Music Features

Ghostpoet (Interview)

In the twelve months since being signed to Gilles Peterson's label, Brownshill Recordings, Ghostpoet (real name Obaro Ejimiwe) has achieved more than some acts achieve in their whole career.  His début album, Peanut Butter Blues & Melancholy Jam earned him a nomination for the acclaimed Barclaycard Music Prize alongside artists such as Adele and Elbow.  He's found a fan in Mike Skinner of the Streets, who was singing his praises before the album was even released, plus he's supported Metronomy and Jamie Woon on tour.  Now, after a string of festival dates across Europe over the summer, he is about to embark on a tour of the UK and Australia.

Despite his busy schedule, Ghostpoet still found time for an interview with No Ripcord.

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It's almost a year to the day since you were signed to Brownswood Recordings and already you have a Mercury-nominated album. Can you put into words how the last twelve months have been for you?

Yeah, it's been strange, really strange. In a good way, but I never expected any of this really. I knew I wanted to get an album out and I was fortunate enough to have Brownswood willing to take the risk and put an album out of mine; that's all I wanted to do. Other than that, it's just been a real rollercoaster. It's been a lot of luck and hard work, I guess.

How did the record deal come about in the first place?

It was literally through Brownswood checking my stuff out on Myspace and through a friend of a friend. After that, I got asked to come down for a meeting; Gilles Peterson was there and we just spoke about music for a while, listened to some of my demos and he just said, “Yeah, let's do an album, let's put an album out."

You mentioned Myspace there. I know you've said that Myspace and other social networking sites have played a huge part in getting your music recognised. Is promotion through social networking sites what you'd recommend to anyone who's looking to get a record deal?

Well, I'm not sure it's the best way to get a record deal but I think it's important to help make people aware of your music and your presence. And social networking's definitely the best way forward really, with the likes of Twitter and Soundcloud. I think it's important to have your music up there. That's the way people want to listen to music now, and find out about music so it's important to be part of it.

And you've recently been added to the BBC Radio 1 playlist. That's an amazing achievement. Did you ever think your music would appeal to such a wide audience?

No, not at all. I knew I wanted it to appeal to as many people as possible but I never imagined that happening. It's like a dream.

In terms of musical influences, who were your influences growing up and which artists are you most feeling at the moment?

Growing up, I guess it was all different styles of music. Just everything from hip hop to jungle and drum and bass. And then I got into electronica and grime. And everything I could get my hands on.

Is there anyone you'd like to collaborate with if you were given the chance?

There isn't one particular person, just any artist who's interested in pushing things forward.  Anyone who wants to create music that's not just experimental in nature but interesting too.  A wide range of people, so that could be anybody, not just one particular person.

It was announced back on 19 July that your début album, Peanut Butter Blues & Melancholy Jam, had been nominated for this year's Mercury prize. The winner's finally announced next week [6th September]. How has the wait been?

It's been alright. I can't believe it was 19 July, it's gone so quickly. Yeah, I was obviously really excited about it, as I still am. It was more kind of, the next day, just getting back onto doing what I was doing - gigging and making music and so on and so forth. It's only now that it's come back into the forefront of my mind. So yeah, I'm looking forward to the day and to just having a good night really.

Obviously, fantastic to be recognised by the Mercury panel but at the same time, do you think it adds pressure in terms of making what's already termed “the difficult second album”? Do you think it will change the way you're going to make music, push your music forward?

No, it's not gonna change it. I'm just going to continue doing what I'm doing, which is making music. And trying to get it out of my mind and towards how I think the first album worked. Just having fun with it and making music that I want to listen to first and foremost. Yeah, but I can see how it can, I guess. But I don't think it will for me. I'll just keep doing the types of tunes I've been doing really.

Given you've toured with Metronomy, there may be an obvious answer to this question but if you had to pick an artist other than yourself to win this year's prize, who would that be?

Oh, it would be Metronomy, definitely. They've been working really hard to get that album done. Any of the artists nominated could win it. But if I had to choose, I'd say Metronomy.

You've had an extremely busy summer with appearances at many festivals. Which has been the best festival for you?

I really enjoyed the Great Escape in Brighton, and Glastonbury was really good. I loved Sónar in Barcelona, that was really good too. Other than that...all of them, in their own way, were great. The festival atmosphere's a unique one, you know? And I was lucky to partake in that many times this year.

You've played a number of festivals and sets in countries outside the UK, including Sweden, Denmark and Lithuania. How has the reception been in those countries and does the language barrier create a problem when you're performing?

The reception outside the UK was much better than I ever envisaged. Abroad, with the language barrier, I think - sometimes it can be an issue with crowds, especially with talking in between tracks. But what I've been lucky to find is that the vibe of the music seems to translate well. People have been getting into the music. It doesn't matter that they don't understand any of the lyrics because they still have the vibe to latch on to. And that's been really good to see.

Do you get chance to catch any other artists when you're at festivals and, if so, who's impressed you most this summer?

Not all the time. But I did see Electric Wire Hustle, a New-Zealand based band at a festival in Belgium, they were really good. It's kind of like soul, funk, a bit of experimental electronica.

You've got a huge UK tour coming up at the end of September, including a massive Soundcrash gig at London Scala on October 13. What can fans expect from the tour?

Well, in terms of me and the band that are playing, our passion for music and us creating an experience that's different from others. It's going to be very much more experimental and the tracks are more interchangeable. Yeah, so people should come with an open mind and just enjoy themselves, that's the point of it.

Finally then, what's next for you after the tour's finished? You're going to Australia for a few dates, but after that?

After that, it's a case of putting out some more music, hopefully, more collaborations with people. And I'll start to work more extensively on my second EP or second album.


For details of Ghostpoet's upcoming gig at London Scala on October 13, head to