EVERY year the Mercury Award nominations throw up the odd surprise and in 2011 it was the inclusion of relatively unknown urban artist Ghostpoet. He is back with the follow-up to his debut album and we spoke with him to find out how he handled the pressure.
TWO years on from the release of the imaginatively-titled debut from Londoner Ghostpoet – Peanut Butter Blues and Melancholy Jam – he has returned with an album that delivers on that record’s obvious potential.
With a bit more money and few more friends in high places, Ghostpoet – real name Obaro Ejimiwe – has been able to push on musically with second album Some Say I So I Say Light.
He told us what he has been up to since his debut made such a splash and his thoughts on album number two.
He said: It’s a piece of work I am happy with. It’s an evolution from the first record and a development for me as an artist.
“The first album was cool – I did it while I was still working a 9-5 job.
“It captured a few people’s imaginations and got some recognition.
“I was gigging for a while and playing for a couple of years of the back of the album.
“I was not sure what direction to go in and I just decided I had to do what I did with the first record and have fun with it and be creative.
“There was no pressure. In the first few months when I started thinking about the new album I was a bit like ‘what am I going to do with my life and what am I going to do musically this time around’ but then I thought this was an opportunity to make another record which not everyone gets to do.
“There was no expectation with the first – I just had to make music for myself first and foremost and then see what happens and that is what I’ve done again this time.”
Ghostpoet’s first album was very much a DIY project and it was released after Radio 1 DJ Gilles Peterson ‘took a risk on a random maverick’ by signing him to his Brownswood label.
Since then he has moved on to the Play It Again Sam label, home to the likes of Sigur Ros and Editors, and been able to move from self-producing in his own bedroom to working with a co-producer in the form of Richard Formby.
I asked Ghostpoet what difference that made to the process.
“It made a big difference,” he said. “Firstly it’s a different mind state working in a studio and not in a home set up.
“There is a lot of different equipment I could use and working with a co-producer was great because it just helped to bring my ideas to life and also with the technical side of things as I am not an expert at all.”
One of the key tracks on the album is the opener Cold Win, which Ghostpoet describes as ‘almost a flagpole or mast for the record’.
He said: “Because it’s the first track on the record I wanted it to be an introduction and give an insight into the world I was creating with this album.
“I wanted to go straight in and that track in particular is a snapshot.”
Ghostpoet is from the same mould as the likes of Mike Skinner and Lily Allen - telling stories about what he knows best over intriguing and experimental beats.
So what are his inspirations for those stories?
“Life,” he said. “I live life every day. Music is part of my life - it’s not all of it.
“I am pretty much an everyday person and so my everyday life is the first place I look to for inspiration.”
Ghostpoet’s Mercury Prize nomination in 2011 (won that year by PJ Harvey) certainly brought plenty of pluses for the rapper.
When speaking about the experience he was positive – but he was keen for it not to define him.
“It was great,” he said. “It kind of opened doors which may have been closed before and exposed more people to my music.
“I was very, very pleased with it happening but at the same time I’m about moving on – I don’t want my career to be defined by that but it was great to be nominated.”
With the new songs on Some Say I So I Say Light in hand, Ghostpoet sets out on a UK tour later this month.
He said he was keen to get back on the road in the UK.
“It will be good,” he said. “I’ve just started playing a few gigs in Europe now using the new material and it’s nice to have a few more tracks to call on when I’m playing live.
“The songs have been working well and I have a new band and I’m happy with how it’s going.
“It’s been a bit since I’ve done my own tour and I’m looking forward to getting out there again and seeing the UK.”
Looking ahead to the rest of the year, once the UK dates are out of the way, Ghostpoet has some exciting plans – including getting a new furry friend.
“I guess festivals and hopefully another tour at the back end of the year,” he said.
“I really want to buy a dog sometime this year as well.”
Ghostpoet plays Coventry Kasbah on May 18 and Leicester 02 Academy on June 2.
More information about the tour and dates are available at www.ghostpoet.co.uk
Meanwhile, Ghostpoet’s second album Some Say I So I Say Light is released on Play It Again Sam records on Monday.