In the aftermath of the London riots, Ian Maleney spoke with Obaro Ejimiwe aka Ghostpoet about the genesis of his debut album, translating it to a live setting, and that whole Mercury prize nomination thing.

In the aftermath of the London riots, Ian Maleney spoke with Obaro Ejimiwe aka Ghostpoet about the genesis of his debut album, translating it to a live setting, and that whole Mercury prize nomination thing.

 

Obaro Ejimiwe speaks very quietly. It’s early in the morning and the connection between Dublin and London isn’t the best. Ejimiwe talks calmly in a low tone, familiar to anyone who has heard his music. There are sirens in the background, the lingering evidence of the riots which had torn London apart for the previous three nights. There’s a clear tension in the air but Ejimiwe seems a practical kind of guy, “Bit tense really, all a bit tense. A strange time to be in London. What can you do? Life and the show must go on. It’s a bit rough at the moment.”

The first question is inevitable, the Mercury prize announcement is looming and Ghostpoet‘s album is amongst the contenders. With many considering it a dark horse in the race, the prospect of winning it doesn’t seem to be particularly important for Ejimiwe. “It feels irrelevant yeah, looking at this current situation but like I said, the show must go on. I’m really pleased to be part of that. It’s a great thing, something that will really help my career, really escalate and push things forward in my career.”

The album which has landed Ghostpoet in this position is Peanut Butter Blues and Melancholy Jam. The record is a downbeat, but not depressing, journey through the humdrum minutiae of existence, a series of tales about a grey life made colourful by a persistent sense of humour. It is not one that has Mercury Prize written all over it, which is probably why it deserves its place on the list. Ejimiwe agrees that awards are not exactly top of his list of priorities when it comes to making music. “The music that I make,” he says, “I make it for me and for people to hear and enjoy. It’s great to be a part of any awards or accolades but it’s not the first thing on my mind when I’m making music. Personally it’s important for it to continue to be that way. If it happens, it happens. I’m really pleased to be part of the Mercury awards but I first and foremost make music for enjoyment and if any awards come from it, so be it.”

The groundswell of praise for his debut has been steady since its release, spreading like some badly kept secret until just about everyone with ears had heard and loved it. Even with such a natural rise to attention, the reaction must have been somewhat of a shock for someone recording songs in their bedroom? “Yeah, it’s surprising. It’s been a bit of a mad roller-coaster really. It’s been a quite organic and natural progression. People have just been picking it up and passing it onto their friends and letting people know about it through word of mouth and social networks and so on and so forth. It’s been really pleasing and really encouraging and really helps me feel that maybe I can make a career out of this. It’s definitely encouraging.”

If a career does develop out of this record, it would be a pleasant change for the 28-year old. “I was just working, doing the nine-to-five jobs, customer service type stuff. Doing the music more as a hobby kind of thing, just in the evenings. I wasn’t doing anything musical, career-wise, before the album dropped really.”

So how exactly did the album come about then? When did the hobby become something real with a finished idea in sight? “It was a mixture of demos and things I created for the album and then the album as a whole was worked on in terms of making it a world of its own. I wanted to create my own kind of corner, so to speak, of what I’m about. It’s about me and my world and what I’m about really. That was kind of the mission.”

The mission was accomplished with the simplest of setups and the sparse nature of the album reflects the kind of restraint that clearly went into making it. “I was just at home, I had a microphone and a little keyboard and that was it really. It didn’t make sense for me to have loads of keyboards and guitars and bass and all that. When I got into electronic music, it made sense to do it all on a computer and add things as I needed them.”

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