Times are tough, that much we know for certain. The cost of living is rising, while wages – if you're lucky enough to be in secure employment – seem to remain somewhat static. It's time to get real.
Speaking to Ghostpoet, it's clearly a sentiment he can get behind. “I want to try and make music that people can relate to,” he tells Clash. “For me, it's not about trying to preach or give answers to people; it's like, what we all do most of the time is think about life. Be it the state of our own lives right now or what we want to do in the future or events or emotions in the past. That's it for me.”
Words are tumbling, with the Brighton based artist - real name Obaro Ejimiwe - seeming to hone in on the crux of the matter. “I don't really live a pop star life,” he continues. “I live a relatively normal life. For me, it makes sense to talk about everyday things in as articulate a way as I can.”
Which bring us neatly to 'Shedding Skin'. As the title would suggest, it finds Ghostpoet in the throes of another artistic evolution, an aesthetic revolution. As bare, direct as his debut, it's also a record informed by success – lucky enough to tour the globe, this experience of performing live has impacted upon his own songwriting.
“I wanted to make a band record. I guess I decided to make an indie rock record,” Obaro grins. “I love guitar music, I had previously done a couple of tracks on the last record – and the first record – where I was toying with the idea of implementing guitars, drums and bass but it would never a fully formed thing. For many reasons. I thought the time was right to try something different.”
Very much a band record in feel, the actual direction of 'Shedding Skin' was entirely dictated by Ghostpoet. Compiling complex demos, the artist then introduced his new material to select members of his live set up. “I wanted to make sure I had my own vision of what direction the music was going to go in before collaborating with a band because I'd never been in that kind of situation before, where it was more than one person helping to produce the record. So I wanted to make sure that there wasn't too many cooks, it was still very much me and I'm still very much a solo artist.”
The approach seems to have re-vitalised Ghostpoet. “It's funny, I tried to stop myself from reading reviews, but I have – and it's literally split people down the middle. Which is, in a sense, what I wanted to do. I think if everyone universally loves what I'm doing then I feel like I'm doing something wrong. It feels like I'm just resting on some kind of laurels of some sort. I don't want to do that. I want to make challenging music.”
Discussing his career to date, the artist seems to return to academic terms. Continually soaking up new information, the process of touring and recording seems to form a feedback loop which propels Ghostpoet into new avenues.
“I like to study – not in the theatrical sense, but in a theory sense,” he explains. “I study in a sense of listening to other albums, watching other people's performances, finding out everything about the business, the industry that I'm in. All those things, consciously or sub-consciously effect my work. The more I'm in this world, this industry. It just felt like the right time to try something like this. Like I previously said, it's a risk, there's the risk of losing what we call fans but I just feel it's important to keep doing what you feel is right for your own art. Find out what is possible.”
Intriguingly, of the five guest voices on the record some four artists are female. This is partly a coincidence – Ghostpoet simply drew upon friends, acquaintances and artists he admired – but it is also a reflection of the world around him.
“I wouldn't say a rapport but I feel there's a lot of, I guess, controversy and news stories about equality and feminism and stuff along those lines and I'm a massive supporter of equality and a massive supporter of woman. As in, I have three sisters and my mum's still around so I'm very much a supporter of the female species. They're all artists who I think are amazing artists and it's important that I try to work with people who I admire, as much as possible.”
'Shedding Skin' was led by the fluid, fragrant yet gritty 'Off Peak Dreams' and a memorable video produced on a tight budget. Utilising the average wage of a British worker, the clip was viewed by many as a political statement, as a blast against white collar degradation. “I wanted it to be lo-fi, because life isn't always hi-fi. It's lo-fi for a lot of people and it just made sense for it to stay that way. I'm really pleased with it.”
“I wouldn't say it's a protest,” he continues. “I have been asked that: is it a political record? I don't feel so, if people take that from it fair enough but it was not my intention at all. I guess, if anything I just wanted to return to what I was doing on the first record, which is very much poetry.”
It's a record informed as much by Ghostpoet's own life as his artistic career. “Obviously, I'm like three, four years older and the world has changed in that time,” he states. “For me, these are the things that I'm seeing outside my window. It's me very much trying to talk about the world that I live in, the country that I live in and the city that I live in.”
'Shedding Skin' is a solo affair, but it's also a deeply collaborative one. The play off between individual and community runs through it like a stick of Brighton rock, with Obaro refusing to turn his back on the issues he sees around him.
“For me, these are social issues that we either see, are a part of or can understand from reading. Even if it's just in the privacy of our own homes. I just think it's important for artists to document the times. It's important to make music of the moment. That's what I've tried to do anyway.”
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'Shedding Skin' is out now.