Our latest songwriting interview is with Michael Ekeghasi. Michael was born in Lagos in Nigeria and lived in Finland where he built a large and dedicated fanbase. Michael performed to an audience of about 15,000 people at the Pelipoikki rally in Helsinki. He shared same stage with the likes of famous Finnish rapper Paleface, Malang Cissokho and the renowned Helsinki Symphony Orchestra.
He has now relocated to London where he has recorded a string of well received singles and written a host of excellent songs for our very own Positive Songs Project in 2020. He regularly collaborates with fellow PSP luminary Maya McCourt on the Flotsam Sessions.
1. What’s the first piece of music or song you remember hearing?
A piano rendition of “All my life” by K-Ci and JoJo. It is probably not the first music I’ve heard but it is a memorable one and that is because it led to my first ever recording experience but that is a story for another time.
2. Can we talk a bit about the last song you wrote… was there a specific intention when you began to write it?
The last song I wrote, before the latest one, stems from a conversation I was having a friend who happened to have co-written it with me. We did not set out to write a song. It was just a simple but deep conversation about the horrific situation in the world. How so many children are suffering from the lack of food, basic amenities, education and health care. The idea of writing a song only came when we thought could not do a lot about the situation but then realized that we both have a tool we could use to raise funds and create more awareness, and that is our song writing skills.
So we set out to write “Dying is not for kids”. It’s a very emotional song. I remember playing it in a song sharing group sometime ago and one of the audience told me he would not listen to the song again because he has a daughter and he can’t imagine her going through “all those sufferings”. But that is the reality of the world we live in today. My co-writer and I were able to raise some funds through donations on release week for Pelastakaa Lapset ry (Save The Children), an NGO in Finland which is dedicated to helping children and families from impoverished societies. The song was written in Finland and recorded in Poland.
3. As a follow up, is that your usual process and if not how does it differ?
Not really. Most of the song I have written starts from jamming, trying out new chord combinations, humming some melodies and then lyrics. Usually, I keep a note of potential song ideas which comes from observing my environment, listening to other peoples stories and from my life experiences. When a song comes to me, no matter how crude it sounds, I try as much as I can to record it using my phone or any recording devices at my disposal, otherwise I will forget it and the song hardly returns. I have some strange feeling that it goes to the next person who is ready to work on it as I can swear I have heard a song from a random artiste which I think came to me in the past but for some reason I did not capture it.
4. Is there a specific experience that you can bring to mind that has encouraged you to write music you wouldn’t have written otherwise?
Yes. There was one recent instance during the pandemic lockdown. I was introduced by a friend to a songwriting group online called Positive Song Project (PSP). In this group, there are weekly songwriting challenges that we go through. One of the challenges was to write a song from an animal point of view. I have never thought of such before, I wouldn’t on good day yet I find the ideas it quite fascinating. That week I wrote a song called “Hooman” which is how animal pets would call us as humans. It is a very simple song written with only 3 chords: a representation of how less complicated pets could be.
5. Tell us about your latest single, Blow. It contains a sample at the beginning and seems lyrically related to the concepts of family and friends.
“Blow” was also a product of PSP which I had I mention earlier. It was easy yet difficult to write as it was very personal, probably one of the most personal songs I have ever written. It is the story of a struggling artiste who chose to follow his passion but family expectations are holding him back. He feels trapped, almost like their was a spell on him which is preventing him from making it in his career and the only way to break this spell is to plead to his mother to pray for him. The voice sample you hear at the beginning of the song is a real life voice message from my mother.
I have had many people come to me after my live performances, some in tears, telling how they were touched by the song. How they could relate to it. I was simply crying out, expressing my ordeals the best way that I possibly could through music. But I’m happy to know that the song speaks to people in similar situations.
6. Give us a Michael Ekeghasi Oblique Strategy… Are there any special techniques you employ to get a new song started?
Nothing special. As mentioned earlier, I just starts jamming and freestyling. I try to record the sound as soon as possible. Then go back to it a later to develop it further into a song tapping from some of the song ideas that I have.
7. Take us through your gear list. When you demo new songs or ideas, what is your home recording setup for writing? For example, your favoured instrument? Any favoured FX pedals or plug ins? Which DAW(s) do you use? Which interface?
Here is some of my gear:
Two sets of JBL pro speakers
32 inches HP Monitor
Two channel focusrite audio interface
Focusrite CM25 MKII condenser microphone
Behringer ECM8000 ultra-linear measurement microphone (for my studio room acoustic measurement)
Behringer XM8500 dynamic mic
Two acoustic guitars – Ibanez and Faith. These are my main musical instruments.
A Gio Ibanez electric guitar
DT 770 pro headphones
Two 16-key midi controllers – M-audio and Novation.
An 81-key full weighted Yamaha p-45 digital piano
Millennium MPS-850 e-drum
Various percussions from Bonga to Cajuns and all sorts.
A Boss loop pedal
These are the ones I can remember now.
When I demo songs, it’s usually starts with me, my acoustic guitar and microphone, then other instruments follow suits depending on what instruments I could hear playing in my head. I also like to experiment and play with various others sounds and instruments. I use a FL studio as my DAW.
Follow Michael Ekeghasi on Instagram to keep up with his latest releases.
Listen to Michael’s songs for the Positive Songs Project at soundcloud.com/michaelekeghasi