Jamie Griffin, guitarist, vocalist and song writer, has ambitions which reach beyond the horizons of the Isle of Wight. He talks to Roz Whistance.
It’s only after you’ve left Jamie Griffin that you get this sense of a pressure cooker about to explode. A talented singer, songwriter with a ready sense of humour, he seems relaxed surrounded by the gizmos and paraphernalia of his recording studio, Flyte. But reflect on what he’s said and the conversation you’ve just had is one simmering with passion and ambition.
It is slightly incongruous to find so much technology within the picturesque stone cottage which he shares with his partner Sarah and their little boy Taylor – but you soon realise that Jamie thrives on beauty. “I was thinking about building the studio in the Newport industrial estate – but who wants to do a lovely vocal looking at a brick wall or a car park? Playing the piano looking out at the sea and over the downs is inspirational.”
Since leaving school at 16, Jamie has been singing to his guitar in pubs and clubs. Doing up to 250 gigs a year, he earned a respectable living, for a footloose batchelor. “That’s when I started Flyte,” he says. “Initially it was to record and produce my own stuff, but then I opened it to other people.” Among other Isle of Wight artists he has recorded Graham McCullough’s successful album, Simple Songs of Love and Life.
“Then I started doing videos to go with the records. And then another band said can you hire us out your PA system? So I started the PA hire. It’s turned into a production company without me realising it! And it’s going really well; I’ve got a million things going on at the moment!”
He points to his appointments board, so overburdened with pen marks that there is barely any white showing on the whiteboard. The first Flyte Music Festival, featuring those he produces as well as friends and contacts whose music he admires, has recently taken place at the Chequers Inn in Rookley (“We’ll do it in July next time when it’s not so chilly!”), and his latest somewhat unexpected collaboration with bagpiper Kieron Cooney and singer Charlotte Barton-Hoare among others has led to the formation of Wight Hot Pipes, who have sold hundreds of CDs and tickets for their November concert, which was all in aid of the Earl Mountbatten Hospice.
He has also just co-written a Christmas song, a jolly bit of fun which is also in aid of the hospice. But while he is delighted with the success of his music for the charity, he needs to start earning real money for his family: and his horizons are set way beyond the confines of the Isle of Wight.
“I want to get into writing film music – that’s my passion,” he says, and as he talks a certain fire begins to smoulder. “One of my dreams is becoming a music writer for Disney films. I think they are some of the best songs in the world. I’ve got a long way to go, but I think I’m on the path. The only thing about the Isle of Wight is, it doesn’t happen very often round here, does it?”
Again, that brooding frustration threatens to bob, ever so gently, above the surface of his calm. “I get bookings to do gigs on the mainland, but have to add £100 to the fee to bring my van on the ferry. They say, ‘oh, er, we’ll get back to you.’”
But Jamie has mapped his path off the Island. He is in the process of directing his own movie, a short to showcase his music, which he is planning to enter into film festivals. “We’re going to try to get it shown at Cannes next year – and even if it doesn’t get a screening I’ll go to parties and thrust my card into people’s hands.”
Hearing of Jamie’s talent for film music, a couple of other film-makers have approached him to do their incidental music. “I sit at the keyboard and watch the scenes and, well, just play what I see,” he says, playing a simple rolling melody which, by adding some slightly sinister chords and internal rhythms, develops in complexity and urgency. “It’s just like walking,” he says in response to my admiration. “I don’t think about it, I’ve been doing it all my life. I can’t sleep at night sometimes because I’ve got something in my head. Or Sarah kicks me in the bed and says I’m tapping my foot without realising.” Then he adds: “I just hope one day I’ll get recognised.”
He could, he says, go down the pop song writing road: “But I want to push myself to the limits. Film musicians are so much better than the guys who write pop songs – they have to be. All these hit songs that have been written for movies – James Bond themes, the Jaws song – they’re unbelievable songs that change your perception of the world. But listen to a pop song for three and a half minutes and you forget it.” Suddenly this 25-year-old has turned Grumpy Old Man. “One day there’s going to be a button that you press in the studio and out pops a hit record.”
Not that he doesn’t appreciate certain pop musicians: Gary Barlow’s writing and that of James Morrison and Paulo Lutini for example. But he notes too the unsung musicians who play in orchestras, a thought which triggers another of his dreams: “What I hope one day is that someone likes a couple of my tunes and says ‘we’re going to go to Abbey Road and do that again with an 80-piece orchestra.’”
“I hope that happens. I think it will. Otherwise I’m going to turn 70 and I’m going to be the angriest man on earth. Because I’ll have been working my arse off all my life! But I’m only 25: I’ve got a long way to go.”