Secret show at Northern Quarter’s Night & Day for Formula 1 music star

By Steven Oldham

The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, 2010. 

Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel has just been crowned Formula 1’s World Champion in the last race of the season. 

As BBC One’s coverage finishes, a montage of the season is played to an unknown song.  Fans up and down the country searchonline in their thousands to discover who sang it.

The track, Just Drive, is by Alistair Griffin.  From that one play, and Chris Evans playing it on Radio 2 the following morning, it made the top 40 within a week.

Singer song-writer Alistair showcased Just Drive and other new material from forthcoming album Albion Sky at a secret gig at Oldham Street’s Night & Day cafe this week.

He said: “I was chuffed for it to be on there in the first place – i was surprised by the momentum it gathered.”

Alistair added that it was an achievement just for his track to be picked after he pitched it.

The free gig at the Night & Day was organised to thank loyal fans on his mailing list for their support over the years.

The Middlesbrough born artist first came to the public’s attention back in 2003 when he was finished as runner up on Fame Academy.  He released two top 20 singles after this and worked extensively with The Bee Gees’ Robin Gibb.

He has been working on his new album for the past couple of years.  Alistair says Manchester band Oasis have been a big influence on this album, as well as The Beatles and Leonard Cohen.

“It’s tough but my favourite Oasis track is probably Live Forever.  It’s unashamed about its’ big chorus and sentimental lyrics.”

He remembers seeing Oasis live at Heaton Park a couple of years ago, the last time he was in Manchester.

His new material has been well received so far – new tracks include Save The Day, Blinding Lights and Chemistry.

Blinding Lights, the next single, is laden with synths and is a real departure from his older material. 

Alistair said: “It was always going to be a single I think.  It’s a crossover song – the fans really seem to like it.”

Denise Marriott, a 51-year-old teaching assistant from Nottingham describes herself as one of his biggest fans.  She has seen him live over 100 times, including the Night & Day gig.

She said: “I really like the new stuff.  I think he’s going to be really successful with this album.”

Although Denise is a big fan, she admitted she was surprised about the success of Just Drive last year.

“It just came from nowhere but it’s brilliant he’s being shown to a wider audience.”

Alistair was similarly pleased to find new fans due to the Formula 1.

He said: “I’ve got some diehard fans but the track being used on the Grand Prix has shown the petrolheads in the country what I can do.”

The short lived Fame Academy show where Alistair first found fame is still viewed mostly favourably by him.

He said: “It opened a lot of doors for me.  It closed some as well but it’s all part of learning about the music industry.  I enjoyed the show on the whole – it was a big difference from playing pubs and clubs like I did before.”

Away from the stage, Alistair has an unusual hobby – he makes lemon curd.  He tells me that doing this is all about breaking the mould. 

“There’s not many men from my area who do baking and so on.  I was on a cricket team in Yorskshire and I used to get a lot of stick about it from my team-mates – until they tried it” Alistair said.

Jars of ‘Alistair Griffin’s 3rd Prize Winning Lemon Curd’ were available at the Night & Day gig.

“I haven’t got any better than third yet.  It’s a very hard world to penetrate” he muses, before adding: “I’m up against the Women’s Institutes and housewives in the village fetes and fairs.  One day hopefully I’ll get that prized red rosette.”  

Just Drive is released digitally on June 20th.  The album Albion Sky will follow in August.

You can see the official video for Just Drive on Alistair’s Youtube channel here:

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