our teenagers and young adults. Having his own mental health issues in the past Andy uses music to keep his mind fit and this lyrically meaningful album will definitely resonate with many. In fact, Andy is very passionate about this issue and 100% of profits of the title track is going to a mental health charity. I talk to Andy to find out more:

HC: Firstly, let’s find out a bit more, give me four facts about you:
1. I was born on the same day that man landed on the moon
2. I served in the Royal Marines Commandos and became one of the youngest to receive the coveted green beret, aged 16.
3. I have a BA Hons in music gained at Brunel University London
4. I hold a Fellowship in photography (the highest accolade achievable as a professional photographer

HC: Have you always been musical?
AG: I got into music aged 9 with the advent of the punk/new wave scene that erupted out of London, listening to the Sex Pistols, Buzzcocks, the Stranglers, Squeeze and many others. This drifted into the new romantic synth pop era in the early eighties with The Human League, Kraftwerk and Tubeway Army. After hearing ‘Are Friends Electric’ I became obsessed with synthesisers and the bands that used them, buying my first keyboard when I was 12. All of my teenage years was spent listening to records. We didn’t have any smart phones or gadgets, you were either really into sport or really into music. It became an identity, you were a Mod, or a rocker, or a New Romantic. Standing in a record shop one Saturday afternoon aged 14 I heard this music blaring out of the shop speakers that totally captivated, and changed the way I thought about music. ‘Under A Blood Red Sky’ U2’s live album transformed me from synthesiser bands into soaring anthemic guitar songs. I quickly followed my purchase of this great album with their three previous (Boy, October, and War) along with The Crossing by Big Country and Declaration by The Alarm.

HC: What music did you listen to growing up?
AG: As mentioned above, all of the late seventies punk Stranglers, Buzzcocks, Skids, Sex Pistols, Squeeze, Skids, Sham 69, then moved into Human League, Kraftwerk, Tubeway Army, OMD etc. Then switched to U2, Big Country, The Alarm, Killing Joke, The Cure, Simple Minds. During my early twenties I stared to explore David Bowie, The Doors, Beatles, Rolling Stones, Small Faces and many of the bands and artists that had gone before the seventies and eighties scene.

HC: How would you describe your current style?
AG: This is a difficult one….Intelligent pop with thought provoking lyrics? Guitar driven indie guitar pop with soaring singalong choruses, layered vocal harmonies, and catchy hooks. Authentic yet familiar, with a great vibe.

HC: Who inspired you to pick up a guitar?
AG: Probably The Edge from U2.

HC: Your new album ‘Unsocial Media’ is about the dark side of social media, although we are all aware of this, what inspired you to write a whole album on this subject?
AG: During lockdown (Covid) my daughter (aged 14) developed some mental health issues. While researching the subject I came across the tragic story of Molly Russell, the 14 year old school girl who took her own life as a direct result of social media. I found this heart wrenching, the fact that in a modern civilised society kids are taking their own lives due to the pressures induced by social media. Drawing on the parallels between Molly’s (and many others) story and my own daughter, the writing of the album became a cathartic experience.

HC: What message are you hoping to send out with this album?
AG: I hope the album resonates with people regarding the dangers, the dark side of social media, and the impact it can have on teenagers and young adults. The title track ‘Unsocial Media’ will have 100% of profits from any downloads going to Parenting Mental Health.

HC: Is there a particular song you resonate more with, and why?
AG: There are two songs: ‘Unsocial Media’ – The lyrics, the story running through the song are very powerful and emotive. The fact that it’s talking about a child, it’s very sad. ‘What’s Going On In My Head’ – This is a song about how it feels to have depression. Shortly after my daughter was born I was hit by the sledgehammer of depression which lasted around a year. At the time of writing the album, my daughter was also struggling with depression and it made me reflect on how it felt to be in the depths of darkness.

HC: How would you describe this album musically?
AG: As mentioned earlier, intelligent pop with thought provoking lyrics? Guitar driven indie guitar pop with soaring singalong choruses, layered vocal harmonies, and catchy hooks. Authentic yet familiar, with a great vibe. Drawing on influences such as David Bowie, The Cure, U2, Radiohead.

HC: What would you say to new listeners to encourage them to listen to this album?
AG: If you’re interested in hearing some current, thought provoking songs with meaning, which have catchy choruses and great production – check out the album.

HC: You are releasing one track each week up to the full album release on 11th November – what has been the reaction so far?
AG: The feedback so far has been amazing! The first two singles ‘Instagratification’ and ‘Sanity Button’ received great feedback from both musicians and non-musicians alike. The musicians commented on the song structures and production, with non-musicians liking the catchy choruses, and most people get the lyrical content.

HC: ‘Unsocial Media’ is your third album, how does it differ from the other two?
AG: I think this album is where I’ve wanted to be for a long time, in terms of my sound. My first album ‘A Whisper & A Croak’ was basically a collection of songs that I’d been experimenting with and there wasn’t really any cohesion across that album. The production and the vocals weren’t really where they should’ve been. The second album ‘Classified’ had better production and the songs sat together well, but I still felt I hadn’t found my true self. ‘Unsocial Media’ feels right in every way. The songs are strong, they hang together as a concept, the lyrics are interesting and topical, and the production is where it needs to be to compete on the global stage.

HC: Why did you go down the road to self-produce and self-release your material?
AG: I’ve always worked alone (predominantly) with music projects – even though I’ve been in bands and worked with other musicians – I tend to write the songs and work out the arrangements before approaching any collaborators. We now have access to state of the art software such as Protools, with a myriad of software synths, and studio plugins, all neatly locked in our laptops. This gives us the ability to record professional sounding music from our bedrooms. This gave me the platform to write, arrange, record and produce the whole album. Singing and playing everything gives you the freedom to add and subtract any instrumentation only being dictated by the feel and mood of the song. Self release seems to be the way the music industry is heading with record companies looking for artists who already have an online presence with thousands or hundreds of thousands of followers. By self releasing I can gain views and streams on YouTube and Spotify which will not only give me an indication of level of interest in the album, but will enable me to plan gigs for 2023 picking venues dictated by the level of interest.

HC: Is it difficult to be objective on your own material?
AG: It can be a bit of a nightmare really, one of the downsides to working on your own. When I come up with a song idea, I usually get very excited and I think I can generally tell when something is good enough to pursue, or put in the B-side/ditch pile. Then I spend many hours developing the arrangement and lyrics, followed by hours and hours recording and mixing the song. It can get to a point where I’m not sure if the song is any good or not. I take a break at this point and leave it for a few weeks, then come back and have another listen to see if it’s a ‘hit’ or ‘ditch’.

HC: What is your song writing process?
AG: This varies. Some songs begin with a title, some with a lyric line, others with a chord progression and basic melody idea. From here I’ll work out the song structure on an acoustic guitar, then I’ll do a rough demo. From here I’ll then build the song up working out which instrumentation works best and suits the feel of the song and mood of the lyrics.

HC: Do you think it is easier or harder these days to be a musician?
AG: It’s easier to create music these days because of the technology that is available. Consequently, it’s harder to break through as there is so much music from new artists emerging globally on a daily basis. It’s not enough to just have some good songs, there needs to be a story behind the artist or the songs to spike the imagination of your audience.

HC: What’s different in the music industry today compared to when you first started?
When I first started creating music back in the nineties I would make an acoustic cassette tape demo of three songs which had been recorded on a four track tape recorder. These would then be sent to all the record companies hoping to secure a record deal, so that you could make music for a living. Fast forward to today and we have the ability to reach a global audience as an unsigned act. It’s not easy, but with persistence on various media channels, a bit of luck and some radio airtime you can start to make some traction with your audience.

HC: How does music help you with your mental health?
AG: Music can be like a workout – especially with singing. I try to sing 3-4 times a week for around 2 hours at a time. The process of singing particularly in the higher registers releases endorphins to the brain similar to when working out. A great tonic for life!

HC: Your lyrics take the listener on a journey, have you thought about writing stories?
AG: At this point in my life I love to write lyrics but have no desire to write stories.

HC: Have you thought about making the lyrics available, maybe as poems?
AG: I’ve loaded the lyrics on Spotify and when I release the CD and vinyl versions of the album the artwork will contain all of the lyrics.

HC: Although you started writing the album during lockdown, as like everyone you had more time, however has this time make you think differently about your future?
AG: Yes, focus more on music, don’t worry what naysayers might say.

HC: Do you gig much? Will you be gigging this album?
AG: In the spring and summer of next year we will be gigging at various venues across Cambridgeshire, Suffolk and Essex.

HC: What artist/group would you like to support?
AG: White Lies or Sam Fender

HC: If you could choose any singer/musician (dead or alive) to duet with, who would it be?
AG: David Bowie

HC: Do you play other instruments?
AG: guitars, bass, piano, synthesisers

HC: When you are not making music, what hobbies do you enjoy?
AG: Running, gym, walking my beautiful cocker spaniel Monty

HC: Do you have a non-musical skill or a party trick you would like to share?
AG: I’m a pretty good photographer ( I hold a Fellowship with Royal Photographic Society, Master Photographers Association, and Society of Wedding and Portrait Photographers. This is the highest accolade achievable as a professional photographer.

HC: What was the last book you read?
AG: Grinding It Out by Ray Kroc. The fascinating story of the man who started McDonalds aged 53!

HC: When was the last time swore at the TV?
AG: Seeing some TV advert for a Kardashian type programme where everyone looked the same due to botox. ‘Send In The Clones’ was written shortly after this.

HC: What’s your biggest vice?
AG: Red wine

HC: What do you enjoy most about being a musician? What do you hate most?
AG: Having the ability to lose myself in an acoustic guitar and a vocal. Sleepless nights because I can’t get a chorus or hook that I’ve just written out of my head.

HC: What was your favourite concert/gig you went to when you were younger, and why?
AG: U2 at the NEC 1984 on the Unforgettable Fire tour. As a teenager being obsessed with your favourite band and then seeing them live for the first time.

HC: What’s the biggest challenge in your life you’ve had to overcome so far, whether personally or musically?
AG: My own depression and coping with and helping my daughter through her own mental struggles.

HC: How do you fit an elephant in a phone box?
AG: Tusk first then make a trunk call to Fleetwood Mac.

HC: What was your favourite activity this year?
AG: Finishing and releasing the album.

HC: What would you like to do differently next year?
AG: Gig the album and start work on the next one.

HC: What would never have as a pizza topping?
AG: Yorkshire puddings

HC: What was your least favourite subject at school?
AG: Physics

HC: What album has got you through some hard times?
AG: Disintegration by The Cure. Broke up with a girl in my early twenties and this was the soundtrack of that period. The Cure’s finest moment (in my opinion).

HC: What movie is always in your top ten?
AG: Lone Survivor


Instagratification video
Sanity Button video
Unsocial Media video

This interview appeared on GrapevineLIVE


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