Ciaran Gribbin: the Castledawson singer who is stepping into Michael Hutchence’s shoes
Just a few months ago he was playing to several hundred people in pubs around Belfast.
But Castledawson musician Ciaran Gribbin is now gearing up to perform in front of tens of thousands of music fans after being revealed as the new frontman of legendary Australian rock band INXS.
And the Grammy-nominated singer/songwriter, who provided the soundtrack for the movie Killing Bono, says he won't rest until he brings the band to Belfast.
Gribbin — who has previously performed as Joe Echo — was invited to join INXS after meeting keyboard player and main composer, Andrew Farriss, through mutual friends at a party in Sydney around two years ago. At the time, Farriss wasn't looking for a frontman — a number of replacement singers had stepped in over the years to replace Michael Hutchence, the charismatic lead who had died in his hotel room in 1997. But when Farriss heard the Ulsterman sing one of the band's hits Mystify, he was intrigued and the pair later met up to co-write new material.
Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph last night, Gribbin said: “It wasn't really planned or anything, it just happened. We were two guys who kept in touch, wrote songs together and then Andrew asked me if I'd like to sing in the band.
“For me, it's like a fairytale. I was such a fan of INXS growing up. I can remember being at a friend's house and he'd got MTV. We were watching INXS perform and I was blown away. To be honest, it was a turning point for me as a musician.
“I watched an acoustic set on the Jools Holland Show when I was about 12 or 13 and it was one of those ‘hairs on the back of your neck moments'. Now I'm going to be singing with this band. I have to keep pinching myself, it's so unbelievable.”
Gribbin said he understood he had a huge responsibility to INXS fans and admitted it was intimidating to step into the shoes of a legend like Hutchence.
“This is undoubtedly the pinnacle of my career and I understand the weight upon my shoulders,” he said.
“I have to go out there and do my best for the people who have been fans for 30 years. I know what is expected of me.
“But I'm not trying to fill Michael's shoes. There's not a man alive on this planet who could do that. Michael was the last great rock star of the 20th century. He was a fashion icon and a rock and roll icon. He was a one-off and I'm not trying to be his clone.”
Gribbin, who is now based in Australia with wife Donna and baby son James, said it had been a crazy six months.
“One minute I'm playing the Duke of York and the Spring and Airbrake in Belfast, next I'm becoming a father, moving to Australia and landing this role as the new frontman of INXS,” he said.
“It's an amazing honour for me and I can't wait to tour with the band. The ultimate honour would be coming home to perform in Belfast, that would be the biggest dream come true and I won't give up hounding the rest of the band until we get that sorted.”
Andrew Farriss, who co-wrote most of INXS's hit singles including Need You Tonight and Suicide Blonde, said he was delighted with the new material he had penned with Gribbin, including demo track Tiny Summer.
“As a band we have been talking about a new direction, a new creative spark and Ciaran has helped reignite that spark. We are entering an exciting phase as a band,” he said.
And he said Hutchence would have approved of the new frontman.
“We all still very much miss Michael. He was unique, a trail-blazer,” said Farriss.
“But I can honestly say that I think he would have loved Ciaran. He would have agreed that in him, we've found someone pretty special.”
For more information, log onto www.inxs.com
INXS were formed in Sydney, Australia in 1977 by Andrew, John and Tim Farriss, then joined by Garry Gary Beers, Kirk Pengilly and frontman Michael Hutchence. During the 1980s and 90s they enjoyed huge chart success, with singles like New Sensation and Need You Tonight. They experimented with their sound, playing new wave, rock, funk and dance. In 1997 Hutchence, who dated Helena Christensen and Paula Yates, was found dead in his hotel room. A coroner ruled suicide. A number of singers stepped in, including JD Fortune and Terence Trent D'Arby. The band was inducted into the Australian Record Industry Association's Hall of Fame in 2001.