Although Fin Greenall is better known as Fink he’s a long way from being as well known as he deserves. This century’s sensual John Martyn, as a singer-songwriter he’s achieved so much in the last few years it’s a miracle that he can walk Brighton’s streets without being mobbed.
With a trio of annual albums, hundreds of international live shows and songs that have hit the American No.1 spot, he’s surely Brighton’s best-kept secret.
But things are different around the world. Fink has sold more records in France and the US than he has here, and has a third headline tour planned for each. Thanks to the international outlook of his record label Ninja Tune, where he started as an electronic artist in the 90s, he “gets a shot everywhere”.
“My kind of music tends to travel more than a trendy indie band,” he ponders. “It’s quite chilled. Some people might find it smooth, and smooth music in the UK is a hard sell. We want Foals and The Maccabees and crazy angular stuff. There’s nothing between the super commercial James Blunt/James Morrison smooth and the super hardcore.”
His third album, with band members Guy Whittaker and Tim Thornton, might very well change that. It’s a wonderfully easy listen that steers well clear of bland by heading firmly into his emotions, while keeping one eye on keeping the production fresh. Fin says that the rhythm section play a key part in making sure the songs aren’t just strum, strum, strum on an acoustic guitar.
“They bring the differences,” he says. “Rather than it be me doing me all the time, every time they come in they change it into something better.”
The song Sort Of Revolution is a good example. Elsewhere modern soul and R&B are an influence, but never letting things get too shiny, while the title track starts out like a thoughtful folk record, before edging into full dub territory with Ninja beats.
“You’d never imagine it would go there when you hear the first eight bars of the song,” Fin says. “That’s exactly what happens when the boys get involved.”
After working solo on dance stuff, does he like that collaboration?
“It’s loads more sociable,” he says. “It’s nice to have arguments with real people. Because when you’re in a room on your own you do find that you talk to yourself. Dance music is not so physical – you sit in a chair and click, click, click. There’s a lot more technicality to it, a lot of kit. I got tired of all that.”
But did he throw away years of acquired knowledge when picked up the acoustic guitar? He says not. He still uses his recording skills and in fact produced both his debut and his new album. Getting away from what he describes as “five minutes of linear vibe” has made his life less stressful he reckons. No beating himself up every time he heard a great record from one of his contemporaries.
“When you are the art, when you’re the music, you have to be really honest because you have to do it every night and I’m not an actor,” he thinks. “I have to be my songs. It’s a really simple relationship.”
Sort Of Revolution is Fink’s third as a singer-songwriter in as many years – a pretty swift hit rate. He puts it down partly to the freedom of being on Ninja Tune (“That can be a really bad thing for some artists, and maybe time will tell whether it’s a bad thing for ME.”) and partly to do with being in his thirties.
“I’m not 21 anymore, so maybe I’m in a bit more of a hurry than I would have been,” he says. “We do an album, tour an album, finish touring, do another album – it’s great, and you learn new things about yourself with every track that you take to the stage. We’re not rushing them, but what else would we do? The two months between finishing an album and touring it suck.”
Not that Fin has much sitting around time. On his rare breaks he can often be found writing with, and for, other people, going all the way back to helping Amy Winehouse put together the demos that got her signed. But Miss Winehouse isn’t the biggest worldwide star he has worked with. That honour goes to the multi-million selling Jon Legend, a man not short of a Grammy, should you ever need to borrow one. Greenlight, which featured Outkast’s Andre 3000 and romped to No.1 in America, came out of a pair of studio sessions that yielded songs on both Legend’s and Fink’s new LPs, and it all took place in the sort of environment you’d expect from a huge star.
“It was big, it was rock’n’roll, it was limos and hotels with pools on the roof,” beams Fin. “It was absolutely awesome. We did a week long LA studio session, living the dream. And we did a New York session, out of which came a couple of tracks for my album.”
Throw in an appearance at the Proms with a 90-piece orchestra behind him, another at Carnegie Hall plus gigs at the legendary Troubadour and San Sero stadium, supporting a big Italian mega band called Negra Marla, and it’s amazing that Fink isn’t on the cover of every magazine. It might take Some Sort Of Revolution to do just that.