I think I have spoken with Rhys Lewis in the past...
but this is the first time for a little while. He tells me about his latest single, Hold on to Happiness, and what its story is; whether we might see more material from him soon and what sort of music he grew up around – he highlights some great new talent to look out for.
I ask Lewis whether he gets time to unwind and if we can catch him on the road; if there is a standout memory from his career so far; which artist he would support on the road if he could choose anyone – he selects a cool song to wrap thing up with.
Hi, Rhys. How are you? How has your week been?
Hello! I’m good, thanks. My week has been great; I’ve been hiding in the studio recording some songs for my album.
For those new to your music; can you introduce yourself, please?
I’m a singer-songwriter from Oxfordshire, currently living in London. And I would say if you’re a fan of Paolo Nutini and Hozier then you might find my music bearable and, dare I say, enjoyable. Haha.
Hold on to Happiness is your latest single. What is its background?
That song came to my mind after the breakdown of my last relationship (don’t they all?!). But, it’s more of a song about life than love. I realised how much of my life I’d been ignoring. It’s easy to have tunnel-vision sometimes and only have eyes for the big dreams and grand plans; but I felt like focusing too much on all of that meant I was missing out on all the small things that, when embraced, make big things feel insignificant or less important.
How do you think it differs to your previous songs?
I suppose it’s slightly more reflective and philosophical in a sense. I felt like I’d written all the love songs I could write honestly about from experience. And I suppose what makes songwriting interesting and exciting for me is having an outlet for my emotions and thoughts, so it’s much more rewarding to write about things you’re feeling and trying to figure out in your own head.
This song feels a little deeper as, in my mind, it’s slightly more dimensional. It’s also the first time I’ve taken on the role of producer fully - so great to say I made the recording too.
Do you foresee 2019 being busy in terms of plans and material?
Some more recording. I’ve just started working from a studio. I share it with my piano player and we’ve been recording some things for my E.P. and album. So, more of that and hopefully lots of touring! You can go a bit crazy in the studio so it’s nice to have the balance of playing and recording. Keeps you slightly saner.
Which artists were important to you growing up? Who do you rank as idols?
Led Zeppelin were the band for me - and still are. I got obsessed with them when I started playing guitar. And, as I started to get more into songwriting, Alex Turner became a bit of a hero as a teenager - and the classic songwriting of the likes of Carole King and Bill Withers have continued to inspire me.
Do you have a standout memory from your time in music so far?
Probably playing my first-ever sold-out show abroad, in Amsterdam. It felt very strange but affirming to know I’d filled a room of five-hundred people with my music. It made it feel like my music was a real thing, not just a hobby I’ve had since I was thirteen. It made me stand a little taller and have more confidence in what I was doing because it wasn’t just a dream I was chasing: it was there and in front of me for a moment.
So, that was a special and lasting memory, for sure.
Which three albums mean the most to you would you say (and why)?
Led Zeppelin - Led Zeppelin II
It’s the album that made me want to write music.
Arctic Monkeys – Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not
I was mesmerised by the art of writing lyrics and Alex Turner was this teenager weaving his experiences into poetry over this no-f*cks-given music. So it made a huge impact on me as a young bedroom guitarist.
Aaaaaand a third...Graceland oooor Rumours...
Don’t make me choose cos both of them made me want to make a great record...
If you could support any musician alive today, and choose your own rider, what would that entail?
Bill Withers. No rider necessary.
What advice would you give to new artists coming through?
Don’t be distracted by social media or views; numbers or anything like that. Make great music and spend all the time you can writing and writing...and rewriting and practicing. If you’re excited by what you’re making then people will be excited to follow what you’re doing.
You have a headline show coming up. What can you reveal about it?
Lots of new songs...and a laser show! I lied about the lasers but there will be new songs. I promise.
Do you think there are going to be any other tour dates coming up?
Yes! More dates announced soon.
How important is performing? Do you prefer it to life in the studio?
They are equally important and, the more I perform and record, the more I realise how much they help each other.
I improve so much in the studio as it’s a more accurate and considered kind of discipline. So, my singing gets better and my guitar playing more nuanced, I suppose. But live is all about the energy of the song and the feeling in the room which is important to remember and capture some of that in a recording. I love trying out new songs on stage in front of a crowd before recording them. It always changes the way you think about the song.
IN THIS PHOTO: XamVolo/PHOTO CREDIT: Robin Clewley
Do you get much time to chill away from music? How do you unwind?
I like a good walk, cycle out of London; read lots, play online chess and tennis when it’s warm enough.
Finally, and for being a good sport; you can choose a song and I’ll play it here (not any of your music - I will do that).
Escape (The Pina Colada Song) - Rupert Holmes
Follow Rhys Lewis