“I think we’re in a time now where genre is irrelevant.”

It’s in unusual surroundings that I meet Ghostpoet backstage, before he opens this year’s Tramlines. Greeted by him backstage in a wood cabin that wouldn’t go amiss at Center Parcs, the room is clad in a rainforest theme, behind him a parrot backdrop and stuffed toy tigers nearby. “Not the theme I would have chosen,” he notes.

While the room may be flamboyant, the man occupying it certainly isn’t, looking relaxed and every bit the part of a professional artist as he prepares to address the Sheffield crowd in a couple of hours.

2015 has been a good year for Obaro Ejimiwe. His third album, Shedding Skin, has been released to critical acclaim and, with a summer on the festival circuit followed by a tour later in the year, it should a busy year too.

Taking time out from his schedule, we caught up with the 32-year-old to talk about playing festivals, the frustration of being pigeonholed as an artist and leftfield weirdness.

You’re the opening act for Tramlines on the new Main Stage. Do you find yourself changing your approach to festivals compared to gigs?

Slightly, just through advice. I realised that at festivals you can’t force the issue. With your own gigs, you’re under the impression that most of the people in attendance know your stuff, so you can push it a bit more and expect people to get involved.

But with festivals, it’s so much passing traffic. You don’t know what their mind state is, especially when you’re the first one on. You don’t know, so you can’t force the issue, so I just have to let things play how they want to, but it’s about being a bit more relaxed mentally about it.

Have you found the reception to Shedding Skin different to your previous efforts?

I don’t really see it as a big change. It’s been really good to make a record, which I wanted to be a bit more immediate for the listener, a bit more clearer in terms of where the tracks were heading.

I can do leftfield weirdness if I wanted to, but I thought, let’s make it a bit more central, but at the same time still interesting and ‘myself’. It’s nice that people have been getting into it and the reception’s been pretty good. I can’t complain with that.

The artwork of Shedding Skin is great. I found out it was your own skin, and all the artwork is your own skin biopsies. Do you feel it matches the vibe of the album?

As much as you want to have the music link with the artwork. I look at them as two separate things in a sense, that I wanted the artwork to be influenced by the music and the title more so, but I just went with my gut in terms of what I felt would work design-wise. It was led by the title and I just wanted to make it interesting, rather than a mugshot or a blatant representation of the title. I’m pleased with it.

Your artwork was inspired by science. Do you plan to work more scientifically in the future?

I’ve actually done another project called Body Of Songs, which was a production company deciding that they want to produce an album where the artist would be influenced by different body parts. So I chose the liver and made this song that was influenced by that. It’s an album that’s featuring Goldie, Bats for Lashes, amongst others. I think that’s coming out next year. I think there’s definite scope to do more. We’ll just see what happens I guess.

You discuss social issues like homelessness on Shedding Skin. Do you think the change of style in your music allowed you to change what you want to say in your lyrics?

I have opinions, but I don’t ever want to lead people down one particular path, and I didn’t feel lyrically that I wanted to make a shift as well. I definitely wanted to make sure that it was very much about the everyday, be it in my life or others’, and I think it’s a continuation that I’ve developed as a songwriter. I want to keep developing and there’s still room for improvement.

With each album, it’s clear you experiment and offer something different each time. Have you had thoughts of what sounds you want to explore for a next project?

I want to continue down the guitar route, but I’m not sure what. I’ve been listening to lots of different things, and it’s the double edged sword of liking to explore all different types of music. It’s hard for me to pinpoint down one particular direction. There’s four or five different directions I could go down, so it’s working out what makes sense now, at the present, and then seeking out the right influences, and taking it further from there.

Do you get annoyed that people try to pigeonhole your music into a genre you don’t associate it with?

Yeah, short and simple. I completely understand why. It’s what our society is built on, the innocence of making it easier to understand. If you can package something, you can position it in particular spots of your shop and online.

I think we’re in a time now where genre is irrelevant and people listen to a myriad of sounds overall, and can appreciate and digest something that isn’t down one particular straight genre path, so that’s why I keep fighting against it. I’m not even fighting against it, I’m just doing what I want to and it will continue.

In Tramlines, they’ve put me down as spoken word or something, which is annoying because it’s not the case, but what can you do? All I can do is do what I want and leave it as that.

I’m a recent graduate. You said going to university opened your eyes because you met different types of people and got on the road to making your own music.  Any advice to budding musicians and graduates?

It’s just so important to do what you want, and don’t think about the money and fame and where you want to be. It’s very much the case of following a musical path that you enjoy and making music initially that always makes you happy, and I think when you do that it will come across as genuine.

People want the truth. They want realness, and if you can provide that and put across your story regardless of what it is, if it’s your story then people are interested in it.

As a listener of music, as a fan of music, I want to hear about your story, not a recycled tale or recycled style. As we get older as a world, there’s less and less scope to create new genres and everything is becoming strands and mashed into one. What is still unique to individuals is their truth, and I think that’s important.

Brady Frost