Rewind three years ago, Obaro Ejimiwe (more commonly known as Ghostpoet) was gracing the cover of Exposed after the critical acclaim of his debut album Peanut Butter Blues & Melancholy Jam. With a sound that’s certainly difficult pin-down, alternative vocalist Ghostpoet is returning to Sheffield shores for Tramlines Festival this July. We decided it was time for a catch-up to chat Tramlines, his new album Shedding Skin, and everything he’s been up to in-between…
Hello Obaro! Can I call you Obaro, or do you prefer Ghostpoet?
Obaro is fine! Don’t feel obliged to call me Ghostpoet!
So, to start things off, I thought you’d be interested to know that this time three years ago you were actually the cover star of our mag!
Really?! Time flies! What was I up to?
You were playing a show at DQ and celebrating the critical acclaim of your first album!
Wow, definitely feels a long time ago now!
Certainly! So it’s three years later, and you’re joining us for Tramlines Festival 2015. Are you looking forward to coming and seeing us?
Yeah! I like Tramlines as a festival. Even though it’s not free anymore it’s still amazing value, and gives a lot of opportunity for upcoming bands. I always like visiting new places as well. I saw the promo and the line-up looked great, so I wanted to get involved!
Is there anyone in particular you’re looking forward to?
I think Slaves are pretty cool, I’ll definitely try and see them if I can. I’m quite into Marika Hackman at the moment, she’s getting quite big. And Martha Reeves of course!
Good stuff! So like I said, last time we chatted you were playing a headline show at DQ. How does playing the festival scene compare to your regular indoor shows?
Well, it depends. Festivals are changing a bit now and there are more indoor bits, where you can still have that atmospheric sense that you get with indoor gigs. I suppose my shows are a bit more intimate, so it can be challenging translating that to a festival. You also get a lot of passers-by at festivals, so it’s a good opportunity to gain new fans.
Your sound is pretty difficult to pin down; last time we spoke you declared you were neither a poet nor a rapper. Has this changed at all?
No it hasn’t changed really. I definitely still stand by that statement.
So how would you describe your sound to someone who had never listened to Ghostpoet before?
I would say it’s sort of experimental, alternative indie. Well the new album is anyway!
Yes, your new album ‘Shedding Skin’ came out earlier this year. What can you tell us about the new album?
Well the sound is alternative experimental indie. I decided to keep it simple with the guitar, bass, and drums formula. It’s quite an immediate record – it definitely has that ‘pick up and play’ factor.
You’ve had a fair few featured guests on your previous albums, are there any collaboration on ‘Shedding Skin’?
Yes! I’ve done some tracks with Lucy Rose, Nadine Shah, Maximo Park’s Paul Smith… some really exciting artists. I’m just so grateful they lent me their time and talent, because otherwise the record would have been shit! [laughs]
The title ‘Shedding Skin’ is quite interesting…
Well I liked the idea of making a record about identity. The idea of ‘Shedding Skin’ came from the concept of shedding your past and becoming someone new. The album artwork is actually a close-up of my own skin cells. I had a small biopsy, we got it under the microscope and we used it for the album artwork.
Wow that’s commitment! Does this reflect a more autobiographical album or is your style still very much ‘seeing the world through someone else’s eyes’?
I’d say it’s a combination of the two. It’s still very much seeing things through others eyes and perspectives, but I also explore points where my world collides with other peoples.
The video for the first single off the album ‘Off Peak Dreams’ is out now. The video is quite interesting; can you tell us a bit about it?
Well what I wanted was to create a video that represented the average living, or at least the common way of life living in a city. And with that the isolation that comes with living in a city, where you live somewhere so populated but your world is made up of around five or six people. We also spent just over £2000 on the video, which is pretty low budget for a music video. The reason we did this was because the average monthly wage for an adult in the UK is about £2000 a month, so we thought we’d reflect that in the budget aspect of the video. I do a job, but it’s not a regular 9-5 job, and I wanted to connect with this way of living without being patronising.
You’ve played pretty much all over the globe. Is there anywhere you’d like to play?
I’d really like to hit South America and Mexico. I get a lot of tweets from the radio over there saying they’re playing my stuff! I did an interview and I was told that I had a lot of fans in Mexico which I never knew! I’ll have to go over there and see.
You’ve got quite a distinctive British undertone to your music, but it obviously translates all around the world. Do you think that’s to do with the themes you touch upon in your music? Or the actual sound itself?
I think it’s a combination. I think I’m consciously aware that I want the music around the world and not just the UK. Maybe it’s subconscious? I just try and create music people can connect to.
And finally, why should the people of Sheffield stop by your set at Tramlines?
Ooh I hate these questions [laughs]. I feel like a dodgy salesman! Well erm, life is life, and you should do what you want to do, I’m not going to tell you what to do. I don’t like bigging’ myself up! Well if you like music, and you enjoy a live show, stop by, and maybe we can have a boogie together.
Tramlines tickets are £30 for all 3 days, and can be purchased from www.tramlines.org.uk. Sheffielders can purchase Tramlines 2015 tickets from The Harley, the University of Sheffield’s Student Union, the Leadmill, City Hall or o2 Academy.