Tees Lifestyle Q&A – Alistair Griffin

INTERVIEW BY: MICHAEL MCGEARY
PICTURES: CHRIS BOOTH

Alistair Griffin, from Castleton, North Yorkshire, sprang to prominence after taking part in the BBC show Fame Academy in 2003.

He has since achieved top 20 single success, has written for other artists and for TV shows.

His single Just Drive was Sky TV’s Formula 1 theme for seven seasons and his music has also featured in Wimbledon and Tour de France coverage.

Alistair plans to record a new album later this year and will be returning to the area to play at Hit the Bar in Middlesbrough in October.

Other projects include collaborating with Teesside band Cattle & Cane to write the songs for a musical with Boro chairman Steve Gibson’s daughter, Katie.

Teesside Life

The Teesside restaurants I love to eat in are… Fellini’s, in the old Rea’s café in Middlesbrough, is very family friendly, the Baker Street area is pretty cool and I often have meetings in the Baker Street Kitchen, and for old times’ sake, Pacitto’s in Redcar.

The meal I order most of all is… eggs Benedict – sorry it’s not a parmo, although I do eat them.

My favourite tipple is… a pint of Thatcher’s cider.

The Teesside stores I love to shop in are… when I used to go into Middlesbrough it was Romer Parrish for all my Subbuteo equipment and Jack Hatfield’s, where I bought my first cricket bat – both shops are sadly gone now.

The things I spend too much money on are… trying to win cuddly toys from amusement arcades. I once won two Winnie the Poohs in a row in Redcar and the bloke shot out of the kiosk and demanded that I give one back!

For a day out, I… head for the miniature trains at Ruswarp.

One place on Teesside I’d like to visit is… Paddy’s Hole at South Gare. The landscape is amazing, with the sand dunes and the industry in the background. My grandad had one of the green fishing huts there a long, long time ago.

In my downtime, I like nothing better than… playing golf with my friend Waggo. We’re both hopeless golfers and he has the oldest clubs in the world. We even found a packet of Extra Strong Mints from 1986 in his golf bag.

My perfect night out involves… going out with no plan and seeing where the night takes me – they can also be the worst nights as well.

My perfect night in involves… watching Mr Men with my four-year-old son, Tom.

Working Life

My greatest achievement was… coming back when I’d spent ten years clawing my way back after being written off – and charting a song in the Top 40 despite having no record label.

My biggest disappointment was… after I was on Fame Academy there was a lot of talk about me having a TV music show. It fizzled out and I ended up having a normal music career but I sometimes wonder what might have been.

My greatest regret was… I got involved in writing with Robin Gibb through Fame Academy but we only completed one song together and he very sadly passed away, so we didn’t get to write any more. But it was pretty special to get to write with a Bee Gee.

My business mantra is… from the bottom to the top, respect everyone.

The alternative career I might have had was… a milkman. I was a milkman in Staithes for about two years after our friend, who was the regular milkman, became seriously ill. I thought I was doing it for a week but 18 months later I was still doing it, moonlighting with my university studies. It was a great job. I actually enjoyed getting up early – you see things you don’t see otherwise. I learned that the milkman is a lifeline for so many people, particularly in a place like Staithes. I used to put the milk in the fridge, not the doorstep, and bring in the papers. I always think there’s a Hollywood film somewhere in that!

People in life

I most I like to spend time with… my son, Tom.

The biggest influence on my career was… my parents, who initially thought I was mad to have a career in music but have supported me ever since. They taught me to constantly think out of the box and that anything’s possible.

The person no longer with us who’d I’d most like to spend another hour with is… Brian Clough. I spent an hour with him once when we were both turning on Middlesbrough’s Christmas lights. I’d admired him as a football manager and character, and the hour I had with him lived up to everything I’d thought of him. He also gave me a great Brian Clough story. I sang for the turning on of the lights and afterwards he said, “Well done – I thought you’d be crap!”

The people who make me laugh… are my mate Dave Underwood, plus comedians Tony Hancock, Leonard Rossiter and Steve Coogan. I used to play cricket with Dave for Westerdale, near Castleton, and he always has me in stitches.

The people who inspire me… those who never give up on their dreams.

The people who make me angry are… those who tell you what you can’t do.

Life’s Loves

A book I love is… The Far Corner by Harry Pearson – I love that book and it was quite influential on me. I also like Adrian Mole, the Cappuccino Years or anything else by Sue Townsend.

A film I love is… 24-Hour Party People.

A TV programme I love is… Line of Duty.

A song I love is… The Sound of Silence by Simon and Garfunkel.

A personality I love is… Alan Partridge.

A holiday destination I love is… Kefalonia – I don’t go on holiday very much but I like the idea of being on a boat off a Greek island.

Alistair plans to record a new album later this year and will be returning to the area to play at Hit the Bar on Bridge Street West in Middlesbrough on Friday October 25 (Doors 7.30pm). Tickets are available from alistairgriffin.eventbrite.co.uk.