Ghostpoet’s innovative approach to writing and performance (coupled with his mix of grime, electronic and trip-hop-esque sounds), has allowed him the fortune of being nominated for a Mercury Prize this year, while his new album ‘Peanut Butter Blues And Melancholy Jam’ has been championed by many of the UK’s most acclaimed performers including The Streets. We sit down for a chat with the creative force that is Obaro Ejimiwe to talk about the nomination, his future, some influences and comfort eating.
“It’s has been difficult for me, putting my music on the line and my heart out there”
S] Hi Obaro, what are you doing today?
O] “Not too much. I’ve been doing some laundry, eating porridge and sinking some tomato juice. I’m getting ready to move house at some point today as well!”
S] How do you feel about the positive feedback from your new album?
O] “Yeah. It’s been fantastic for me. It’s a dream year. Month by month, more people are getting involved with what I am doing. I really appreciate all of the positive vibes that are coming my way. It has given me so much confidence, and it really makes me believe that this is the career for me.”
S] Is there a track that you feel best defines you from the new album?
O] “I don’t think there is one that “best defines” me, and I love all of the songs from this record, but I am a really big fan of ‘Liiines’ which is new single. Just for the fact that, it is a song about the frustration of trying to get my music out to the masses, and not having the avenue to do that. Now that people are listening a bit more to what I am doing, I am really keen to put it out there and listen to it on the radio. It’s really pleasing to have that opportunity.”
S] Given you have had such praise from the mainstream media and been given kudos and advice by many people now, have you changed your approach to creating music?
O] “Not really. I am trying to stick to my guns as much as possible. I feel that I have to. The spotlight is on me now, because of the music that I have made. I’ve really just got to keep doing what I have been. Of course, I am going to develop my sound, and to use the skills that I have acquired over the last year to make better music, hopefully! [laughs] I take on any advice that I receive and I understand criticism when I get it, but all I can do is, what I do.”
S] What inspired the album title?
O] “It’s definitely an analogy for what the album signifies really. Whilst making it. It was just a case of making the music as I saw fit, and at the end when it was mixed and mastered it was a case of me listening through it properly in its entirety and trying to work out what it meant to me. For me there was definitely a lot of melancholy, of being down and not feeling myself. At the same time, there was hope – a lot of hope for the future. The whole melancholy blues thing came from that. Also, I am a bit of a joker – I thought, ‘When I am not feeling myself, what do I connect with that?’ and for me, it’s eating! I like to comfort eat. For me, I like jam, I like peanut butter on toast, so yeah, it was like, ‘Let’s put those things together!’. Maybe I’ll do something more serious in the future? I don’t know.” [laughs]
S] Why did you move back down to London from Coventry?
O] “I really wanted to take things up to another level. I was travelling down to London a lot before I moved, to do things. It’s helped my career because it’s easier to do interviews, gigs and have meetings. I love London. I was born-and-bred here. I moved away for about ten years. It’s definitely where I need to be right now, for this stage in my career and I guess I will stay here for a while and then maybe move back up to Coventry or somewhere else.”
S] So is it worth young musicians from up North moving down to London and forking out a few thousand pounds to move down in order to succeed?
O] “[laughs] It depends on what level of living you want to have when you come here as to whether it’s thousands of pounds! If you can’t afford to come down to London or any big city even, is to utilise the tools that you have. Of course, one of the biggest tools is the internet and sites like Twitter, Facebook, Soundcloud and Bandcamp. It’s so important to use these things. I know so many artists that live in small towns, and they’ve never left or, they can’t leave for whatever reason, and they’ve got massive hits on their Soundcloud, their mixes are everywhere and they’ve got thousands of Twitter followers. That is not ‘big city’ specific, you know? You just need to use what you have at your disposal and push your sound as much as you can. So, yeah. I think that would be my advice to any new artist who wants to move to a big city but can’t, or anyone who just wants to keep making music from their bedroom.”
S] Moving on to discuss the Mercury Prize nomination – how do you feel about that?
O] “It’s amazing. I never expected it. Being part of it is great. And, having characters like Adele, PJ Harvey and Metronomy on that list as well makes it even better. I am completely humbled by it and I just hope that now I can use the exposure that it gives me to move on to bigger and better things.”
S] How did you feel about the nomination when you first found out about it – were you like, “Wow, I’ve made it”?
O] “I was excited. I never really physically show it! [laughs] I can never really say that I have made it though, I don’t think. Not until I can look back on my career long after I have retired and say, ‘Yeah, I’ve done this, and this’ – it’s important to me to take every opportunity that I can to get my name out there and use the exposure that comes with that. I think the people who are around me right now also feel the same way. ”
S] Do you feel like the tag “Mercury-nominated” will help your career in the long-term?
O] “Yeah. I don’t really think that there’s a negative side to it at all. I think it’s important to understand it, take it on-board and it is great to be a part of it, but it is not the be-all and end-all of my life, you know? It’s not going to aid me in making the music that I do, and that actual creative process; not an awards ceremony, critics or anything like that; that’s down to me. As long as I can remember the things that I did and the way I was thinking when I was making this album, then I hope things will continue to get better. I hope that the nomination will open doors for me in the future that may have been closed or not accessible to me before, but I hope that, as long as I keep working hard, then I will reap the rewards of that.”
S] A lot of reviews compare you to artists like Tricky and Roots Manuva from the first wave of trip-hop acts of the 90s – do they influence you at all?
O] “I never really listened to any trip-hop. I must have come across a few Tricky tunes in my time, and maybe some Massive Attack as well as a result of them being huge after ‘Teardrop’ came out. Trip-hop has never been a major influence on my life. Roots Manuva was one of the first rappers I came across and I’ve listened to all his records. I don’t really like saying that he has influenced my music. I admire completely and utterly everything that they do and it’s important to me; artists like The Streets, Roots Manuva, and Skinny Man. I am just trying to make music in my own image, and I think that subconsciously I may have take some of that on-board and it’s somewhere in my brain matter, but I am definitely trying to be me as much as possible.”
S] Can you remember the time of your life where you decided that you were first going to make music?
O] “I think it was when I first started listening to grime music, because that was the first electronic music I was exposed to. I guess it was the first kind of music that I could physically see people making from their bedrooms with an old PC and a keyboard. I was just like, ‘This is amazing’. It was exactly what I was looking for from music, except I didn’t know that I was looking for it. It was the idea that I could be in my bedroom and not have to go to a massive studio and learn engineering and sound, I could do it from the comfort of my own surroundings. It definitely made me believe that this could be the life for me. Making that style of music, for me, and being part of that scene was definitely the right thing for me at the time – that was what put the lightbulb on in my head.”
S] You’ve been performing at loads of festivals, so how do you feel about playing out live in contrast to the comfort of your own surroundings, or a studio?
O] “It’s good, you know? It was great to play the amount of festivals I did over Summer. Again, I never expected that to happen. It was amazing. I try to learn to love it, really! Gigging in general is difficult because it’s putting my music on the line, and my heart out there for people to tear down, potentially. Doing those festivals made me learn much more about my craft, the live circuit and just got me used to the idea of performing live so, it was a really good experience. It’s gone so fast though!”
S] As an artist that incorporates many different elements into his music, do you think that it is important to mix-up styles in order to succeed?
O] “I think that it is important to be as true to yourself as possible. If you want to work in one particular genre and style, then so be it, you know? Me personally, I like the idea of mixing things up; not actually saying to myself, ‘Oh, I am going to mix up three different styles’, but I think it’s important for me to make sound that’s enjoyable to me, and mix and manipulate the sounds I choose to as much as possible. It’s good to be open-minded. I always find it impossible to stick to one particular genre, personally.”
S] So what happens when someone comes to you and says that you’ve inspired them with your sound, how do you react to that?
O] “I am just humbled by it, you know? It may sound selfish but I just make music for me, and although I put it out there for everybody to listen to and enjoy, I never envisioned that it would effect people in any kind of way! It really makes me believe that I can push on to bigger things and create a long-lasting career out of what I am doing.”
S] If you could come up with a Frankenstien’s monster made up of the things that most inspire Ghostpoet what would you choose?
O] [laughs] “I would say the head of my local postman, the arms of the local dustbin men, and the hands, the legs and feet of the local traffic warden!”
For more information visit the official Ghostpoet website.