“It’s all about showing the musicality dude.” Gryffin pauses and scratches his chin before he continues, “I’ve always loved playing instruments.” We’re sitting in his trailer minutes before he’s set to open for Kygo. Our interview isn’t scheduled till after he finishes, but I’ve already commenced picking his brain and he’s more than eager to tell his side of the story. At 28, the notoriously media-shy dance music maven Gryffin is definitely older and wiser than your average dance musician, but it’s with this current project that it seems Dan Griffith has finally found a long-term musical home.
Forty-five minutes later, a laughably short time due to unfortunate set time cuts for everybody not named Kygo, Gryffin is back in his trailer and it’s in here over the backdrop of a particularly boisterous DNCE set that I pick up right where we left off – picking his brain to no end.
You’ve been putting out a ton of video content on your Facebook page, what prompted you to do that?
A lot of people have been asking me questions about how I make music, how I get certain sounds and make them so I wanted to give people an inside look at what I’m doing and what my studio looks and with the whole live show thing I also wanted to establish myself as a musician and that there’s a lot of musicality that goes behind a lot of the music I put out. That goes with me wanting to showcase to people that I’m not just clicking on notes and there’s a lot of physical playing behind all the compositions that I’m playing.
Behind The Scenes: Tove Lo – Talking Body (Gryffin Remix)Some of you have asked about how I make my music, so I thought it’d be cool to give you guys a sneak peek at my creative process. Here’s a look at how I made my Tove Lo Talking Body remix. ?Grab tix to see me in LA/NYC here: http://gryffinofficial.com/
Posted by GRYFFIN on Tuesday, November 3, 2015
So not a lot of people know this, but you actually took a full year off DJing to work on your live sets. What aspect of live sets were you focusing on in that time?
Right, so I was trying to figure out how I was going to execute the live show and it actually takes a lot of effort to just figure out how to perform live instead of just bringing a USB stick and CDJs (not there’s anything wrong with that!). I really wanted to come out and show my musicality, but a lot of it was also just working on new material, I’ve got a lot of material on the shelves that’s taking forever to clear with record labels so I basically wanted to wait and get to a place where I could do hard-ticket concert type venues and be able to have a good turnout and really bring my music successfully out in a live form and I just felt that I needed a year to create more content and just build up more of a following and have a platform to be able to launch the live shows with.
So the live sets would be another manifestation of you striving to show the musicality you talked about?
100%! I always had this vision where I’ve been able to play the piano, guitar, and drums out on stage and there are some people that do that, but it still doesn’t exist too much. I mean Kygo is doing it tonight, Lido is another I drew inspiration from, but I just feel like it’s a new wave for people to see shows and get a difference experience from just hearing the studio masters and I just decided to go in that lane.
Do you see this as a growing trend in dance music? Or do you see you and the other artists we’ve mentioned as doing something unique?
I don’t know, it’s kind of hard to say…the shows are definitely different when you’re looking at a live show and having people play music and even having guest vocalists it’s really more like a traditional concert where there’s a lot more spectating and watching rather than “raging” – they’re different worlds I guess. I don’t know how big this movement will wind up being, but I feel like this lane is more “producer/artist” rather than “producer/DJ”. That’s how I like to brand myself: artist rather than DJ. I do like the DJ world 100% and spinning for fun still, but I really want to be an artist and make compositions and use a lot of live, real instruments in production.
So right now you’re the opener for Kygo’s Cloud 9 Tour, do you remember your initial reaction when you heard the news?
Yeah! I was pretty pumped, I had been loosely talking to Myles [Kygo’s Manager] for a while just kind of a friendly, keeping tabs kind of thing. He ended up asking me if I wanted to be a part of the tour and it was just really good timing because I was also at a point where I was ready to start touring. I had the LA and New York shows earlier this week and so it kind of worked out timing wise and schedule wise. Kygo’s an incredible artist and a superstar now and getting an endorsement and sharing a stage with him has been awesome. Tonight was super fun and I’m looking forward to Chicago tomorrow!
What sort of adjustments have you had to make to your live show coming from several shows as a solo headliner to now being an opener, and what was your biggest challenge?
So the shows in LA and New York, all of the crowd was there to see me, but here about 98% of the crowds come to see Kygo! It’s different, but it’s good exposure and a good way to get my music out there with people checking out my set and my music. When you headline a show it’s like you’ve kind of won them over, and now you need to meet that expectation, whereas in a room that’s not very familiar with your music there’s a lot of winning over to be done. Despite the shorter set times, no lighting production, and instruments dropping out I’m totally glad to be here and it’s exciting to be with Kygo and DNCE! Biggest challenge? Definitely figuring out which songs I want to feature the most and what I had to cut out and which ones might be the most accessible to the room that I’m playing to.
So your musical origins are as a classically trained pianist and guitarist, can you talk about the transition from classical musician to dance music production?
I’m actually not a classically trained guitarist, just a pianist. I’ve been playing piano since I was seven and then picked up the guitar in middle school and was playing in jam bands. my cousin was in a rock band growing up that I idolized called Thrice so that’s why I picked up the guitar and got involved with that. The transition wasn’t too bad, a lot of it is easier for me in terms of composing melodies, writing chord progressions and structures because I’ve done it so often with the piano and guitar and I’ve got a deeper understanding from a musical theory standpoint compared to somebody who might not have been playing from a young age. The biggest challenge would be getting the mixdowns right, but the transition has been easier for me from playing music and then integrating that into compositions in production.
When that whole dance music scene started picking up steam in 2008, 2009 I fell in love with a lot of tracks and it was kind of an easy segway because I’ve been playing music my whole life. I got into Ableton, Logic, and all those programs all became so accessible at the same time and everything just happened.
So your first solo single “Heading Home” came out today despite you perhaps being in a position where you could have released it half a year ago, was there any specific reason behind the delay?
To be totally honest, I had “Heading Home” done March 2015 so I’ve been sitting on it for 10 months. I wanted to release June/July, which fits your timeline, and I have other songs that I wanted to come out as well, but with Josef being on a different record label there’s a lot of different interests and priorities going on with everybody’s own artist’s and whatever quarter they’re releasing music and it’s hard to sync up at times. I had that song for a while and I was pitching it to different vocalists for months and I still couldn’t get over how much I liked Josef on the track. That was a big reason for the delay and I wanted to come up with something earlier, but I felt like this was the single that embodied my music the most so I wanted to lead with it.
You’ve worked with Josef in the past remixing his single “Open Season” in the past, what made you choose him as a vocalist rather than somebody you’ve never worked with?
I wanted to find an artist that was coming from a unique place musically. He’s this indie-leaning singer with a unique voice and pop accessibility, something I really gravitated towards. He had sent me three-four demos that I really liked and I was really drawn to his voice. The first time I heard “Open Season” I thought to myself ‘wow this is really incredible, I’d love to work with him’. I really like a lot of UK singer-songwriters, he’s Australian but he lives in London and I felt it was a really good match for me as an indie-top leaning vibe that I’m trying to reach for. The same goes for people I’ve remixed: Bipolar Sunshine, Years & Years, BANKS, they’re all on an indie side.
If you had to pick just one of your remixes that best defines who “Gryffin” was, which one would it be and why?
Maybe Tove Lo because it’s the biggest one? That one with how I flipped her vocals maybe is the song which best embodies who I am I guess because the sound I go for is that emotional, uplifting, and feel-good type of vibe and I think that remix capture it the most. I love bubbly-basslines with still that indie-pop tinge and I think that most embodies it. I also love the “Daydreamer” remix I did of Bipolar Sunshine, but probably Tove Lo for this one!
What do you have for us in terms of upcoming material that you’re able to share?
I played out that Troye Sivan remix earlier tonight, that one is coming out fairly soon. Also working on an Ellie Goulding remix right now and one for CHVRCHES as well!
2015 was a defining year for you, what would you say was the most memorably moment?
One of them was definitely the fact that the “Desire” remix did so well and was even the lead single for the Soundtrack to ‘We Are Your Friends’ so that was kind of a cool experience, being able to go to the premiere in New York and hangout with the director and all of them.
What was meeting Years & Years like, that have to have been memorable too right?
Yeah! So I almost got him to sing “Desire” for the Bowery show in New York, but he had to stay in the UK for some rehearsals for something. Hanging out with them was super cool. Tove Lo was in early 2015 was a good one for me too. I liked that song and enjoyed it, but I did not think it was going to do that well at all.
Is it true that she even plays your version live at her shows?
She plays it live all the time! She sent me a video of her playing at Lollapalooza and I was like ‘this is awesome!’ There have been a lot of highlights, no definitive number 1 but there’s definitely been a few. I’m really looking forward to this year because the first shows are happening right now, the singles are coming out, the EP, all that stuff! It’ll be an exciting year man!
Image Source: Visualbass Photography