Q&A with Ciaran Gribbin, singer and songwriter with INXS

We spoke to Ciaran Gribbin, singer and songwriter with world-famous INXS about his experiences of playing the pub circuit and how important live music is.

On the 24th July, PRS for Music launched Music Makeover 2012 which awards one lucky venue £5,000 to help create the right space for music so they can remain competitive and crucially, a key destination for locals to enjoy. The passing of the Live Music Act this October also means small venues in England and Wales (under a 200-person capacity) will no longer need local authority permission to host performances of live music. 

We spoke to Ciaran Gribbin, singer and songwriter with world-famous INXS about his experiences of playing the pub circuit and how important live music is:

Q&A with Ciaran Gribbin, Singer and Songwriter with INXS

How important are pubs to developing the live performance skills of singers and musicians?

Pubs are so important in developing your skills as a live musician. I spent years doing original material and cover gigs in pubs all over Ireland and it was the best way for me to learn my craft as a singer and guitar player. It also gave me experience in dealing with an audience and reading what way to work with the audience. I'm convinced that I would not be in the situation I find myself today with out serving my time performing live music in Irish and UK pubs.

Do you have any fond memories of particular pub gigs?

The Duke of York in Belfast is my favourite pub to perform in.... I had an acoustic residency gig there for years and it has an amazing atmosphere and very supportive of local bands and songwriters. The staffs are passionate about the pub and live music and everyone who drinks there keeps coming back for this reason.

Do you think changes in legislation that will allow pubs more freedom to host gigs will be positive for the live music scene?

Definitely. It can only be a good thing… It gives more opportunities for young bands and musicians to get out there and learn their craft and show what they can do.

Can live music really compete with the Saturday night stay at home and watch the X Factor crowd?

Nothing on TV beats live music, certainly not shows like the X Factor…. I'm not a big fan of the show although I do understand that it is good television as the ratings prove but it is nothing like the real thing and seems to have very little to do with music… Where are the bands or songwriters on the show? The raw energy that you experience at a great live show whether in a pub or an arena should be experienced by young kids as early as possible, then maybe they would grow up understanding the difference real music can make on their lives.

Ever played a warm-up gig with INXS in a pub?

I have just finished a nineteen dates regional tour of Australia with INXS and we played in a lot of small intimate pubs to get out to the fans in the more rural areas as opposed to just playing the usual big cities and venues.... the tour was amazing and the small gigs were so full of energy that can often be missing in the much bigger venues… and it was great to try out some new music in these gigs. INXS were born in the pubs of Sydney Australia and I have heard each member say that the experience they gained in those pub gigs helped them stand out on the live scene when the band finally broke through as a major international act.

How are you enjoying being the front man of such an iconic band?

I really am loving the challenge being the singer in INXS which has been almost a year now and to be writing so many new songs not only with Andrew Farriss, who co-wrote much of the bands amazing catalogue with the unique and brilliant Michael Hutchence, but also with each of the other guys in this legendary Australian band. The shows I’ve performed with them around the world have all been quite amazing. This band is SO good live. I grew up loving INXS along with millions of others and I now know first hand how much their great music means to their fans all over the world. I have no doubt that Michael Hutchence influenced me as a young aspiring singer/songwriter so it really is a true honour to stand on stage and sing all those classics and of course the new songs we’ve written too. I believe they call this living the dream!!

Have you ever been inspired by people in the pub for your songwriting?

Many times as a young musician I would go to pub gigs in Belfast and I would sit there and be blown away by the quality of songwriters the City of Belfast had to offer. Songwriters like Duke Special and bands like Ash and Snow Patrol were born in the pubs and have been a constant inspiration.

What can pubs do to improve their live music offer?

I think the easiest thing would be to supply an in house PA system… and a good sound engineer who knows to work it to its maximum benefit to the many varied artists who play the venue. I have always said a live gig is only as good as the sound man and pub gigs are no different. A great PA and sound engineer usually means great gig…. Plus a friendly in-house staff that genuinely want to help the artist enjoy the whole experience of performing to a crowd no matter how big or small. If the gigs are great then the word spreads between audience and performers and the punters will keep coming back for more.

The Music Makeover competition run by PRS for Music will see a pub pick up £5,000 – in what ways should a pub use this cash to improve what it does?

See above!!

What is your chosen tipple after performing?

I'm teetotal so I usually have a very Rock and Roll camomile tea when I come offstage.

Do you go to pubs for reasons other than playing or watching bands?

Yes for sure. The pubs in Ireland have always been an important place to meet people and just go and hang out. I spent my youth either gigging or chilling out with mates in the pub…. In this hi-tech, fast moving world maybe we could all learn a little from the importance of taking time out for family and friends and the pub is always a great place for this. Plus the food in many of them can be quite outstanding and often a big asset to any establishment.

What was the last pub you went to and what do you remember about it?

Fisho’s in Manly (Sydney) last Tuesday night… an open mic night that Ashley one of the backing singers from INXS runs with her band… Live music packed house and a great atmosphere… Happy days!

Where are the best pubs in the world? Ireland, England or Australia?

Irish pubs are famous the world over… every other pub just wants to be Irish!! But seriously I think it only takes a minute or two on entering a pub anywhere in the world to know if it feels good. As we all know first impressions often count the most and therefore it’s really important for landlords and staff to always work hard to create the best and friendliest atmosphere possible every day of the year and continually watch out for ways to improve this.


Music Makeover 2012 is:

  • A dedicated website featuring specially designed artwork and tailored branding
  • Commissioned research by pub data specialists CGA, which found that live music can result in a 48% uplift in weekend sales
  • Information on the Live Music Act – which comes in full effect this October
  • A thorough guide that helps pubs find out what they can do to make live music work for them e.g. ticketing, staging, lighting and advertising
  • Direct mail being sent to thousands of premises around the country about the value of live music
  • For more information visit our website: Music Makeover

Notes to editors:

A summary of the research can be found online. Key findings include:

There is a significant uplift for music venues compared to non-music venues:

  • Fri/Sat - Average value rate of sale uplift: 48.2%
  • Weekdays - Average value rate of sale uplift: 21%

On average music venues:

  • Take £306 more per day on wet sales (at weekends this can rise to as much as £667 per venue per day)
  • Sell 36 more units/products per day (at weekends this can rise to as much as 86 more units per day)

Music Makeover entries

All entries will be whittled down to three finalists who will be visited by industry expert judges looking for a venue with untapped potential for music, and landlords who display the greatest desire to make live music a key feature of their pub. Judges include representatives from British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) and Musicians Union (MU). The overall winner will be announced by 31 December 2012.

See here for full terms and conditions. 

switching account

Switching your account...