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Shedding Skin: A Far Out interview with Ghostpoet

After another successful year for Obaro Ejimiwe aka Ghostpoet, Far Out sat down with the man himself to discuss (another) Mercury Prize nomination, the search for the ‘band’ sound and why arena crowds are nothing to be scared of…

Hi Obaro, you’re playing the last leg of your tour tonight, how’s it been?

Things have been great, only a few dates but everyone seems to have come away from the gigs having enjoyed it, and the reviews have been good too.

We caught you at one of the more intimate warm-up dates just before Shedding Skin, has the live show changed much since then?

Yeah, I wanted to do those shows just to literally test out how the new stuff sounded. You can run through things as much as you like in a rehearsal studio, but really it’s not the same thing as an actual live performance.

It wasn’t great, but it was enough for us to get some of the new material under out fingernails. It’s been a really good journey with this album. My band have become stronger and stronger and there’s just something about this record that translates a bit better.

Could that be due to fewer electronics and more guitars?

Perhaps, there are guitars on every track! I wanted to make an album that did translate better live. I wanted to change my live show so that it wasn’t so much of a journey over the course of the set, but more of an opportunity to hit people instantly with songs. That was definitely in my mind. Always one ear in the live arena.

Is it nice being able to pick and choose a bit more nowadays?

Yeah, the first show [of the current tour] we did was in Southampton. We played everything that we know and it ended up being about an hour and 50 minutes. That’s too much! I hope to be playing much bigger places in the future, then sets like that can make a bit more sense.

It’s great though. We’ve got a lot more material that works well live. That’s not really something that I envisioned when I started out in this profession. It’s a nice problem to have.

Speaking of larger venues you’re about to tour the arenas with Alt-J, how do those kinds of support shows differ?

I’ve done support before but not on that scale. I’m really looking forward to seeing how the new live show translates to that size of venue. It’s nice to support people that I know, I know Alt-J a bit. The Horrors are on too – who I don’t know – but I love their music! So yeah, really intrigued to be a part of that.

Can it be similar to festivals in that the crowd aren’t necessarily there just to see you?

Oh no, I don’t care about that. I’ve never cared about that. If you start caring about stuff like that then it’s gonna effect your performance. I hope that people come away from festivals thinking ‘that’s great, I’m going to investigate that’. That’s all you can really hope for.

It’s all just about the experience of playing a show that size, which I’ve never done before.

How did it feel to get another Mercury Prize nomination this year? Are you bothered about awards?

It’s a nice bonus I guess coming off the back of the album campaign. You hope that it might open a few new doors, get your music to some new ears. But that’s really it. We just got it done and then headed out on tour and kind of forgot about it.

Not in a disrespectful way. It’s great to be nominated, but it’s not like I’ll stop making music if I’m not up for awards so I guess it isn’t really that important.

Of course it’s not like there’s one winner and 11 losers either. You can feel the extra exposure. Obviously for the winner it’s nice to have a cheque and that little bit more press, but on the whole I don’t see that much difference.

Any favourites from the other nominees?

I loved Benjamin Clementine’s album, I loved Eska’s album, and I love Gaz Coombes’ album.

They were the three that I really wanted to win. It was really nice that you had Benjamin Clementine, Eska, Slaves and Roisin Murphy all playing this one song, and you were like ‘wow, that’s an amazing snapshot of UK and Irish music’. That’s why I love the Mercuries.

You had guests like Paul Smith (Maximo Park) and Nadine Shah on this record, is the contacts book ever-growing?

Haha not really, I think I’m just a bit of a chancer! I had songs where I thought ‘this one would sound good with that particular voice’, but it really just came about through my management. Apart from Lucy Rose who I already knew from my previous record.

Have there been any thoughts on where the next record might take us?

I’ve got a couple of ideas but it’s not quite the right time yet. We’re still kind of in live mode.

Like I say there are a couple of ideas but if I just took two months out now to make another record I don’t think it would really work. I’m in no rush. If I went with it right now, it would just feel like an overlap of the last record.

This time I guess we did come out with more of a ‘band’ sound. I made the demos at home and then approached the band to see what they would bring.

I was listening to things like Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, Joy Division, The Cure, The National, Massive Attack. That was the palate so to speak. Overall, everything with this album has turned out great!

Patrick Davies