A Conversation With ... Lewis Capaldi

This young Scottish lad has been making some serious waves in the last year; touring with big names such as Milky Chance, Sam Smith and Niall Horan around the UK and USA. Working with top end producers, the 21-year-old singer songwriter has struck the emotional jackpot with his EP Bloom; his themes of deep heartache and longing hit home for millions of listeners.

Backyard Opera had a chance to chat with Lewis ahead of his visit down under for Splendour in the Grass (that’s if he can handle the Australian wildlife). Check out the chat below.


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BYO: Are you keen to be heading down to Australia in July? Have you been here before?

LEWIS: Yeah, I’m really looking forward to it! I have never been before to Australia. I didn’t do much travelling outside of the UK before last year, so it’s really exciting that I get to go to that side of the world to play music; its good!

I keep saying I’m very afraid of spiders, so I do have that hovering over me, as like a warning that I’m going to see some. The last couple of Australian people I’ve spoke to have told me that I’m going to see some, but American people have told me I’m not; I think the Australians are more qualified.

BYO: I think you’ll definitely see some unfortunately!

LEWIS: I think even knowing the smaller ones are deadlier, I’d still be freaked out by the big ones. We’ll see how it goes, I’ll try not to be too scared.

BYO: You just have to get rid of them and then they won’t bother you … just kill them and then you’ll be fine!

LEWIS: That’s filled me with lots of confidence, thank you!

BYO: What have you got planned for the Splendour shows and side shows?

LEWIS: I’m just going to sing some songs, that’s the plan! That’s the MO. I’m just going to try and not fuck it up too much; that’s the agenda. Not to fuck it up too much.

BYO: Good plan!

LEWIS: It’s fool proof, that plan.

BYO: You’ve had a crazy couple of years, supporting some big-name musicians like Milky Chance and Sam Smith; what have been some of your favourite moments or concerts?

LEWIS: Definitely when we played the O2 arena with Sam; that was pretty mental. I’d never played an arena at all before, obviously because I’m 21 years old and I’m from Scotland. I’d never done anything of that size, so to kind of get that chance to do that and support a global megastar like Sam Smith was pretty special. I did the first song just me and a guitar, and that’s how I played the first time I gigged, so that was a bit of a moment for me.

Milky Chance tour as well, we did that across America, and that was pretty special as well; just because I’d never done like a full tour of America before. We did that in a minivan, so that was good. Just the experience of going out there and playing shows, and a lot of the time it was my first time being in that particular state as well. It’s been a good two years.

BYO: How was it working with Malay, the producer of your Bloom EP?

LEWIS: That was mad. Malay for me was a producer that I had earmarked for wanting to work with him. Managers way, way back, way before I’d released any music or even started writing music, asked me if there was anyone I’d want to work with, and the first person I said was Malay, because I’m a massive fan of his work especially with Frank Ocean. And it was just one of those things. At first, they shot me down immediately, like “That’s never going to fucking happen,” and it did. They were like, “We’ll chance this, and we’ll see If we can get it” and so they sent some music to Malay and he was like, “Yeah let’s do it.”

Usually when I work with people I don’t look them up beforehand, I don’t want to know anything about them beforehand, like producers and stuff. But for me, because it was Malay, and I’m a big fan of his work, it was the only session I’ve ever been nervous for. Because it was like “Alright, shit, this is someone I’ve admired their work for such a long time.” The song that we did together was a song called Fade, and the best way I can describe it is that it fell out; it was so fast how quick it came together. The production on it, everything, I just love it. It was one of my first times in New York as well, and it was just amazing to get to work with someone at that calibre who I’d looked up to for so long.

Now we’ve done like five or six songs together now. It’s weird looking back on it now and thinking “Holy shit I’m going to work with Malay” and he’s such a lovely guy as well.  So yeah man, it was pretty mad.

BYO: Did you think, when you were making Bloom, that it would be so greatly received?

LEWIS: Basically all the songs in that EP, everything had already been released as a demo and stuff like that. It was akin to when rappers make stuff and then drop it the next day, you know what I mean? That’s the closest thing I can reference. They all happened very, very quick. We wrote Bruises in October 2016, and then I released it in March 2017. And then I wrote Lost On You, the second single, in April, and it was out in June I believe. It was really really refreshing to be able to put out stuff that was so recent.

A lot of the time, like with Tough for example, the latest single, I wrote that year ago, and it’s only just come out. So with Bloom, what was really exciting knowing that I could write a song one month and the song would come out the next month or two months later. It was never meant to be, Bruises especially, it was just meant to be a single that I was going to put out there and introduce myself to a few people and hopefully get a few streams and get gigs and stuff like that, and it just went off. I didn’t expect it to do how it did, but I’m obviously very grateful for it. It’d been a very exciting few months making it, and just being able to make things.

BYO: Tell us about your journey; what prompted you to start playing guitar at 9 and then move into song writing?

LEWIS: My brother. He was 6 years older than me and he was always into music. He was 15 and I was 9, and he was like “I’m going to start playing guitar,” and then I was like, because I was 9, well if he’s getting guitar lessons I’m getting guitar lessons. I was running parallel with him, in the sense that he started guitar at the same time as me but he was 6 years older, it gave me a bit more of a head start almost, on getting the good gigs and stuff. Having him show inclination to music got me started as well. He started playing in bands and I was gigging by the time I was 12, but for the first couple of years I knew I wanted to do it but I didn’t know how to do it. I saw what he was doing and I just always thought like “If you want to sing songs, you have to write songs.” The two were always the same. I didn’t have one without the other.

BYO: Do you base your songs off personal experiences?

LEWIS: Absolutely. It wasn’t until recently, I think Bruises is the first one ever based on personal experiences. So I’d been writing songs since I was 12, obviously hard to pull from anything at 12 years old. I thought I’m not going to write anything about my first pube … haha fucking hell I wish I hadn’t said that. So I was kind of like doing a pastiche of a pop song, what I thought should be in it. I was like “Well they’re writing about heartbreak, so I need to write about love”. That’s just what songs are. I was just masquerading as a songwriter.

It wasn’t until I started doing interviews and people were asking “What’s going on in your life?” and I’d be like “Woah we’ve just met.” I’m not good at talking about my emotions at the best of times, I find it hard to articulate how I’m feeling. But in a song its easy. I’m always sorta worried what people will think of them if I’m honest in the songs. But now I definitely draw from my own experiences.

Lewis Capaldi will be playing Splendour in the Grass from July 20-22. For those of us not lucky enough to be heading to Byron, Capaldi will be having a Sydney sideshow on July 25 at the Oxford Art Factory.

For sideshow tickets, head to: http://www.moshtix.com.au/v2/event/lewis-capaldi/103475\