I had the great pleasure of catching Director and Producer Simon Greiff between his incredibly busy schedules. Simon is currently involved in producing an Evening with the Composers, a concert at the London Hippodrome on 19th August 2012 which also includes some famous West End Theatre stars.
I for one cannot wait to see Simon’s work in action at the London Hippodrome and I hope that some of you will also support this worthwhile and much needed venture. After all, where would we be without Musical Theatre and fantastic writers?!
Well, I’m currently a freelance director who also produces and actively promotes writers. I trained as an Actor at Central School of Speech & Drama and spent 12 years working onstage and small screen.
What made you want to be an actor?
The want to entertain. I saw that being and creating characters had an effect on people, from laughter to tears. I loved playing someone that I wasn’t! From rapists to geeks, boy-next-door to druggy!
Which was your favourite part, either on stage or on screen?
I loved the role of Bobby C (in the original production of Saturday Night Fever) which was my first big gig, it was such a complicated role and I’d like to think had a lot of depth. The greatest challenge I suppose was playing Romeo as I’d waited years to revisit Shakespeare (having studied a lot at Drama School) and this was the chance to really get my teeth into the ‘bard’ professionally!
You sing and dance too?
Yes, I trained as a Dancer, Singer and Actor before going onto Drama School to study acting full time.
After 12 years of acting, how did you navigate into directing?
I’d started directing and coaching at Drama Schools long before I decided to stop acting full time. I thoroughly enjoyed the process and always thought that I should pursue it more but it took a while to realise that the Acting bug had gone/died! When I decided to not audition again, I knew I had to pursue other creative areas before I got too old!!
I’d always found Directing and Casting (as I’d Assisted and Associated for a leading West End Casting Director for years anyway) strangely more rewarding. As a child, teenager then young adult I always thought my place was on the stage and I’d started to think that maybe my talent lay elsewhere.
How long have you been solely a director?
Only about 3 years.
You seem to have done well in that time! Did you start your production company around that time too?
I did. I was on Tour looking after the No 1 Tour of WE WILL ROCK YOU as the Resident Director and as I had some days to myself (some of the time) and being one to not sit on my hands, I decided I wanted to get creative for myself!
How easy was it initially to get off the ground?
Well, I was lucky I suppose. The first ‘concert’ was for the American Composer Scott Alan who I’d met the year prior at a Charity Concert, I was asked to sing one of his songs and we became friends. He always wanted an official London Concert of his own and asked if I would put it together, so I jumped in head first! That same year my wife, the Actress Annalene Beechey and I decided to produce her solo album (which happened to have two Scott Alan songs represented) and both projects fell into place! It was hard work, don’t get me wrong, thankfully I acquired a lot of advice and asked close friends to help and support me, I really enjoyed the process!
What was the most difficult aspect of it?
You have to be brave (or stupid!?) to do things out of your comfort zone but I like a challenge. I was learning as I went I suppose, I wouldn’t say it was difficult, just time consuming staying on top of everything and driving the project/s, but I thoroughly enjoyed process and the results!
I know that you are currently working on a production at the London Hippodrome, do you work solely with them or do you hold productions in different venues too?
This is my first at the Hippodrome actually. I am lucky to have been invited to produce there. Their opening season is predominantly self-produced but the venue managers would like to help promote new writers too and I was asked if I’d like to present something. I have used a mixture of spaces, from a small Off-West End space to a Barge!
A Barge?! That sounds interesting!
Yeah, The Battersea Barge has been home to a few SimG Seasonal Cabarets that I’ve presented, from leading ladies, to new writers, to album launches. It’s a great space, intimate and fun! The Barge seats about 80.
Intimate is probably a very apt word!
Do you only specialise in new writers?
More or less, I have Produced 2 albums for Stiles & Drewe who aren’t ‘new’ but British. I want to support new writers AND new ‘writing’ in general.
I also think that it is great that you are showcasing American writers who are new to the British scene. How easy is it to find writers or do they find you?
I’m trying! I followed Scott Alan with the American composer Bobby Cronin, then moved onto home- grown talent including Drama Desk winner Grant Olding, song-prize winners Dougal Irvine, Tim Sutton and Stuart Matthew Price, Laurence Mark Wythe, plus talented emerging writers like Brunger & Cleary, Joe Sterling, Robert Gould, Chris Passey and Lindsey Miller.
Some writers approach me and some I find. I suppose I have to make a personal taste choice when looking to help and promote. There are so many great writers out there and there are others that just aren’t to my taste.
With regard to the upcoming Composers Evening, I’m thrilled to have already known Georgia Stitt beforehand (as two of her songs feature on two SimG Records – from Caroline Sheen and Stuart Matthew Price). Scott Evan Davis and Michael Patrick Walker are relatively new to me, although I knew of Michael from having co-wrote ‘Altar Boyz’. All three were mentioned in a Huffington Post article early this year about the ‘must know’ songwriters (from America), and I thought it would be great to get them all together and for them to present some of their work in London!
Do you tend to prefer a specific genre?
I don’t think so. All of the music I actively promote is Musical Theatre. I enjoy most types of Musical writing, from a broader sound like MY LAND’S SHORE, to a contemporary or pop sound like Stiles & Drewe or Dougal Irvine, to stripped down acoustic singer/songwriter style like Joe Sterling. It all has a place, and I believe should be heard!
Do you also promote other artists such as actors or musicians or is it purely writers?
I don’t at the moment actually. I tend to take it one project at a time. I’d love the Composers Evening with Davis, Stitt & Walker to be successful at the Hippodrome so that I can do more and introduce London to more UK and US writers whom I’ve met or found. I also have another album, an original cast recording, in pre-production which should be out at the beginning of September.
SimG Records www.SimGProductions started as a label to help release artists solo albums (generally singing Musical Theatre covers and predominantly promoting new writers from both sides of the Atlantic) then the Cast and Studio Recordings took off. I have every intention to do more solo albums but it comes down to cost and finding the funding.
Is it easier to record solo artists or cast recordings?
They both have their difficulties actually. With a solo album, if it contains covers (i.e. not original material) then all the selected songs have to be licensed which isn’t difficult you just need to know where to get the Licenses, plus if the budget is tight the studio time is relatively fast! With Cast Albums it’s simply a question of timescale and managing the size of the cast or band and to work quickly & efficiently in the studio again. It’s all about planning! But, hey isn’t life!?
What has been your biggest struggle so far either personally or professionally?
The biggest struggle is juggling projects, I’ve had 6 on the go at one time and that has a knock on effect with my very understanding family, being self-employed and my own boss means that it’s hard to switch off as I don’t know where the next job or pay cheque is going to come from. Also, carving a new career after having a vaguely successful one as an actor (and by that I simply mean I managed to pay the mortgage!).
Do you have staff? Surely you do not do it all on your own?
I’m a one man band!
Wow! That is impressive! You must have a very understanding family?
I do! Thank god!
You said that your wife is an actress, is that stage or screen?
Annalene is a theatre actress. She’s recently starred as Eliza in MY FAIR LADY at the BBC Prom this year! I was actually in New York City so I missed it too! Bad husband!! Terrible!!!
I had the chance to direct Off-Broadway. She understood.
Do you find American theatre easier or even more fun than British theatre or are they all the same?
I thought it would be different, but it was the same! Everything I do or create is for an audience, an audience that I believe loves this industry as much as I do but SimG needs support to do that.