FeaturedInterviewsIssuesSeptember 2021

Barry Griffiths Artist Interview

Barry Griffiths (aka grizzlyflute) is a British flautist and arranger who is well known for his social media presence and multi-flute layered videos (an icon on Instagram!). He studied music at Chetham’s School of Music, the University of Manchester, and the Royal Northern College of Music. You can check out his creations over on his Instagram, YouTube, and TikTok channels.

Q. How did you pick the flute as your instrument?

A. My dad used to play Violin with the RTE Symphony Orchestra, along with William Dowdall (the Principal Flautist at the time). I remember when I was around 9 years old my dad gave me a brochure of beginners musical instruments, and I ended up picking out the flute myself. He later admitted to me that's what he was hoping I'd choose, and would likely have encouraged me towards that anyway! I believe his friendship with Bill played at least some part in that.

Q. What do you like best about performing?

A. First and foremost, I feel very fortunate to have anybody listening to my music at all. But what I love about what I do right now is the sheer freedom of it, getting to choose absolutely anything I'd like to play in order to express myself. Often this changes day by day. One morning I'll wake up and that could be a movement of a flute quartet, some solo repertoire, a track from a video game or movie, or even a theme tune that just got stuck in my head!

Q. CD releases?

A. I have an ongoing project that I am eventually looking into making into an album. I've been recording various french flute quartets by the likes of Eugène Bozza, Jacques Castérède, Jean-Michel Damase and Pierre-Max Dubois. It's my goal to make a compilation release of all these works. For now though, you can check out the entirety of 'Quatuor pour flûtes' by Dubois on my YouTube channel.

Q. What does your schedule look like for the next 6 months?

A. Although working on the French Flute Quartet compilation is a goal that I wish to see through, I also want to make something truly original for myself. This will of course take time and is very much in the concept stage right now. Ultimately I want to create something from scratch, so that's what will be keeping me busy for the time being.

Q. What are your goals personally? Professionally?

A. My goals in both regards, have and always will be to just enjoy what I do, and for it to make me happy, and hopefully for it to make others happy as a natural consequence. I try to constantly be mindful of this.

Q. What inspires you the most in life?

A. My mother. She is a truly incredible person, and I consider her a role model in all regards. She is the kindest, warmest person I know, and is my moral compass. She's taught me that you can face any gravity of situation and still hold true to your values. I would 100% not be the same person without her having been in my life.

Q. How did the pandemic impact your flute life?

A. Part of the beauty of what I currently do, is that it has barely affected it at all! I can still arrange and record from home as normal. I did plan to travel to more conventions in order to try out more flutes, had the pandemic not occurred. I have been playing on a silver Arista c flute since 2005. I love it, but after all this time, I'd like the opportunity to see what else is out there.

I am also very fortunate enough to be a TJ Flutes Artist, and they have been absolutely wonderful to me, and instrumental in helping me create some of my more ambitious arrangements that include instrumentation from Piccolo, all the way down to Bass Flute. I can never thank them enough for the belief they've had in me, and they've most certainly helped to keep me productive throughout the pandemic. I've done a couple of podcasts with them now too, and it's always a pleasure!

Q. Who were your music mentors? and what did you learn from them?

A. My dad first and foremost, who both got me into playing, and encouraged me to stick with it. I would say it perhaps wasn't so much of a choice when I was younger, but I'm certainly thankful for that skill now! He taught me that intelligent and mindful practice is the key to consistent improvement, and emphasised very early on the importance of scales. Inside the front sleeve of my flute case, I still have all of his hand written notes for me. He was never shy on the advice! I do love reading through them though, at this point they're quite precious to me.

In terms of teachers, in particular I'd have to say both Alan Lockwood and Peter Lloyd (my flute teachers at the University of Manchester, and the Royal Northern College of Music, respectively). They completely transformed my playing, and my general outlook at a time in which I needed it the most. Alan taught me how to use my time more efficiently, and also about self belief. Peter really dug down and got into the details of my musicality (tone, phrasing, articulation etc.) in a way that allowed me to develop further. I feel very fortunate to have been mentored by them both.

Q. Can you give us 5 quirky, secret, fun, (don't think too much about this) hobbies or passions?

A. Video Games! If you're familiar with my social media channels, you'll likely know that Video Game Music is a huge inspiration for me. This comes unsurprisingly from having grown up playing a lot of them. In particular these days you’ll find me playing games such as Mario Kart, Diablo and Overwatch. I am just as likely to be listening to chiptunes, or the latest game soundtrack as I am any other genre. I consider it a huge musical influence on me.

I love football (soccer), and I'm told I had a mean left foot when I was younger! I used to go to see Hereford United / FC (my local club) at Edgar Street with my dad often. I also studied in Manchester for a decade, so I got to see a lot of games up there.

I suppose my beard has become somewhat of a hobby since I started growing it at the beginning of 2018. Along with the social media name, I don't think I can really justify getting rid of it now! I do enjoy maintaining it myself though, and I am frequently asked as to whether it gets in the way of my flute playing. The answer to which is, no! So long as you groom it properly.

I'm getting more and more into photography as of late. I use a Nikon D5600 DSLR camera to shoot my flute videos, and ever since I purchased it, it's grown into more of a general hobby with lenses and filters etc. I want to try and set some more time aside to take photos out in nature and learn more about it.

I build my own computers! I've been doing this since University. There's nothing more satisfying to me than getting all the components together and constructing it piece by piece, then seeing it boot successfully that first time! It’s also what I currently use to record and edit my videos together.

Q. What 3 things would you offer as advice for a young flautist?

A. Start making music with others as soon as possible. This is important because it teaches you so much more about musicality, and how to enjoy what you do. It's not just about the music, but also the people you meet on the way. One of my favourite memories is of playing as part of a Wind Quintet. In retrospect I consider it quite formative for me.

Make your scales and daily exercises fun! Incorporate your musicality into them and always try to be telling a story with your best sound. One thing I love doing in particular, is adapting the great exercise EJ4 from Taffanel and Gaubert. Slow it right down, and making each phrase or wave into a continuously evolving story. Your imagination really is the only barrier here. Once you manage to find a way of making these kinds of exercises fun, it really is a kind of superpower!

Record yourself playing more. I actually started my Instagram solely as a means of retroactively analysing my playing and ironing out bad habits with technique, posture, breathing etc, and found that not only did my fundamentals improve as a result, but also my confidence grew along with it! I cannot recommend it highly enough.

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