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Though many of the world’s finest live performers never truly conquer the fear of stage fright, few – if any – will ever want to follow the kill or cure method endured by Cranni.
Years of round-the-clock security needed to protect him from violence, intimidation and murder put things in perspective for the Sheffield-born musician once crippled by thoughts of being in the spotlight.
Prison gigs became career defining for Johnny Cash. They are already having the same effect on Cranni but with a slight twist in the tale – he was serving 5 years at the time and, being an ex-copper, had to work harder than most to win support of the lags.
He performed his most successful concert to date whilst still inside –
he was let out to perform in front of an invited audience at The Southbank London on October 14 2016. That night his ‘We All Fall Down’ song collected ‘Gold’ in the original singer-songwriter category of the 2016 Koestler Awards.
His emotional performance – it was just months before his release – brought members of the audience to tears. The judges were unanimous in their summing up of his ability: ‘The world needs more of this’.
Counting Sheffield’s own Richard Hawley as one of his first guitarists and former Pulp musician/session player Joel White on keyboards, Cranni thought his burgeoning music career was finished following a catastrophic series of events in 2011 that read like something straight out of a crime fiction novel: One day he’d raised enough to pay for the recording of his first album – the next he found he’d been unwittingly caught up in a massive fraud case and found himself locked up with some of the most feared individuals in the country, all wanting to kill Cranni the ex-copper.
Before that fateful day, he hardly seemed to put a foot wrong – Sheffield hit maker Elliot Kennedy said the world’s biggest labels would bite his hand off for his talent and former Simply Red bassist Shaun Ward – who performed on Cranni’s 2011 demo – said musicians could try all their lives trying to write a song as good as ‘Hit & Miss’, a song on Cranni’s first album.
Cranni also started building a following over the water in Holland – he spent time living and performing in the country. But – like many times before – his crippling shyness stopped him taking things to the next level.
Life in prison could have finished Cranni but instead music became his second coming and he realised being in the spotlight was child’s play compared to the 24/7 torture he’d endured in a slew of different prisons across the country.
He said: “For first two years I lived as a recluse in my cell as the prison staff could not guarantee my safety. I wasn’t even allowed to go to work or education class. My guitar was my solace – I ended up writing three albums of music.”