In Conversation With Griff

To put it bluntly, Griff and her signature bubble ponytail embody the new generation of pop stars. You may ask why. This Chinese-Jamaican multi-hyphenated and multi-talented pop artist from London understands the high stakes to becoming a pop star as the new wave of talent is diverse, skilled, and works harder to stand out. 

With her wide range of skills, from singing, music and video production, design, and general creative direction, Griff makes it hard for other people to compete with her undeniable talent and work ethic. Her debut EP ‘Mirror Talk’ put her on the radar, but it was the following release of ‘Good Stuff’ that got everyone talking. 

To start with, Griff reveals she’s taken her stage moniker from her own surname – Sarah Griffiths. Born in Watford, music was a big part of her growing up, especially every Sunday she experienced incredible live music at church. But everything changed when her brother got a gift one day: “I got into writing and producing my own songs when my dad got my brother Logic. When he wasn’t on it, I would try and use it because I wanted to record my own stuff. I would just spend mine after school recording in ideas”, Griff explains. 

Another aspect of the new generation of artists that Griff represents is their ability to self-teach musical instruments without any assistance. She elaborates on how easy it is to learn: “I did have piano and guitar lessons initially. But not really. These days you can google or YouTube anything, and I think I learned the most on piano and guitar through YouTube and google. Same with music production. I was just doing it for fun, so it was fun for me to spend hours working out how to comp vocals, etc.”.  

Griff grew up around gospel and soul music with household staples like Stevie Wonder, Kirk Franklin, and Mary J Blige. However, her influences changed when she was eight years old: “I remember just falling in love with Taylor Swift’s album ‘Fearless’ and ever since her writing has been a huge inspiration for me. Then I got into Lorde, and Banks, and Haim”, she proves where her love for pop comes from.   

Born and raised Watford to Chinese-Jamaican parents is as diverse as you can get. Griff shares how this formed her into a person she is today: “It definitely did, having a crazy Asian mum always shapes you as a person, makes you a little thick-skinned, I think.  Also, I grew up in a very white middle-class area, so I became used to looking completely different to everyone around me, which I think has forced me to become comfortable in my skin and my differences”. 

Griff’s praiseworthy hands-on approach goes beyond music writing and production. Yes, not every artist can produce their own music, but for Griff is extended to her making her own clothes, shooting live visuals crammed into her studio, and dipping her toes into the creative direction as well. As much as this is admirable and rarely seen, Griff stays humble when asked about the amount of work she’s faced with: “I don’t know I do a lot of things myself because I want to and enjoy it. I’m so grateful to be able to be doing music full-time that it’s hard to see it as a workload”, she says. 

Lyrics, sound, visuals – the three factors to making a single. Griff answers to what inspires her in each sector:  “Whatever’s happening in my life usually inspires lyrics; my relationships with my friends, family, myself, and God usually drives my lyrical inspiration. When it comes to sound, I usually just play around with a lot of different chords and sounds until something feels right to me. But I try and keep the production minimal and major. Then I have a constant bank of stuff on Instagram and Pinterest that I always use as inspiration for visuals”.

A quite unconventional but highly supported by our part is to write a song about self-worth, as a love letter to yourself rather than another person. Well done to Griff to making this happen. “I just wanted to write a song that wasn’t about your normal love relationship, and I think every day in some form, we have internal conversations with yourself, so it just felt natural to put it into a song,” she talks on her song ‘Mirror Talk.’ 

Consequently, we wondered about Griff’s stance on body image issues people often struggle with considering the theme of ‘Mirror Talk.’ Her response showcases how self-poised she really is: “I think it’s normal for humans to have insecurities. For me, I think I’ve come to know that my worth and value are in something way bigger than my body, so those insecurities don’t really have too much power over me”. 

The following release of ‘Good Stuff’ at first glance seemed like a break-up tribute. But Griff managed to throw everyone off as she explains the real meaning of the track: “I always keep a bank of lyrics/thoughts on my notes on my phone. I remember I wrote down, ‘you left me with the good stuff.’ That was about how my family fosters kids in care, they come to live with us for years, and then they always move on and get adopted. I think when anyone leaves your life, you somehow always remember the best memories. I kind of wrote it from that place”.

With her most recent single ‘Forigve Myself’ Griff speaks on the relationship you have with yourself rather than an ex. People can’t escape momentary thoughts of self-doubt and questions of self-worth when it comes to relationships and finding the courage to love again. Griff elaborates more on the message behind ‘Forgive Myself’: “I think I find it easy to be quite hard on myself when it comes to making decisions and trusting people. So this song was just about cutting myself some slack and forgiving myself for past relationships that maybe didn’t end in the way I thought they would.”

As ‘Forgive Myself’ is a quarantine baby, there was no video pre-made. No worry for Griff and her talents, as she accepted the challenge to make the entire video in her home. She talks us through the process: “Quarantine came, and we had no video for ‘Forgive Myself’. So I kinda had no choice but to try and pull off a music video alone in my house. Once we brainstormed the idea for the video, I started sewing some of the outfits; I then got sent some lights, two projectors, and a few tripods and spent the day filming the video on my phone and the team directed me through Zoom. It was definitely the most intense video I’ve done so far, but I’m quite proud of what we pulled off.”

You can watch the masterpiece below:

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Words: Karolina Kramplova