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Possessing one of the best and most memorable voices in the UK right now, ESKA weaves together diverse musical elements – hints of folk, soul, psychedelica and electronica can all be heard on her EP ‘Gatekeeper’ released in November 2013. Supporters include Lauren Laverne, Jamie Cullum and Giles Peterson, and she’s collaborated as a performer and writer with legends such as Grace Jones, Cinematic Orchestra, Zero 7 and Bobby McFerrin.

Gatekeeper was co-produced with The Invisible’s David Okumu with additional co-production on two tracks coming from electronic star Matthew Herbert. We’ve supported the Gatekeeper Tour through Women Make Music funding.

PRSF: Hi ESKA! Thanks for a great performance at our showcase in January. You had a busy year in 2013 with the release of Gatekeeper and you’re in the middle of a tour right across the UK. Where are you most looking forward to performing? What’s the next step for you once the tour is over?

EM: I’m fortunate to have been well-received over the years in my home town (London) but there’s nothing quite like performing to a completely new audience to challenge and motivate me as a performer – I relish that! They can become moments of reinvention. After the UK I go to North America playing a few dates with my band before returning to do a couple of UK festival dates.

PRSF: You successfully crowd-funded the costs of your EP release. How did you engage your audience and make it work for you? Do you have any tips for anyone trying to use the platform?

EM: I appreciate how crowd-funding has enabled me to identify my audience and try out new ways of engaging with them. Ultimately (and I’m possibly thinking more long term) artists need to set up their own mechanism for this kind of thing.

PRSF: What has been the biggest highlight of your career so far? And the biggest challenge?

Workshopping a 150-voice scratch choir in the south of France for a week in preparation for an improvised acappella performance with Bobby McFerrin on the last night of Jazz a Vienne Festival. It was the kind of ‘happening’ that completely tore down that ‘4th wall’; I got to conduct the choir that night and also performed an acappella duo improvisation with Bobby but the most breath-taking moment was when he got the 8000-capacity amphitheatre to improvise back to our drop-jawed faces on stage – there was a lifetime’s worth of instruction generously given in that one performance.

My biggest and most rewarding undertaking has been completing my debut album; the process of learning to trust my creative instincts in production and being uncompromisingly ambitious for the work whilst being an independent artist.

ESKA’s recommendations:

ARTIST: Laura Groves
Laura Groves is an artist-producer. Listen to her song Pale Shadow out on the fantastic Deek label.

ARTIST: De’borah Powell
I first saw De’Borah Powell performing her own material at 13 years old. She’s a young artist who has consistently focussed on her singer-songwriting craft. Check out De’Borah’s live performance of Before You Are Mine.

PERFORMANCE: Pete Swanson & Helm
I recently attended a typically unusual night at The Dome (London) and witnessed a mind-bending performance by experimental/noise artist Pete Swanson & Helm. I only left early because I didn’t want my ears to start bleeding. Check out Life Ends At 30.