Mercury-nominated GHOSTPOET on grime, DIY and success.
Obaro Ejimiwe, otherwise known as GHOSTPOET, is something of a slow burner in musical terms. It took the Coventry-native 27 years to kickstart his music career but, as proof it was in fact worth the wait, debut album Peanut Butter Blues And Melancholy Jam garnered widespread critical acclaim and a Mercury Prize nomination in 2011. Now, ahead of a headline billing at the Liverpool Music Week closing show, he talks to David Lynch about his meteoric rise and how he plans to keep his star from fading.
Bido Lito!: How did you learn your trade starting out as a DIY musician?
Ghostpoet: Just through people that I was hanging around with and a lot from YouTube. I read a lot of music magazines just trying to get as much info as possible.
BL!: What kind of music were you listening to and working on at the start of your career?
G: Grime and hip hop is what I started with. It felt right in the beginning to do that type of music because that’s what the people around me were doing but I pretty much soon realised that I wanted to experiment much more with the sound I was creating. I wanted to incorporate some live stuff and worldy everyday sounds.
BL!: What were the influences that moved you away from grime?
G: Just listening to a lot of other stuff really. I wasn’t only listening to grime, I was listening to hip hop, indie, dance music, electronic and folk trying to expand my brain so to speak. I realised that you don’t have to just create music in one particular genre in fact there doesn’t have to be any genre to just make sound. I think that’s the way music has gone.
BL!: Were others around you limited by their tastes?
G: They all had a different degree of musical listening but everyone had their own thing. Some were open to two or three genres, others more, and some were happy to listen to anything. With me personally, I was happy to listen to anything but I’d fully immerse myself in genres and I would never skip through tracks. If I found something I liked I’d dig deep and find the essence of it.
BL!: How did the link with Brownswood Records come about?
G: It came about from having my music on Myspace. I wanted to get my music out there and I wasn’t sure how it could be done so I kept up with the internet doing some networking and speaking to likeminded musicians. My friend then recommended my music to someone they knew at Brownswood and through that they decided to check me and my demos out. I went down for a meeting with Gilles Peterson and the rest, as they say, is history.
BL!: Did it move quickly after that?
G: We put out an EP [The Sound Of Strangers] in June last year and after that it was a case of working on the album [Peanut Butter Blues and Melancholy Jam] and that came out in February this year. So yeah, pretty quickly.
BL!: The album contains tracks such as Cash And Carry Me Home, which speak of darker times; was this the case when you were starting out?
G: I was just working a customer service job in London at the time. I guess it was a frustrating time in my life and music was my avenue to put my emotions on display to an extent. I feel that it was a mixture of emotions; a combination of stuff that was going on and stuff that people I knew had been through.
BL!: How was your experience of the festivals this year?
G: They were amazing, a dream come true really. This year there have been a lot of gigs, a lot work and a lot of fun.
BL!: How did you feel when you heard you had been nominated for the Mercury Prize?
G: I didn’t make the album with that in mind; I made it for me first and foremost but I really thought it was an honour to be put in such a group of artists. It’s not what you make music for but it’s nice when it comes about and it helped me to believe in myself more that I could make a career out of music.
BL!: What direction do you see your music taking next?
G: I don’t ever want to sit on my laurels and be comfortable with what I’ve done now, there’s a lot more improvement to come. Personally if I get comfortable then it’ll become boring and stagnant so I want to continue pushing on as much as possible now.
BL!: Have you been to Liverpool before?
G: I have been to Liverpool once supporting Jamie Woon at the Shipping Forecast but I never got to go down to Anfield or anything even though I’m a Liverpool supporter. I’m going to try to get down to a game this time. It’ll be great to come down to Liverpool and play a great gig further up the bill now my career has moved on a bit.
BL!: What next for Ghostpoet?
G: More gigging! I’m doing the European tour after the next week and then after that more development on new music. I’ll be working on a new EP and a new album to come out next year and now there are even more avenues opening up to me. It’s a case of choosing which demos are the direction I want to go in.