Lewis Watson

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Ellie Turner caught up with Lewis Watson ahead of the release of his upcoming album Midnight.

We’ve seen such huge growth across each of your EPs and your album, The Morning. What can we expect from your next release, Midnight?
Thank you! The same kind of level of evolution, I think. I’ve actually pushed myself a lot more on this album. There were no unwanted outside influences, it was just me and my friends in a room for three weeks making an album. I think it’s quite a step up from The Morning, not just musically but lyrically as well. If you were to listen to the first EP and the new album Midnight I’d like to think you’d be surprised.

Really excited for it! Is it still going to be very personal lyrically?
Yeah, I don’t think my lyrical content will ever change – for better or for worse. I’ve only ever written songs for me and about situations or stories that I’ve seen unfold myself, so it’ll still be very personal. Well, I hope it is anyway, because that’s how I’ve written it and intended it to sound.

Is there a story behind the album name, Midnight? Is it a purposeful comparison to The Morning?
Yeah, this album is quite a contrast to The Morning in most ways really. I made The Morning on a major record label, which was an incredible experience and I was very lucky, but it wasn’t what I was after. I was honestly quite relieved when we got the opportunity to walk away from that deal, just because it allowed me to take a step back and really create what I wanted. That’s what this album is. I’ve basically made every decision here, which was very important to me, especially after that experience with The Morning where I felt that as the artist I was unable to make those important decisions. Luckily I had written a song called Midnight which worked with this album, so I consciously made the decision to make that the title. It ties into the whole story.

How did the album artwork come about?
I studied Art in sixth form at school and I loved it. The art that I was studying was very similar to the work of Andrew Salgado, the guy who created the artwork. When I was in the studio it hit me that I would really like Midnight to be a complete contrast to the first record. The Morning album artwork is a very high resolution picture of me, and so I wanted this one to be quite different. I found Andrew’s work and fell in love instantly. I emailed him and fully expected him to say no or to quote a massive price that I couldn’t afford, but I had fallen in love with it and decided it was definitely what I wanted. He came back and said he really liked my “gusto” and did it – I was extremely lucky for that. It’s now hung in my bedroom and I absolutely love the piece, I don’t think I’ve ever loved anything more than that painting.

How has the fan reaction been so far to the release of your new singles?
It’s been nuts. I was very anxious about releasing this new stuff because, as I said, it’s quite a big evolution from my last release. I would completely understand if people just weren’t into it. It’s a real snapshot of the music I’m into at the moment. I basically built myself up and told myself that people would be too shocked and they wouldn’t be into it and I would lose a load of my following. It’s been amazing to get the reaction it has done, I’m a bit overwhelmed at the moment! I’m really excited for this album and I think that whatever happens, I will still be very proud of it.

Speaking of fan reactions, you’re touring in March. Are you excited?
Yeah, I’m very excited! Touring is my favourite part, I am so lucky to be able to sing every night and to be able to get by on that. It’s a real luxury, a real blessing. It is great, especially with this new album. No one really knows these songs yet and so they’re quite withheld with their reactions; they’re still analysing the sound or the lyrics and just really deciding whether they like it or not which is a cool experience to witness. It’s so much fun – I’ve only ever written these songs for me, and the main reason for that is that hopefully I’m going to be playing these songs for the rest of my life. I will never be able to get bored if they are so personal to me. I’ve written happy songs finally, which will be nice to play! We’ve also got a new band member, Ross, who adds extra guitar. It’s a really nice experience on stage, I can’t wait to tour.

What I really love about your gigs is that the songs are so intimate and personal but there is still loads of interaction between you and the crowd.
Thank you, that’s really great to hear. Dave Grohl once said that 20,000 people could be singing his song back to him and it would be for 20,000 different reasons. Although my gigs are much smaller than 20,000 people, I feel very similar. I don’t really like looking into people’s eyes when I sing because I get scared and forget the lyrics and ruin the gig for everybody. Whenever I do open my eyes I see a whole range of emotions from a whole range of different people – there are couples embracing or someone who is by themselves and really getting into it. It really is an amazing feeling and I am so lucky to be able to experience that.

What inspired you to start making music in the first place?
I grew up around music, my Dad always had a record on, as did my mum whenever she was making us breakfast or taking us to school and stuff. It definitely inspired my love for music. As for the creation of music, I wrote poetry from quite a young age, just because I couldn’t play an instrument really. I always wanted to make music to go with those poems and so when I finally did pick up a musical instrument I was really inspired to get going and keep doing it.

Do you have any tips for people who are looking to start out?
It’s going to sound super cliché but the best advice I was ever given was just to keep going. If you want to get better at anything, be it football or drawing or fishing, whatever it may be, you have to practice and you have to keep doing it. It’s the same whether you’re playing an instrument or writing music, it’s just so important to keep doing it because you’ll get better and better. I would definitely recommend playing your favourite songs. If you are a complete beginner then learn your favourite songs on whatever instrument you are playing – you know how they are meant to sound and you also know them well enough to really add your own twist. After that I would recommend doing as many open mics as you can – I was doing a gig a night when I started. I was terrified, I was certain people wouldn’t like my music and it would be a waste of time. At each open mic there are loads of people there but they are brand new people, so there isn’t any embarrassment. Good music will always rise to the top, and if you keep at it then you will get a break, definitely.

We’ve spoken about how all of your songs are really personal to you. Some artists have said that they don’t like listening back to their old stuff – does that ever happen with you?
Yes! The comparison I draw is like when you leave a voicemail for somebody and they play it out loud and you’re like, “Oh God that’s me, I really sound like that?” It’s like that in a way, but maybe even a bit worse because with old music you were trying your best to sound as good as possible. It leaves you feeling very vulnerable. Whenever I listen back to my old EPs I get a real sense of pride. But, I also think, this was the first thing that somebody heard from me and it would be so much better if they heard my new stuff. I’m my own worst critic and I think it is completely in my head. It isn’t that I don’t like listening to my old stuff, I just get really weird about it.

How did your first EP start out? Didn’t you record it at school?
My tutor at college knew my cousin Ella who is also a very talented musician. They were working together and I supported her at a gig. He came up to me straight away and asked if I had thought about recording an EP. At the time I didn’t have the money or equipment to do that and he just said, “Look, come to my place and we can do it. Don’t worry about paying me, I just really want to get involved and be able to work on this with you and create something.” I am so lucky to have had that opportunity. He is a very talented sound engineer and producer and it was amazing to be able to get my first stuff to the standard that it got to.

Finally, have you got a particular highlight from your music career so far?
Yeah, I’m sure it’s something that the people around me get so fed up of me talking about. A few years ago Coldplay were playing in a tiny little pub in Somerset. It was owned by the head of Warner Bros at the time, and they looked after Coldplay. Every year he does this gig there with these A-list celebrities and that year he asked me to support. So, I supported Coldplay and it was a real life “pinch me” moment. They did their full tour set, they were touring stadiums at the time, and everyone was given a light-up wristband and they played exactly the same as they would have done anywhere else. It was incredible – I don’t think I will ever forget that experience.

Lewis Watson’s latest album, Midnight, will be available on the 3rd March.