Neither did he ever envision becoming the lead singer of Australia’s legendary band, INXS, where he enjoyed critical acclaim in the role of the late Michael Hutchence.
As for Hollywood movie icon Al Pacino singing a Ciaran Gribbin song in his forthcoming movie, Imagine, the man from Castledawson can hardly believe the latest high in his rollercoaster career.
“Al Pacino plays an aging rock star in the style of Neil Diamond and his biggest hit in the movie is the song I’ve written,” Gribbin tells Shuffle.
“He sang it in front of a live audience with the band, Chicago, at the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles a few weeks ago. It’s up on YouTube and I was looking at it on my phone watching the audience singing the chorus back to him. As a musician, life doesn’t get much better than that.
“I had to pitch against some of the biggest names in the business for that song in the movie. And when I saw Al Pacino singing it on YouTube it was like an out of body experience for me. It’s absolutely crazy that Pacino is singing my song.”
Ciaran, who also performed under the stage name Joe Echo, struggled for years in bands before finally getting his big break after trying out as a singer for DJ Paul Oakenfold. The pair went on to co-write Celebration, which Madonna recorded as the title track of her greatest hits album.
“It’s a dream come true to be working at this level after years struggling and living in the back of a van,” Ciaran says. “My wife always reminds me, ‘Just remember where you came from and how hard you worked’. I still wake up in the morning and think, how the hell did I end up writing for Madonna and singing with INXS?”
It was while supporting Paolo Nutini on his Australian tour in 2009 that Ciaran met INXS keyboardist and songwriter Andrew Farriss at a house party in Sydney. The pair went on to become great friends. After they got together for a songwriting session, the members of INXS were so impressed with Ciaran’s vocal ability they asked him to audition for the group.
“I’ve had a few great moments in my life and I’m under no illusion that luck plays a part,” he says. “And that was the case with INXS. “I remember walking on stage in Paris one night and seeing my family and a gang of friends in the audience. It’s not something you ever dream of, but it happens.”
“INXS announced last November that they’re not going to tour anymore, but if they do come back I’d love to be a part of it again. I’m very proud that I had over a year with them on a tour around the world.
“It was always going to be a tough gig to fill the boots of Michael Hutchence, but the critics and the fans were very kind to me. I spoke about Michael on the stage every night and the fans loved that.”
Now back with a new EP, My Killer, My King, co-written with Johnny McDaid from Snow Patrol, Ciaran laughs off the suggestion that he’s on his way to being a millionaire.
Now settled in Sydney with his wife and son after becoming an Australian citizen, he adds: “It has never been about the money for me, but I have nothing to worry about. I’m working with legends and getting paid for the privilege.”