Lewis Capaldi | Interview
From the 4-year-old boy singing “We Are The Champions” karaoke in France to being one of BBC Music’s Sound of 2018 longlisted acts following staggering success in the past few months, Lewis Capaldi is indefinitely one of the most extraordinary talents of this generation. With two sold-out headline tours and the recent release of his gorgeous EP “Bloom”, I had the privilege to explore the mind behind the authentically cathartic voice himself.
Lewis & I sat down in an empty VIP room above the main stage where we could hear Freya Riding’s angelic voice subtly interlacing the air – wearing a navy blue hoodie with the strings tied in a bow, he commented on how much bigger the venue was than he anticipated. Legs dangling over the couch, we began a dynamic conversation about the wildly fast-paced year that has gone by. Lewis still finds the astronomical success surreal following the release of his first single “Bruises”, a tune penned with James Earp whilst in London: “That shouldn’t have done as well as it did – best-case scenario, we were thinking somewhere in the 3 million mark.”
“Bruises” was simply a last-minute addition to the setlist when Lewis performed at King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut earlier in January, one of the most celebrated music venues in the world. Truly proof of the saying “Last but not least”, somebody filmed the performance and posted it on Twitter – it went mini-viral with thousands of retweets, and it was only then when Lewis changed a few of the lyrics and released the final version in late March. The ballad subsequently destroyed Spotify, and it has also just been featured on the TV show, “Riverdale”.
“More people have listened to that song [Bruises] than there are people in Scotland”
“It feels like somebody’s gonna realise one day, like, “Oh shit, that wee boy shouldn’t be like, how did you manage to…” and then someone’s gonna tap me on the shoulder and go, “Right, you almost slipped through the cracks there, but get back to Scotland!” “
Millennials, like Lewis himself, are at the forefront in shattering the stereotype – that is, self-entitled, lazy, and useless – imposed on our generation through this kind of hard work and humility.
“I hate the fact we’re seen as the lazy, whiny generation, which is not the case at all. There are so many young people out there now doing such amazing things, and I think it’s just bubbling under a little bit. And in the next 2 to 3 years, we’ll really see our generation properly come into the room and do all these amazing things – I think it’ll push it out of the mainstream a bit more that millennials are useless.”
“I hate the fact we’re seen as the lazy, whiny generation, which is not the case at all – there are so many young people out there now, doing such amazing things”
We began discussing his incredible EP, “Bloom”, which consists of four beautiful compositions – predominantly (though unintentionally) piano-based despite being a guitarist, Lewis explains how hearing the blend of his voice with the keys “really stirred something in me”, and that “…the fact I don’t play it, that I don’t feel I have an understanding of the chords and stuff, makes it more interesting.” He describes how fulfilling and integral it is to progress as a songwriter, irrespective of external validation; exploration of instrumentation offers this individual path of discovery. And his favourite chords and/or chord progressions? Amy Winehouse’s “Addicted”, and the F major to F minor transition in the chorus of his own song, “Fade”.
Speaking of, “Fade” is Lewis’s favourite track off his EP – but not in terms of being better than the others. “It was the whole kind of: when it was written, who it was written with, how quick it was written…it was just all very indicative of how mad these past 6 months have been.” He draws out a mental timeline for me – age 12: walking. Teenage years: a gradual, slow jog. The period between 17 to 19 years old: running. Finally, hitting the age of 20: full-on hyper speed. Everything beforehand was merely a transitional warmup to implement all the knowledge learnt into the greatest showtime of his life, and he hasn’t slowed down ever since. I inquired how school fit into this chaotic schedule, and Lewis explained that before going to college for a couple years to study music, he was planning to study sound production, which required a B in Higher Mathematics.
“I was fucking shit at Maths; excuse my French. I was awful at it. So, I had a tutor.” Lewis goes on to explain the one time they had a lesson, and he had incorrectly answered what was supposed to be a simple calculation question. “…he [tutor] just lost the plot: “Look, if you’re going to be an idiot, I’m not gonna teach you anymore!” And just got up, and walked out my house!”
Even if Mathematics isn’t his forte, Lewis excels at consistently making time to interact with people who enjoy his music on Instagram & Twitter – scroll through his page, and the genuine gratitude radiates unmistakably clear.
“…even just a thanks or cheers, it really pays off in terms of the community you build”
“When I started out, one of my managers said, “Look, you should reply to these people.” To begin with, I was a bit like, “That’s gonna take ages to reply to everybody.” But once you start doing it, you get these comments back and you’re reading through all the comments and they’re all amazing – you feel great by the end of it, you feel you’re having conversations with like-minded people, it feels like having conversation with your friends. It just seems a positive situation for everybody, to just kind of chat and talk.”
He also adds, “I don’t like the terms “fans”; I think it’s a bit…like putting yourself above. So I just say: people who listen to my music.”
“I don’t like the terms “fans”; I think it’s a bit…like putting yourself above. So I just say: people who listen to my music”
So, if I were to hand you a list of highly recommended texts to read, it would include: “The Thing Around Your Neck” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, “Endurance” by Scott Kelly…and Lewis’s Twitter feed.
Naturally, I asked about the tweets regarding his pubes. Yes, that is plural.
“I was in with my label the next day, and I was thinking, “Oh no, they’re gonna be so raging because I’ve talked about my pubes!”, but they all loved it. It’s good to have people around you as crass as you are,” he says before bursting out laughing. But Lewis continues to explain the seriousness of being lighthearted and a bit absurd on social media platforms like Twitter.
“There is so much shite on Twitter; there is so much horrible, horrible stuff on Twitter. I think in some cases, like right now with the slave trade in Libya, it’s great to use Twitter to shine a light on that. But I’m talking about fucking Trump being a knob, and people arguing all the fucking time on Twitter. I don’t care about your politics, so long as you’re an alright person.
“I don’t care about your politics, so long as you’re an alright person”
“Everyone’s so serious on Twitter, and then you forget there’s 280 characters. You’re not really going to really solve the world’s problems in 280 characters. You can shine the light on important things like the Libyan situation, but it’s not the place for mass political debate. And I think it’s just good too start a conversation, but not end a conversation.”
“You’re not really going to really solve the world’s problems in 280 characters”
And this value Lewis so accurately describes translates into his music – contrary to the vast depths of his songs, he doesn’t take his music too seriously: “I’ve got a really weird thing referring to myself as an artist, or refer to what I’m doing as art. Those words carry a lot of weight, I think, and it makes it seem more very serious. And I’m just making my tunes, that’s all I’m doing. I’m a singer that makes tunes – that’s it for me. The main thing is that it should always be fun.”
Lewis eagerly leans in and quickly adds, “I should say, I do have happy songs. I have a lot of happy songs! I don’t want that to be indicative of me; “Oh, Lewis sings sad songs.” “
Finally, I asked him about a beautiful (and simultaneously frightening) metaphorical lyric in “Fade”: It ain’t no wonder why we lose control/When we’re always heart attack away from falling in love.
“For me, it’s being so close to the edge of losing it all, that makes it so fucking exciting. Because I think as soon as you realise how much you’ve fallen for someone, immediately, that’s the moment you also realise that if you lose them, it’s gonna be fucking horrible. That precise moment when you realise, “Fuck, I’m in love with this person!” is also the moment you think, “Fuck! I’m in love with this person…””
“Because I think as soon as you realise how much you’ve fallen for someone, immediately, that’s the moment you also realise that if you lose them, it’s gonna be fucking horrible”
Lewis performed an incredible setlist later that night; interjected with witty lines and little anecdotes, the overpowering atmosphere was unlike any other – his visceral voice translated deeply personal experiences into this extraordinarily communal phenomenon; reading a powerful bedtime story for both the hopeful and the broken.
I cannot even begin to describe how incredibly humble and kind Lewis is. Like his voice, his sophisticated insight is full of strength, grit and resilience; so, here is a colossal thank you to Lewis for sharing your vulnerability, ultimately reminding us of the moments we live for: to celebrate, to forget, and to remember.
Go stalk Lewis in a loving manner: