In The Middle with Ghostpoet

Shedding Skin is unlike any of Ghostpoet’s previous albums. Obara Ejimiwe (aka Ghostpoet) is a London based vocalist and musician whose recent release ‘Off Peak Dreams’ encapsulates the daily grind of a commuter. But Shedding Skin is bigger than London, “It’s definitely in there, it’s natural that it gets into the music….but it’s more a feeling I’ve got from travelling the world, it’s more global. The feeling that things could be better.”

Japanese frames the album, marking the three different stages in the process of shedding a past self. “A few days previous, I watched this documentary called Jiro Dreams of Sushi. I was so taken by his life and his attitude towards his work – the idea of dedicating your life to one job, one passion and seeing it through to the end, and trying throughout the course of your career to keep a level of quality and never falling below that – it got stuck in my head and I thought, right, I want to get some Japanese on this album.”

ghostpoet“That was the night before the last day of mixing”, recalls Ejimiwe, “so it was a bit last minute.” But identity has always been at the heart of Shedding Skin, “the idea that regardless of what you look like, where you are in your life, you can shed any past or baggage that is stopping you from moving forward. The artwork reflects that – it’s my skin cells under a microscope. Looking at that you can’t tell if it’s a man or a woman, a white person or a black person.”

Shedding Skin captures an intensely personal process yet Ejimiwe seems to embark on his most experimental album to date. Driven by a “burning attitude, a strong desire to make something I wanted to make”, Ejimiwe leaves behind the comfort of his electronic production to try his hand at a guitar record. “I’m a huge fan of guitar music, always have been. I’ve flirted with it in the past few records and I have a great touring band, so I thought why not.” 

Was it more difficult making this album then? “No, not really, definitely different though. For once, I allowed the music I was listening to…to influence the music I was making. I was listening to a lot of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Interpol, TV on the Radio, Massive Attack… but I didn’t want to replicate what they were doing, I just allowed stuff that I love to influence what I was going to make. It’s like making a copy of a painting… say there are ten people doing a still life drawing, you will get ten very different paintings. Everyone has such unique perspectives on what they see in front of them. What I make is always going to be me”, Ejimiwe laughs, “to my detriment maybe.”

Quietly slipped onto Soundcloud during the process of making Shedding Skin, I ask Ejimiwe about the idea behind his side project, The Art of Nothing. Ejimiwe sounds genuinely surprised, “Thank you very much, honestly. I didn’t think anybody listened to that. Basically, I always get classed as a poet, even though I don’t think I am at all, so thought I’d give it a try. ‘The Blue Painter’ is the result of recording a conversation with a taxi driver, using interesting soundscapes as a creative springboard to write poetry. It’s trying to continue the conversation, taking it in the direction I thought it would go.”

Will there be more The Art of Nothing material to look forward to? “I’ve realised making this record, I want to keep this Ghostpoet thing as free as possible –  and having this space to experiment, to do some creative stuff away from Ghostpoet definitely takes the pressure off.”

With just weeks until his tour, I ask Ejimiwe how he’s feeling, “I’m really looking forward to playing the new record and touring with the new band. This record was made with live performance in mind. If they’re around, I’d love to have the actual artist perform with me but I’m quite happy with what we’ve been practising – I’ve got my synth/keyboard player who does the female vocals and my new guitarist who’s got a bit of a voice,” Ejimiwe laughs, “he really has.”

After the darkness of Some Say I So I Say Light, it’s fair to say that Shedding Skin is about dealing with the aftermath, about getting on your hands and knees to sift through and process the pain before you can truly let go. And slowly but surely, Ejimiwe gets there.

Emily Watts 

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