NME Radar: Breakout

Griff: British pop phenomenon taking control of their destiny

Meet the rising star who’s adding a new job title to her CV with every project

Each week in Breakout, we talk to the emerging stars blowing up right now – whether it be a huge viral moment, killer new track or an eye-popping video – these are the rising artists certain to dominate the near future

Griff didn’t need the isolation of a global pandemic to figure out how to work alone. “‘Forgive Myself’ was 100% me,” she tells NME. Her anthemic new single came to life in her at-home music room, much like parts of her impressive debut EP ‘Mirror Talk’, which dropped last year.

She’s not just the mastermind behind her music, Griff’s creative energy can be seen and heard in every part of her world. From the hand-sewn curtains at her headline show to her distinctive ponytail of “hair balls”, Griff wants to stand out and certainly knows how to do so.

She joins us from her very own creative hub (her music room) and breaks down her new single, her start in the industry and how taking control has stopped her nightmares coming to life.

Tell us about ‘Forgive Myself’…

“I wrote it over a year ago, it was at a time where I felt that a lot of relationships in my life, whether it was friendships or whatever, had almost come to an end. The main lyric is I gave my heart to the wrong somebody else and I need to forgive myself. Often, I think you internally beat yourself up for doing that because with hindsight you’re like ‘obviously that relationship was not right’. You’ve gotta just cut yourself some slack you know.”

You also say in the song that “it’s going to be hard trusting my feelings again”, what do you think are the hardest feelings to trust? 

“I think just letting yourself enjoy any relationship, whether it is romantic or if it is a friendship. I think it’s hard to trust yourself trusting someone, you know when you feel yourself becoming more dependent on someone. I think that’s quite hard to let yourself do.”

Where does ‘Forgive Myself’ fit in with the rest of the music you’ve released so far?

“It was part of the batch of music that could’ve been on the first EP [‘Mirror Talk’], but we felt we could hold it back. It’s a different sound, so it felt right to… bring in more of an upbeat, fuller production song a little bit later on.”

You also produce a lot of your own music, what’s the journey been like going from a beginner to being able to make something like this with a much fuller sound? 

“I still feel like an actual amateur when it comes to it. I never in my head set out to be a producer, but I think I’m very impatient and if I have an idea I just want to get it down, it’s not enough for me to just have it sitting as a voice memo. Most of the time it’s just trial and error. I think I just keep trying and hope for the best and hope that things sound proper.”

Your latest writing credit is a Hailee Steinfeld track – what’s it like having that side of your job and then Griff as an outlet just for yourself? 

“I think it’s the best. I always talk to songwriters that are just songwriters and I’m like ‘are some songs not just too precious for you to let go?’ So I think I love and feel really grateful that I can write songs and give them away and have songs that I can keep and feel more personal to me. I want to be able to continue to do both you know. I think for me big inspirations have always been Sia and Julia Michaels and all the songwriters that have the songwriting experience and then apply it to their own artist projects.”

You have full creative control now – why is it so important for you to lead the visual side of things too?

“I don’t think I realised it was going to be so important to me until we started. One, I’m a bit of a control freak and two I think it always comes down to my worst [nightmare]… that I put out music and put out visuals that look like everyone else’s. I turned up the first ever photoshoot that they organised to try and get some press photos and there was a whole team of people. Camera, lights, make-up artists, stylists, fucking manicurists and I was like ‘oh my gosh, this is all here for me, this is crazy.’ Everyone was asking me if I was okay and if I needed anything and I was thinking, like ‘are you okay, do you need a hand?’

I just ended up being involved in all the creative decisions, especially as a new artist there’s no point doing it if you’re going to be like every other pop girl in the UK right now. It was very important for me to have some kind of strong creative look, which I think we’re still finessing and exploring.”

Being able to do everything yourself, and having your music room, how are you finding being creative in lockdown?

“I feel like all I wanted, at the beginning of lockdown, was to have a season like this where I could just be all in and make. Now that I’m here it’s actually hard to be inspired by four walls. All the music that’s come out so far I wrote it in my spare time, outside of school, when I was just making stuff for the fun of it. Whereas now there’s more of a purpose and this has to be better than the rest of everything else. My tactic now is to just keep writing. I mean most songs maybe won’t be that good, but you just keep doing it and then there’s one that really sticks out.”

Griff’s ‘Forgive Myself’ is out now