We interviewed English singer-songwriter Lewis Watson to discuss his new single Forever, festivals and his upcoming U.K. tour.
Interview by Jane Howkins.
You’ve just released a new single called Forever. What can you tell us about that, and why did you choose to release that song as your latest single?
It’s one of the more ‘optimistic’ sounding songs on the record and I wanted people to know that I’m not always sad! For me, this album shows quite a lot of evolution from myself – not only musically, but lyrically and sonically – and I wanted to showcase that to the people who are still on the fence and may not pick up the album. It also shows some of the different flavours on the album, it’s a song played on the acoustic guitar but it’s surrounded by electric guitar and one of my favourite beats that I’ve ever written, as well as a big chorus and harmonies. I wanted to release it early so that people can get a taster of what Midnight is made up of!
You started out writing and recording music at a fairly young age. Did you find it harder to get people to take you seriously, or do you think it helped to open up more doors for you?
I think it did a bit of both. I think everybody’s guilty of caring too much about what musicians look like and I think it’s crazy that it’s an issue, we should be investing in these people for the sounds that they create and the images they paint with their words, not their physical appearance or their wardrobe. I think that people my age looked at the 19 year old with sweepy hair and a guitar and struggled to separate that from the music. I agree that I looked very punchable but that shouldn’t have mattered! However, I did experience a lot of positivity, mostly from the older generation. because of my age, people were impressed that i was so young and writing any music, let alone music that made them feel things. It was definitely a double-edged sword!
We also hear you started playing guitar at the age of sixteen, which seems quite late for a singer-songwriter. Why did you decide to start playing then, and how did you teach yourself?
Yeah I did! I definitely wish that I had started earlier though! I wrote quite a lot of poetry when I was younger and I always wanted to learn the guitar to add music to those poems, but when I was younger learning a musical instrument seemed almost impossible to me. I’m definitely not saying that it’s the easiest thing in the world but I put it on such a high pedestal that I think it terrified me a bit. I remember scrolling through youtube one day and I saw a video of a guy called Gabe Bondoc covering a Chris Brown song and it just looked so easy but sounded so good. I asked my dad for an acoustic guitar as my 16th birthday present straight after watching it. I taught myself by learning my favourite songs and playing them over and over again and then trying to write a song using the same chords so that they were engrained in my mind. It probably wasn’t the quickest way but it definitely helped me and made the frustrating first few months much more enjoyable!
You’re releasing an album in March, titled Midnight. What can you tell us about the album?
I am! I can’t wait. It’s much bigger than The Morning in sound – it’s more mature lyrically and it was a much more organic creative process overall. I’m incredibly proud of this one and I think that having full control of everything is the main reason why. I’ll always love The Morning but it’s a Frankenstein of an album, lots of the songs were songwriting demos with a bit added here and there because so much was going wrong behind the scenes. Because of that, I made sure that we did this album without any outside opinions, just me and the band living in a creative bubble playing the songs how they were meant to be played. We weren’t worrying about a & r’s or thinking about radio-play etc. Thoughts were on just making music and I think that worked out for the better!
You recorded the album over two weeks, which is rather short compared to the time it usually takes artists to record. How did you manage that, and was it something that you consciously aimed for?
Lots of hard work! We stayed at The Vale studios in Warwickshire and just created all day. I have an incredible band and they played hard and just nailed the takes very quickly. I worked with Anthony West (Oh Wonder) and he was always the last to go the bed and the first to get up – such a hard-worker. That was a real blessing because most of the editing and programming was done before anybody else even got up! It was a conscious decision, yeah. The Morning was recorded over a span of about 2 years and so it was important to me to do this in a more ‘conventional’ way. As I mentioned before, we all just got to live in this bubble and create a coherent body of music and I think that’s definitely an audible thing. Midnight is very fluid in my opinion, and part of that is because I had the track-listing worked out before we even recorded. Mainly though, I think it’s because we recorded it all in such a short period of time.
You joined up with the label Cooking Vinyl for Midnight. Why did you choose them, and would you recommend them to other artists? We hear you had quite a few offers from different record labels.
It was an easy decision really, they have such a great legacy, they’ve worked with some incredible career-artists and it’s a much more sustainable system for the artist. So far they’ve been great, everything has been agreed mutually, they’re as excited to get the album out as I am and they’ve had some great ideas! I’d definitely recommend them! We definitely had some interest from other labels, I’m not sure they quite reached the offer-stage but i know that quite a few got in touch after Zane gave us the first spin! That was such a good feeling!
You’re also embarking on a rather extensive U.K. tour in March and April. What can you tell us about that, and is there anywhere you are particularly looking forward to playing?
I can’t wait to get out and tour this album, there are so many songs on the record that transition so well to the live set-up and I’m having loads of fun on stage at the moment! We have fun in so many cities but i can’t wait to play in Oxford again – it’s where i grew up so it always means a lot to play there! It will be great to go back to the Sound control in Manchester as well, I have very fond memories of that place! Scotland, London, Birmingham etc. – we always have lovely crowds so I’m excited to get back to it.
In the past, you have performed at quite a few festivals, including Bestival and Glastonbury. What has been your favourite festival to play, and can we expect to see you at any this Summer?
I think that Glastonbury will always rank high in my musical memories. we played twice in one weekend and the whole band stayed for the whole of Glastonbury and had a great time. We camped on a hill by the Park Stage, explored, got drunk and ate too much. It was amazing. I’m not sure what I can announce right now but I’m certainly excited to get festival-ing again !
Why do you think people should come and see you perform, and what can people expect from a typical Lewis Watson gig?
I never really know how to answer these questions because I don’t want to tell you that I put on the best show ever or that you should definitely come and see me over that assignment you have to do before tomorrow etc., but I will be honest and say that we all put everything into these gigs and that I always have such a good time on stage. We get the crowd singing along to the big ones but also get them super quiet when i play songs unplugged, I tell awful jokes and get super sweaty. That’s surely enough, right?
Any last words for the fans?
Just a massive thank you for sticking by me in this quiet period, I was working hard behind the scenes but I know that it’s hard to see that from the outside! I’m back with an album that I love and I can’t wait for you to hear it!