Ciaran Gribbin met INXS' Andrew Farriss two years ago at a mutual friend's party in Sydney, Australia. He wound up "sitting on a balcony, singing 'Mystify' with the guy who wrote it... pretty surreal."
Now he's done that one better; Gribbin is the new frontman for INXS.
The Irish native is currently in Australia working on new material with Farriss -- including a track called "Tiny Summer," which is streaming in demo form at INXS.com. Gribbin hits the road with the group on Nov. 3 for a six-show run through South America, Europe and Australia, and INXS hopes to be in the studio shortly after that to work on a new album.
"Without a doubt I was a fan" of INXS, the 35-year-old Gribbin tells Billboard.com. "I remember 'Kick' like it was yesterday. I remember seeing the guys on MTV and then on Jools Holland's BBC show...watching as a kid, just blown away by them. INXS definitely played a huge part in my musical education as a songwriter and something I aspired to, so to be in the band now is pretty amazing."
Farriss adds that after getting INXS' last singer, J.D. Fortune, through the 2005 TV show "Rock Star: INXS," Gribbin's arrival was "very organic. It wasn't high-pressure or anything. I just enjoyed the guy's company and really enjoyed his voice and listening to his songs, his music. Later on I realized the collaboration, artistically and especially songwriting, could be something that would be really, really good for (INXS). So far that's been true."
Gribbin is no stranger to big-time music before this, however. A member of the group Leya and a solo artist under the moniker Joe Echo, he was nominated for a Grammy Award in 2010 for co-writing "Celebration," a new song for Madonna's compilation album of the same name. He also sang backing vocals on Snow Patrol's "Eyes Open" album and performed on the soundtracks for "Heartless" and "Wild Target." More recently Gribbin wrote, recorded and produced music for the forthcoming film adaptation of Neil McCormack's memoir "Killing Bono."
"I've been very fortunate," Gribbin says. "I've worked hard and... grown in confidence, grown in ability. The last four years have been an amazing journey for me. But without a doubt, hand on heart, the most amazing part of my musical journey is about to begin (with INXS). I know that as a fact. I feel in some way like I've really arrived now."
Farriss says he and the rest of INXS "don't have a master plan" for how they're going to proceed with Gribbin. "We're just really enjoying being creative and seeing where that leads," he explains. "We're experimenting with a whole range of things; we actually tried out an idea for a song the other day that's probably the most crazy, off-the-wall thing I've ever done in my life. completely radical. And that's the most important thing, to really try out different things and find out what we can do together."
Gribbin adds that "we almost have too many ideas at the moment" and hopes that INXS may have some new songs to offer on the upcoming tour dates. "A baptism of fire is the best way to describe the live shows, I think," Gribbin says with a laugh. "In a way I'm slightly nervous, and in another way I'm unbelievably excited. It's a wonderful, proud moment for me. It's a real feeling of achievement to have a band of INXS' stature believe in me as a performer and a singer. It's genuine dream-come-true, fairytale stuff for me. I'm still waking up in the morning here in Australia going, 'How did I get here?'"
INXS' Upcoming Concert Dates:
3 -- Anfiteatra Municipal, Arequipa, Peru
5 -- Personal Fest, Buenos Aires, Argentina
3 -- World Sailing Championships, Perth, Australia
8 -- Melkweg, Amsterdam, Holland
11 -- Le Bataclan, Paris, France
12 -- Vooruit, Gent, Belgium