Castledawson singer in INXS

CASTLEDAWSON musician Ciaran Gribbin has been named as the new lead singer of popular rock band INXS.

The shock announcement was made this week that he has joined the band as their new frontman and a new song featuring Ciaran called ‘Tiny Summer’ was revealed on their website.

Speaking to the Mail, he said: “This is unbelievable, fairytale stuff for me. I grew up listening to this band, and I’m a massive fan of INXS. I remember when I was 12 watching MTV for the first time and seeing that band and being blown away. At that age you’re really influenced by what you hear and I can remember standing in my living room with hairs standing up on the back of my neck thinking ‘Who is this band?’. Twenty years later I’m going to walk out on stage with them.”

The 35-year-old had previously been performing under the stage name Joe Echo. The Grammy-nominated songwriter is not unfamiliar to working with big names, previously he has collaborated with Madonna, Paul McCartney, Snow Patrol and Groove Armada to name a few. He went on to write and record all the original songs for last year’s top indie flick ‘Killing Bono’, based on the novel ‘I Was Bono’s Doppelganger’.

The Mid Ulster musician met Australian INXS member Andrew Farriss in November 2009. He says they immediately hit it off and kept in touch, meeting up at Christmas last year when he was on a family holiday in Australia.

“Andrew had written all the hits for the band with Michael Hutchence, and he felt he needed someone who could help them recreate some of the stuff they were doing in the past. He says he’s found the magic with me that he’d lost when Michael died, that in itself was just an amazing thing for me to hear as a songwriter,” he said.

“It just grew organically, we kept writing stuff and it was very fruitful and before I knew it Andrew had suggested to the band that I could be the guy that they were looking for. I met with the band and we rehearsed and went through some of the material and we hit it off. They’re very successful rockstars but they’re very grounded people and there’s no egos, I never felt in any way intimidated.”

The band released the track ‘Tiny Summer’ on their website last week to give a taster of things to come. “It’s not a million miles away from what I was doing with Joe Echo, and INXS has always been a band that has never been easily pigeon-holed, they fit comfortably into dance, pop and rock music. I think there will new music coming out from INXS pretty soon - it could be a single, it could be an EP, it could be something to do with a movie. The possibilities for me and the band now are endless,” he said.

INXS formed in 1977 and enjoyed huge success internationally in the late 80s and 90s including ‘Need you Tonight’, ‘What You Need’ and ‘New Sensation’. Ciaran follows JD Fortune, a Canadian singer who won the position in a reality TV show and original frontman Michael Hutchence who died in 1997.

Ciaran said he is ready for the challenge and knows that expectations are high. “There are two prongs to this, I’ve got to be a good songwriter but I’ve also got to walk out on that stage and be a performer, I couldn’t try and fill Michael Hutchence’s shoes and I don’t think anybody can fill those shoes. The man was probably the last great rockstar of the twentieth century and I have no desire to try and emulate him or copy what he did, all I can do is go out on stage and pay tribute to those great songs and do it in my own style,” he said.

“I know there is a massive weight of expectation on me, particularly through Australian INXS fans, and I’ll be scrutinised. It’s not going to be a bed of roses, there will probably be a lot of probably negative comments as much as positive.”

Hailing from the Broagh Road, he says he is a “Castledawson man and proud of it”. “My very first band rehearsed in the Castledawson GAA Club when it wasn’t even a building, it was an old mobile home. We played there for years learning all the dodgy covers. We were 13 year-old kids who didn’t really know what we were doing,” he said.

“My first gigs were in Nitos in Magherafelt, the Step Inn in Cookstown and that’s going back 20 years. I never thought I’d go from that to where I am now.”

“My first gig is in Peru in six weeks in front of 12,000 people and two days later I’m in Argentina in front of 30,000. It really is crazy. I’ve done some big gigs supporting bands like Snow Patrol, Paolo Nutini and Scissor Sisters but even at that level you’re talking a few thousand,” he explained.

“We were always the warm-up act so we were playing when people were still coming into the concert. This is totally different, I think the pressure I’m putting myself under to perform and be as good as possible is as big as the fans want it to be.”

Ciaran will be performing INXS’s classic hits along with the new collaboration live for the first time together during a run of upcoming shows in South America, Australia, and Europe during November and December.

He said: “One of my favourite songs is ‘Suicide Blonde’, it’s a genius song, ‘New Sensation’, and probably my favourite INXS song is ‘Never Tear Us Apart’, I just think it’s one of the greatest soul songs ever written. ‘Need You Tonight’ is just groundbreaking pop music. Believe me, I’ll be in my element!

“We’ve got about 15/20 gigs before the end of the year including a few European dates, I’ll be talking to the management and the band tomorrow and saying when are we doing Ireland, particularly Northern Ireland. I just think it would be a dream come true to walk out on stage in Northern Ireland with INXS, I’d find it hard to hold back the smiles!”