HAK Baker is a philosophical soul. The former grime artist has seen his star rise since he struck out to make his own tunes. It also turned him away from a chaotic life of misdemeanors which eventually landed him behind bars.

“Things just happen don’t they? That’s the story really,” says the Eastender, who hails from the gritty Isle of Dogs, talking about the attention now being heaped on his 27 year-old shoulders.

He insists people are taking notice precisely because he is so normal.

“Glam has got to be getting boring by now,” he insists.

“In fact, being bland is how I connect with the lads and ladettes, I reckon.”

First catching the ear of grime star and rapper Skepta, who has championed him, Hak’s heartfelt guitar ballads are going down a storm.

He has talent, that much is obvious. His voice saw him win a singing competition in primary school, after which he claims he was ‘tricked’ into joining a choir.

“It did allow him to develop his vocal talents, though, and engage with singers from all backgrounds.

It wasn’t long before he switched his attentions from the choir to something more ‘street’ – MC-ing at youth clubs, local studios and pirate radio stations. He fell in love with rock and indie as well as grime and garage.

Aged just 14, he had a taste of fame with his grime collective Bomb Squad, but, he admits, things spiralled out of control.

Leaving home a year later, he had run-ins with drink and the law. His teenage years saw him flit between hotels, hostels, police stations and court.

His turbulent life eventually led to a longer spell inside.

As an inmate, he rediscovered his passion for music, learning the guitar and vowing to pursue his passion properly after his release.

“Picking up the guitar was as lucky and as random as picking names out of a hat, as that’s literally what happened,” he recalls.

“One day the officers were offering free guitar lessons. There were only a few spaces so they asked us to put our names in a hat if we wanted them. I put my name in and hoped I’d get it and luckily the governor pulled my name out.

“I ended up teaching myself, as most freebies given out by some sort of government scheme are half-hearted and soggy.

“I’m not sure what the expectation was but all I can say is by allowing myself to learn again it enabled me to find a love similar to a favourite lesson in school – a growing adolescent one which was addictive.

“Imagine waking up in the morning and thinking... ‘Yes! I’ve got maths.’ Or in most lads’ cases, P.E or design tech.

“It was the same feeling. I’d be sitting down and thinking ‘Yes! Tomorrow I’m gonna wake up and crack on with the guitar again’.

“From there I just started penning. Just simple like that. It’s easy because I don’t like talking to people that much, except for my super best mates. But we’re all busy these days.

“One of my best mates is living in New York with his bird! As I said: busy.”

Since getting out, Hak has grown in stature as an artist, earning the backing of presenters Annie Mac, Matt Wilkinson and Huw Stephens as well as the aforementioned Skepta – aka Joseph Junior Adenuga.

His charm is undeniable, that blend of rough and smooth – East End charm, raw vocals and pared back guitar tunes, winning fans.

And did his time in the slammer influence his music? “It didn’t, but I found myself a bit in there,” he says. “Being honest, I think it helps connect me with the people.”

I ask him if he believes music is a good way for people to sort out their issues and stay out of trouble – and prison.

He laughs. “Yeah it is... positives from what most will deem negative, and all that I guess. Though there were ups and downs, I’ve quite thoroughly enjoyed my journey.

“You live once and I’ve got all the stories in the world to sing and shout about. It was the best time of my life with all of my mates smashing our way through. It was hard, but the greatest ever. How can I regret the best time of my life?”

And he has solidly moved away from his grime days. “I still enjoy it but it ain’t got the feel of the old days,” he says. “I’m not making grime now.”

Having released his critically acclaimed debut EP, Misfits, Hak is hitting the road, playing Oxford on February 27. Festival appearances beckon, including Bestival.

Hak’s life is a triumphant example of overcoming the odds.

“Ultimately, as lads we thought we could run riot and mess about forever,” he says.

“The sadness and realisation that we can’t is the catalyst to the music. It brings lads together wherever they are in the world by taking them down memory lane, then they just rejoice in the madness.

“Ten pints, five gin and tonics. Whatever you gotta do I suppose...

“It’s a time where people should be sticking together. There’s too much madness in the world right now. I’m hoping my tunes can help make that happen in some way.

“Looking out from the stage when I’m performing, seeing the multitude of different people attending, jumping up and down enjoying each other; it’s powerful, and it makes me feel good. Unity, man, that’s the goal.”

And he is relishing the prospect of bringing those tunes to Oxford.

“I just want to share the stories with the people,” he says. “We get powers off of each other; it’s mental performing, and Oxford is another place I get the honour to experience.

“I’ve only come through Oxford before so I’m looking forward to it. I think I met a couple of birds there way back actually.

“Sort me a proper guide, we will need a good pub!”

* Hak Baker plays the Jericho Tavern, Oxford, on Tuesday, February 27. Go to hakbaker.com.