THE solo songwriter market has many players…
but few that continue to create progressive and impressive music. Rhys Lewis fits into that exclusive club. I have been speaking with the talented musician about his E.P., Bad Timing, and what inspired the songs; whether he has a favourite moment from it; which artists he counts as idols; how London is suiting his creative and personal flow – what advice he would give to artists.
I ask Lewis whether there are new artists he recommends; how he unwinds away from music; whether there are gigs coming up soon; where he goes from here – how important his fans’ love is.
Hi, Rhys. How are you? How has your week been?
I’m very well, thanks! It’s been cold but great: can’t get my head around this weather!
For those new to your music; can you introduce yourself, please?
I’m twenty-six. Originally from Oxfordshire but I been living in London for seven years now - and I’m a budding singer-songwriter!
Your E.P., Bad Timing, is out. What are the inspirations behind the songs? Any key themes that influenced the songwriting?
I guess, for this E.P., the first two tracks came from the breakdown of my last relationship. It’s all still quite fresh; so it feels weird having songs out there that are so open about it all. Themes of disconnect and loss are at the heart of it - and the sadness that comes with having to sacrifice something you don’t want to give up.
Do you have a favourite song from the E.P.? Is there one that stands out?
My favourite is Reason to Hate You.
I like that it’s just the song: no production; still quite raw. The lyrics sum up completely how I was feeling - so I’m glad they are still the main focus. I also recorded that one live - so I have quite fond memories of the session.
The track, Bloodstains, is already out. Has it been good getting the song out there? What has the reaction been like so far?
It’s been amazing seeing the reaction people have had to my music.
People from all over the world message and say that one of my songs has been the soundtrack to their drive to work or helped them through a break-up; or the song they dance with their kids to in the living room. So it’s crazy to step back and realise that my music is playing in people’s lives.
In just over a year, I’ve had 20,000,000 streams on Spotify…which blows my mind.
How did you get into music? Did you grow up in a very musical household?
My parents weren’t really that musical but my dad had a guitar - and both my parents listened to lots of great music. But, they were really encouraging (of me) trying music at school and, when I picked up the guitar at ten-years-old, that was it: I was obsessed!
Which artists do you count as idols?
Blake Mills. He’s a GENIUS. You only need one...
You are situated in London. Do you draw any energy and creative guidance from the people? Is it the best place to be for an ambitious musician?
I’ve definitely been affected by living here. One of my songs is about the bittersweet relationship I have with living here. One the one hand, there’s so much going on and it’s a very creative place; on the other, it’s crowded, expensive and creatively draining...! I don’t think it’s essential that you live in London as a musician: there are some great cities in the U.K. that have an equally-exciting musical community.
It’s just important that you find a place that inspires you to do your best work and maybe a place that promotes collaboration and creativity. If you’re making something exciting and shouting about it; the industry heads will find you wherever you are.
IN THIS PHOTO: Freya Ridings
Can we see you tour soon? What gigs do you have coming up?
I’m on tour in Europe in April - and then doing a small U.K. tour at the start of May!
What do you hope to achieve, personally, in 2018?
I try not to set too many goals: I (just) aim for each year to be better than the last. So, releasing more music, playing bigger shows; passing my driving test and seeing my family more are all part of the plan for 2018!
Have you got a favourite memory from your time in music – the one that sticks in the mind?
Playing a sold-out show in Amsterdam to 600 people at the end of my European tour was definitely one of those pinch-yourself-moments. My family and friends were there too - so it was a special gig!
How important is the support of the fans and the love you get online? Do they motivate you to reach high and push on?
You know what; I never thought I’d say this but having that connection with fans really does inspire you and motivate you to do better. Especially when you’ve met a lot of those people on tour after a show: their words of encouragement and support really go a long way - and remind you that there are people out there that enjoy the music you’re making. Sounds cheesy, but you put your heart and soul into creating music and then labels - and whatnot - judge it based on streams and data.
So nice to have a connection with the people that judge it for what it is: music.
What advice would you give to new artists coming through?
Write or play or practice or study every single day. Focus on making music that excites you, because if it doesn’t excite you, it won’t excite anyone else. Obviously, social media is important but you can’t truly build a lasting following without good music - so let that be the thing that comes first.
Do you get much time to chill away from music? How do you unwind?
I don’t get loads of time but, when I do, I like to play sport and stay active. I recently (just) got into chess, so I’ve been trying to get good at that - I’m still sh*t. Reading is also good. It stops me from staring at a screen - which is the main benefit, I think!
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