One of the UK’s brightest young stars, his softly spoken lullaby lyrics about modern life have captured everyone’s heart around the world. Win or lose next week, it really doesn’t matter, this is one spirit set to haunt us for a very long time… You grew up in Tooting Beck in London, you always wanted to master an instrument at school but taking one home and practising with it meant taking out insurance, which financially was tough. Was family life hard? “My family life was solid in the way that like many parents prepare us for. They knew it was very important to gain a good education for their children, it was hard yes, but nobody knew back then how much money there was going to be in professions like music or playing football.”
What were your musical influences growing up that headed you into the world of dance music? “I listened to everything and anything. A lot of pirate radio, old skool garage, jungle, drum n’ bass and American Hip Hop. Then I got into indie…to be honest, I was just interested in music as a whole. I wanted to hear stuff I hadn’t heard before, interesting sounds that opened my mind.” You headed up to Coventry of all places and University life – what a city to move to from home to for the first time! Bleakville! “Ha ha!” Once there you became part of a grime collective, MCing – can you remember their name? “I do Dan, but I’d rather not reveal what it is if you know what I mean.” Anyway, thanks to a friend you learnt the art of computer production for your music were you were always looking for different sounds, even recording the sound of a door closing to tweak with! “Absolutely. I find that really important, experimenting, developing myself and my music, pushing myself, looking for interesting sounds.”
So with that in mind, looking back at your Mercury Prize nominated album ‘Peanut Butter Blues & Melancholy Jam’– do you still listen to it and pick faults with it? “I guess I do. Part of me is happy with what I created, it was meant to be made in that particular way. If I could go back I wouldn’t change it, there are techniques I know now and ideas here and there I could haveused, but no. It was a natural evolvement for me and now it’s time to take it to the next level.” You were made redundant from your 9-5 job on the same day you discovered Gilles Peterson wanted to sign you to his Brownswood label… “Yeah what a crazy day. I knew I was leaving the job, it was a boring Customer Service job and then I got the call. What a day.”
Did you ever lose faith in your destiny, did you ever feel at times it wasn’t gonna happen? “Of course. It wasn’t until Brownswood got involved that I ever thought I could make a living from music. At the back of my mind maybe I just thought it was going to be a serious hobby, but thank’s to the internet, my music has been shared all around the world.” Do you think getting nominated for the Mercury is enough of a recognition for your stunning start to your career, or do you really want to win it? “Well I need all the help I can get to become a known artist. This is all nice for me personally, I never aimed to be famous or anything, it’s just so great to be recognised for the music I wanted to do and how I did it. It can only lead to bigger things.” You have a big live gig at Soundcrash at The Scala in London on October 13th. You used to hate playing live, in past interviews you have said that you found it soul destroying with people judging your own creations. What changed all that? “Looking back, I’d say it was daunting not soul destroying. I love getting positive feedback, I enjoy being on stage and I’m just working towards getting to a happy medium. Nothing in life is perfect, I know that.”
You are a very private person, your lyrics I would imagine are part about your life and part about friends and their experiences. Have you had people admit to you that you have, however small, helped them their survive moments in their life. “Yes that really has happened. People have told me about certain situations that my music has gotten them through events and that means everything to me, it means I have related to people.”
Mike Skinner is a big fan, he says you are his favourite MC – any plans to work together? “Some bits and pieces. He is a great guy, one of the artists I listened to from an early age and he was one of the people out there that made me realise I could do anything with music, you just have to be yourself.” The UK seems all of a sudden to be full of brilliant urban musicians saying how it is out there…. “My music is all about emotion. As long as I get through to people whether they are living in a mansion or living on the street, if I can help them get through their ups and downs, well, that’s great.”
What is the best song you have written and why? “‘Liines’ means a lot to me. At the time things were not going right musically, I didn’t know how I was going to make it work, listening to it on the road helped.” What has Ghostpoet got in store for us in 2012? “More gigs, more creation, developing my sound, working on the next album and maybe a new EP.” Thank you dude. And hey, I didn’t even mention that one of the first records you bought was ‘Remember You’re a Womble’ – will you give this seven inches of vinyl props if you win the Mercury? “Ha ha – that was a long time ago. Funnily enough I was looking for that the other day, it’s lurking around somewhere on a CD!”
Soundcrash Music presents 2011 Mercury Music Prize nominee GHOSTPOET in a full live show.