Amanda Ghost talks to us about starting out, writing hit songs, Joni Mitchell and her plans for the future.
1. How did you first get into singing and songwriting?
I've always loved to sing from as early on in my life as I can remember. My uncle taught me to play the guitar and then I couldn't stop writing songs. Melodies and lyrics used to just come into my head and I would sing them in the playground to my friends as a child and no-one believed that I made them up myself, that gave me confidence that I was doing something that seemed valid to everyone else.
2. Last year you won two Ivors for co-writing James Blunt's worldwide hit You're Beautiful. How have things changed for you since then?
I've had so many doors open for me as a singer, songwriter and music executive. Financially I have become more stable and I am able to sit back and pick projects that really speak to me as an artist. The range of artists wanting to work with me now has been really overwhelming and I am constantly pinching myself when I get a call from an artist who I have long admired. I am also able to champion new talent now and help get bands and solo artists signed which is such a buzz as there are so many deserving souls out there who just need a little more recognition.
3. What gave You're Beautiful such universal appeal?
I think it is the fact that it is about a chance encounter with a complete stranger who you will never meet again but for a brief instance you fall in love. It's those private fantasy moments in life that make it worth living and I think it has a universal theme that everyone can relate to.
4. You've worked with James Blunt, Boy George and more recently Whitney Houston, Beyonce and Shakira. Is there anyone you'd love to write for?
I'd really love to work with Prince. He was the first artist I listened to as a girl and realized that song-writing was about more than just a rhyming lyric and a slick production. Everything he did had such incredible emotion and passion which is so important when creating music.
5. You set up and now run your own record company, Plan A Records. How did that come about?
I set up my own label as a way of taking the creative A+R process away from the majors as most of them really don't have a clue to how to develop an act. The idea is to create credible and commercially viable music that can then be licensed on to a bigger label which will market and distribute the act. With James Blunt, I took his music around to every label I could think of to try and get them interested and they all passed, his massive success gave me the confidence that I actually might have a clue as to what kind of music can sell today, given half the chance
6. As well as songwriting, running a label and A&R you are working on your new album. What can we expect from that?
It's a very honest collection of songs varying on the universal themes of love, loss, joy and disappointment. I like songs that have a bittersweet message in them and I can't help but write anything else. All the songs have been recorded with very simple productions with the emphasis on melody, lyric and arrangement, if you get those three things right then you can't fail.
7. Recently you interviewed Joni Mitchell for BBC Radio 2. Tell us what that experience was like.
Joni Mitchell is the ultimate singer-songwriter for any artist, regardless of genre, to admire. She is completely unchallenged today in terms of what she brought to pop music and the art of songwriting. Interviewing her and getting inside that brain for just a few hours was incredibly insightful and was probably one of the most rewarding experiences I've ever had in my life.
8. You've known Joni for a few years now. What is the best advice she has given you?
She once told me that I had to make up my mind about what I wanted to be when I first started in the music business, an artist or a rock and roll star? I remember at the time thinking that it was an easy question, I wanted to be a star and be the biggest and brightest one on the scene, the more records sold and more money made the better. Now I understand the question more fully, being an artist is not always about winning, it's mostly about failing and by having the courage to do that you will outlast any young star who didn't pay their dues.
9. Why are royalties important to songwriters and composers?
Because without them we would have to get real jobs, get up at an early hour and bear some kind of responsibility, all anathema to any self-respecting musician
10. Do you remember how much your first PRS royalty cheque was for and what you spent it on?
I honestly can't remember what I did with the first cheque I received, it probably went to pay back some of my ever increasing debts I had at the time.
11. What are your plans for the rest of 2007?
I'm having a baby, watching the records I've made get released and make their mark and also take some time off and enjoy life outside of music, I haven't done that for over 10 years.
Amanda Ghost's interview with Joni Mitchell, Coming in from the Cold: The Return of Joni Mitchell, for BBC Radio 2 will be broadcast on Tuesday 20th March 2007 at 8:30pm.