“Oh god! That’s gonna haunt me for a while…” Obaro Ejimiwe, more commonly known as Ghostpoet, is reflecting on the 2015 Brit Awards – or rather, his drunken tweet commentary thereof. “We don’t have many music shows on TV anymore,” he offers by way of an explanation. “I love pop, there are certain pop stars that I do love, y’know? It’d be wrong to paint all pop with the same brush. But the theatrics of it… oh my goodness. You kind of have to watch it – it’s like fast food; not everyone loves fast food, but sometimes needs must! Every year I just seem to wanna get drunk and spout a load of bullshit… so that’s what I did.”
He’s no stranger to the verbose side of life – and a cursory glance at his Twitter feed will reveal a perhaps unhealthy devotion to all things gin - but “bullshit” isn’t quite the Ghostpoet mantra. Through all its incarnations, Ejimiwe has kept Ghostpoet strictly lyrical-minded, and while newest record ‘Shedding Skin’ favours a live band instrumental backing to the trip-hop bedroom productions he first employed, there’s little doubting the LP’s gripping storytelling.
“It’s definitely more balanced on the side of other people,” he explains of the anecdotes that preside over ‘Shedding Skin’’s lyrical content. “Things that I’ve come across, be it through text, be it through visuals, be it through video, film, conversations I’ve overheard, stories I’ve been told… stuff along those lines, much more than it being a personal story about me at all.” Given that ‘Shedding Skin’ flutters from crushing break-ups and arguments, to perspectives of a downtrodden homeless man in London on the record’s title-track, it’s at least a reassuring hit at Obaro’s mental state.
“With this one, I’m just much happier,” he confesses, “and with me being happier, I’m able to not feel down in the dumps and depressed and insular, I can look out at the world and look at what’s going on around me, in and around the city I’m living in and the world. It’s definitely much more of an observational record. It’s just looking at the ‘now’, looking at the feeling in the air and social issues, and stuff that all of us are going through in some shape or form – things that everyone can relate to.”
That idea of the relatable can perhaps be seen throughout Ghostpoet’s newest record - so much more than the self-described “lad with a lisp and some stories to tell” that Ejimiwe originally dubbed himself and his early forays, ‘Shedding Skin’ has seen him move away from the glitchy electronic backdrops of his past, instead favouring a collaborative effort with his live band.
Over an ironically glitching phone line, he explains his desires to move away from the packed world of London-centric bedroom producers. “I just felt like I wanted to make a bigger record,” he starts. “Not that the last record’s a bedroom record, it was made in a studio, but I was kind of connected with that kind of world still, and I wanted to put that to bed. I wanted to make a record that potentially was more accessible to people outside of my immediate fanbase.”
"It’s just looking at the ‘now’, looking at the feeling in the air and social issues, and stuff that all of us are going through in some shape or form – things that everyone can relate to."
— Obaro Ejimiwe
“For me, I’ve always loved guitar music, and I’ve flirted with the idea of guitar, bass, live drums, on the previous records – there’s a couple of tracks on the last record and a couple of tracks on the first. I was listening to a lot of guitar music – people like Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Interpol, Joy Division and The Cure, lots of stuff like that. It made perfect sense to make a record in that direction; it felt like I was at the right mental confidence level to do it. It felt like the natural progression and movement that I needed to make. Not on every record, but it felt like I needed to do something… not drastic but different, to keep me interested.”
“The balance I got on this record feels like ‘now’, it feels right at this moment in time,” he continues, and it’s that dedication to living in the present, rather than forlornly back to the past, that marks Ghostpoet out from many of his newfound indie rock contemporaries.
“It’s in its DNA because I live in London, but it’s not a London-centric record,” he concludes, again harping back to his desire for ‘Shedding Skin’ to cross boundaries. “I feel very much part of the world – not in a hippy sense, but through travelling and the internet and stuff like that. I don’t wanna make music just for the place that I live in, I’m trying to make music for everyone or anyone who wants to listen to it, regardless of where you’re from. “
On the future, he’s equally optimistic. “I still want to grow as a human being,” he ponders. “There’s no stop to that, that’s a continuous thing.” For a brief moment, he looks set to break free of his staunch dedication to the here-and-now: “I feel living elsewhere is definitely part of my own personal human growth. I’m hoping to at some point, I just don’t know where.” For now, though, it seems Ghostpoet will remain right where he is – not confined to London, but dedicated to and comfortable in the present day, in a way few others can match.
‘Shedding Skin’ is out now on PIAS.