GhostpoetAfter a European tour and a string of festival dates last year, Ghostpoet’s UK ‘More Light’ tour kicked off last week, after this month’s release of second album ‘Some Say I So I Say Light’. This follow-up to his Mercury nominated debut album is another creative blend of experimental electronic sounds, acoustic ideas and Ghostpoet’s distinctive vocal style of ‘mumbling over the top’ (his words, not mine), and also features collaborations from the likes of Lucy Rose, Dave Okumu, Woodpecker Wooliams, Charles Hayward, Gwilym Gold and Tony Adams. I had a chat with him on the phone about the new tour and album, his approach to songwriting, and his love of food…

How’s the UK tour going at the moment?

At the moment, it’s going pretty good yeah – we’ve done four dates so far, Coventry, Liverpool, Sheffield… Newcastle last night, so four, pretty good. Can’t complain. It’s nice to play in the UK.

How does it compare to the European tour that you’ve just come off?

Um… it’s different! Very different! Obviously, in some ways it’s easier, in some ways it’s harder. It’s easier in a sense that obviously language-wise there’s not so much a language barrier as there would be in Europe, but at the same time, because this is my home country, it’s almost like I have something to prove, you know what I mean. I don’t feel that way myself – I just get on with it. But I guess to a certain extent I do, because I’ve got a new record and for most people they haven’t heard it live, and if they’ve heard the record they’re intrigued to see how it will sound live, and so on and so forth. So it’s an interesting one. And because the record’s so new people are still getting used to the new songs. So in time it may become easier, who knows. But it’s fun, all the same. It’s fun.

How does the live show compare to the sound of the record? Was it an interesting challenge trying to recreate the sounds?

It’s definitely a different experience from the record, because if I was to just replicate the record live it would be a bit boring, for me anyway, just repeating, just doing exactly what’s on the record, and I want the live experience to be a unique experience, so it’s a live band, and there’s experimentation going on. So again it’s a further experimentation into marrying electronic and acoustic instruments. So yeah, a combination of the two.

When you say experimentation, do you like to improvise live and make things different?

Yeah, bits and bobs, it’s something I want to do more as we play more. it’s kind of in its infant stages in terms of completely improvising full tunes or the large majority of a tune, it’s more kind of in bits and  in-between tunes, but yeah, it’s something I do want to develop further as we play more, hopefully.

What do you tend to listen to in the tour van?

Just depends really! Just depends – we’ve been listening to lots of Motown stuff, day before that, we were listening to blues stuff, before that was electronic stuff… Bits and bobs really, just depends on the mood, whoever wants to play some music plays some music, there’s no set van play list. Just whatever people want to hear really.

Do you feel like what you’re listening to affects the live shows at all?

Nah, that’s just downtime. When it’s time for a show – we get serious and focus on that, so different mind states.

The collaborations on the new record, did you have to headhunt people you wanted, or was it just that you were in the same place at the same time?

Everyone on it was people that I wanted to have on it, and it was either people that I knew and luckily I asked them and they wanted to be involved, or it was people I admired and again, reaching out to them they liked what I wanted to do and they wanted to get involved, or it was people like Tony Adams and Charles Heywood recommendations from my co-producer Richard Formby, and I asked them to see if they were interested, and they were interested, and got involved via that, so a combination of things.

Did you have to write them specific parts to play, or did you just give them an idea and let them run with it?

With the vocalists, the songs were written, so they basically just providing vocal performances. In terms of the drumming, Tony Allen was… just being Tony Allen! I didn’t say to him ‘I want you to drum in a particular way’, we had the guitar line in place and that was basically it. I had much more going on in the track but I stripped it right down and just said “right, just drum along to this and do what you feel would work for the track”, and the same kind of thing with Charles Heywood as well, – kind of stripped back what I already had and said “do what you do and see what comes about”.

Where do your songs tend to come from? Do you sit down with a guitar or keyboard and just see what happens, or get a mood in your head and go from there?

This time around it was very much based on an upright piano that I have in my room.  That was the beginning and that was where the demos started from really. Once I had a melody or a potential chorus line I just started building the tracks from there, and that’s how it usually works, just from some kind of sit down demo, I just see what it’s saying to me and try to write to it.

You reference food quite a lot in your lyrics; do you have a signature Ghostpoet dish?

Uh, not really… I just like food! I talk about things that I like, and… things that are prominent in my life, and food is one of them, so, yeah I don’t believe in signature things, or things that you associate with just me as a statement, in things I do, or write about, or produce. I think I try and… I dunno. Avoid it.

Do you think there’s any kind of creative crossover with the way you write music and the way you cook?

 Not really! It’s very much more – I hate wasting food. I can waste words, if they’re not right, I can change them. But with any kind of… the thing is, I like to do recipes that are set in stone, so to speak, and it’s very much a case of following a recipe and making something. With that, in terms of the recipes they are very varied, but I don’t like freestyle cooking, I don’t like just slinging things in and seeing what happens. I think because I don’t want it to go wrong and waste food! With music, it’s very different, I don’t mind experimenting and seeing how things go.

Can you recommend any new bands you’re listening to at the moment?

At the moment? I’m really liking this London based girl called Bagel Project, she’s like an experimental artist of sorts. I’ve been listening to the first record from a band called Junip with José González, really liking that at the moment. And one more, Typesun, the band supporting me on my UK tour I really like what they’re doing, what he’s doing. Worth checking out, – Typesun.

Do you think your approach to songwriting has changed between first and second albums?

In terms of writing, I guess to a certain extent. I feel like my writing has changed with me getting older, you know. The first time around it was a bit more… not going in any particular direction, and to a certain extent it feels very much the same now, but it’s a bit more potent, a bit more knowing what’s going on, more focused. It’s like a camera out of focus or in focus, I feel a bit more in focus now. It’s very much still just talking about what I want to talk about and keeping it very much stemmed in real life, that’s what’s important to me.

Your album title ‘Some Say I so I say Light’ it’s another quite cryptic title like the first one…

Cryptic? The title? I don’t think so! The title is a kind of message to myself if anything, just saying to myself, some say, ‘I’ – some say a particular thing, or go down a particular route, or follow a particular path, and instead of me saying ‘I’ and doing the same thing, I say ‘light’, and do my own thing, follow my own path and try to be an individual, because that’s what we all are, ultimately.

Ghostpoet will be playing at Manchester Gorilla on Tuesday, 28 May.