Q + A with Mercury Prize Nominee Eska

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Eska took so time out of her very busy week post-Mercury Prize shortlisting to answer some questions for us (and the taxman).

Firstly, massive congratulations on the Mercury shortlisting. It’s been a few days now, have you managed to consider what’s actually happened?

There’s a great deal to take in so I’m letting the situation unfold in real time.   I’m thrilled that my album is receiving this kind of exposure especially when it means that the songs are being heard further afield.

You’ve been praised and supported by some big hitters such as Gilles Peterson and Lauren Laverne on 6Music along with The Independent and The Guardian. Has there been one moment in your career before the Mercury listing when you just thought “Wow!”

I’ve had some incredible performance highlights over the years; my recent collaboration with UNKLE featured in Rick Owen’s SS16 Womens show at Paris Fashion Week – that was definitely a ‘Wow!’ moment.

Gilles Peterson has been particularly behind you (check Eska’s session from 22.10.15 as Gilles sat in for Lauren Laverne), he had you nailed on for the shortlist and was even urging people to back you at the bookie the other day! Are you planning on having a flutter yourself?? Seriously though, is there anyone else on the shortlist that you really love musically, so much so that you don’t mind them beating you?

A bet’s not likely as I’m not a gambling woman.  I’ve just started listening to this year’s short list and Aphex Twin has certainly caught my attention.

The album has a real collision of sounds and influences from folk to jazz to electronica. Do you think this is a reflection of your own musical upbringing or the people you’ve worked with during your career or does it just capture a moment of inspiration when you were recording?

My dad’s record collection had a huge influence on me, growing up. I think that encouraged me to have an eclectic musical appreciation.  The majority of songs on my album were written over an 18month period.  My objective was to paint each song in sound; I suppose I let the song lead the production.

There were a number of other quite effecting moments happening in your life around recording time I believe? Does songwriting become a therapeutic process at this point or was life just too crazy?

Songwriting is a craft like any other; thrilling and comforting whilst  frustrating in equal measure.

Your label Naim has a really diverse artist roster. Is there anyone on the label you’d love to work with?

I don’t give a great deal of thought to collaborations.  Those have tended to happen organically and I like it that way.

There are some interesting and eclectic venues booked for your upcoming live dates including Liverpool Soul Fest this weekend and Turner Sims down our way in Southampton in January. Any of these that you are looking forward to the most and which is your favourite venue to play?

I’m a huge fan of Southbank Centre in London but breaking out of my hometown and meeting new audiences is essential and I’m delighted that the BPI MEGS funding I recently received has enabled me to begin touring in Europe as well.

 Is it quite strange six months or so after the album’s release to suddenly have this explosion of interest?

Well, the album has only just been distributed in Europe so we’re receiving responses across the continent alongside this reignited interest in the UK.

Now the £20,000 question…if you win, where’s the cash going?



Many thanks to Eska for her time, you can get her album direct from Naim here on vinyl (with free download), CD and download. She is out on tour in October and November starting in Liverpool and she calls at Southampton on January 23rd. 

The Mercury Prize is awarded on Friday 20th November live on BBC 4 and 6Music.

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