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Dean Lewis

Dean Lewis returns with his sophomore studio album, The Hardest Love. The result – an emotionally rich and honest record that highlights just why he is so popular.

A sophomore album is no easy feat for any artist. For those who have made it past their debut know that their next release will either make or break their career. The term “second album syndrome” has even been coined for artists who found early fame from their debut album only to fall flat with their second release. And as if that’s not enough, Dean Lewis has the extra added pressure of following up A Place We Know, a double platinum selling debut album. Rather than calling upon hit songwriters and producers in the industry, Dean sticks to what he does best – perfectly crafting infectious acoustic guitar driven ballads that transition from honest and direct story-telling verses to melodic and powerful choruses.

1883 Magazine caught up with him in Sweden to discuss the release and writing process of The Hardest Love, how his father inspired his viral single How Do I Say Goodbye as well as his advice on learning to say no a lot and trusting your instincts.

 

You are currently in the middle of rehearsals ahead of a run of sold-out shows. How have the rehearsals been going?

Yeah, rehearsal has been going really well. I’m currently in Stockholm as the European tour starts on Saturday here. I just did a big American tour like, two and a half months ago. So I’ve had an eight week break, but all the songs and the whole structure of the show is sort of still in the back of the head. So getting back and rehearsing was a lot easier. The American tour was my first tour in like two and a half years, I got my first proper tour with the band. So that was very overwhelming. But now we’ve got that out of the way, there’s a lot less pressure. And the band’s great!

 

It’s quite interesting to see the reaction between performing an unreleased song and then the performing it again once fans have been able to live with it…

Yeah, actually, I was playing How Do I Say Goodbye on my American tour. I was playing that on the piano, just myself. And it was so interesting, because no one was singing back because no one knew it at the time. And everyone’s silent, and you’re seeing the reaction. And then I actually think that that was the last time I was gonna get to play it without anyone knowing it. Because now I know on Saturday when I play it, everyone’s gonna be singing back. It’s gonna be really cool.

 

I have to start off by saying the video for How Do I Say Goodbye is incredibly moving. That must have been quite a difficult song to write and release I’d imagine?

Well, you know, it’s interesting on the YouTube video, at the end of the video, it says my dad actually is in remission because he got a stem cell transplant. But yeah, it gets blocked by the ads on YouTube, and we’re trying to fix it. A lot of people were like, wait, what happened to your dad, they didn’t know. So my dad’s actually in remission. And I wrote this song because he was really sick. I was touring the world and I was getting updates from mom and dad about what was happening. And I’m sort of living my dad’s dream, because a lot of times I was like, Okay, do I come home now? Like when’s the time that I fly home? Because it was that bad. And, you know, my dad was always like, no, keep going, keep going, this is once in a lifetime. But the good news was that when I wrote the song, I was like, how do I say goodbye. And then he gets his stem cell transplant, and he’s fine. So I was able to show him the song, which was really cool.

 

Were you nervous when you first showed him the song?

I was very nervous about what he’d say when he was listening, but he loved it. Like, I wouldn’t say I love you to my dad. We don’t do that and he’d just be uncomfortable with it. And, same with my brothers, we just don’t really say that and it’s, you know, certain families are different. I was in LA when he when I showed it to him and he was in Australia, and my brother was at home and filmed his reaction. Super emotional.

 

Your 2nd studio album The Hardest Love is set to be released on November 4th. An artist’s debut album essentially captures everything they have been working on musically since they first started. How did the process of creating the new record differ from your debut album?

You know, they say that you have your whole life to write your first album. And then they say you have six months to write your second album. Weirdly, I had so much more time to write the second one because when I wrote my first album, I was working for my dad and I was just writing songs in my room. Then the first singles Waves and Be Alright did really well. It all happened very fast. Then COVID came along and I had like two and a half years, just sitting there without being able to go anywhere, like, what do I want to do here? You know, and so I wrote so many songs and I was able to really look back and analyse how and why the earlier songs connected so well. I found what it is that I’m really good at. It’s this little niche of like, Be Alright. So I sort of zoned in on that. I think that you can define yourself by zoning in on a small thing. Rather than trying a million different things, because I’m like, I wasn’t good at this. I’m not good at that. But I’m good at this thing. This is the reason I exist in the music world. So in a weird way, I had more time to write this new album, and find out what I wanted to say and who I wanted to be. And so I think it was the opposite of the usual situation just because it COVID.

 

As fans of music we are drawn to artists for many different reasons. For me and I’m sure the same for many of your fans, it’s the way you wear your heart on your sleeve in your music and how you create these emotionally powerful and universal songs that seem to come from a real and honest place. Was it a conscious decision to keep your lyrics quite direct instead of hiding them behind poetic metaphors?

Yeah, absolutely. I was just thinking about a situation where I was in the room with a producer, we were writing and the kind of conversation was oh, what’s the concept? And I’m like, with my music, there’s no concept. It’s what’s the emotion? What am I saying directly saying it and I feel like with me, I think every artist has their own strength and their own weakness. And it’s like, I think what I’ve realised over time is when I do a song for me, it just sounds really emotional with my voice. So I’m like, I think I have, you know, I can’t sing a lot of certain styles of songs, because my voice might not be suited to that. But I can get away with saying something really simple. And it sounds emotional and genuine, whereas other people might say it, and it might come across a bit like cheesy. Lyrically, I’m very direct. I try to do that. I’m not a big fan of super abstract metaphors and stuff like that. I like to just say, the emotion “How am I supposed to love you, when I don’t love who I am”, you know, I think that it’s actually more powerful. If you can land the straightforward, emotional lyric without being metaphoric and you can get the perfect melody it actually hits harder.

 

I read that you were heavily influenced by the likes of Oasis and Bruce Springsteen starting out. In those early days how did you know when a song is Dean Lewis being himself as opposed to a song that is attempting to be someone else? 

Great question. I think it’s simple emotion. Over time, I sort of started looking and going what is my purpose of being here as an artist? I think for me, it was a big moment for me to look back and go, okay, it’s this sort of spoken word verse, where you’re lyrically describing something and then a really big melodic chorus. I like having, if it’s depressing, having a little bit of hope in the bridge, but I think that’s I was like, no one’s doing that. No one is doing that. And so when you find something like that, that no one’s doing, that’s you. I’m like, I’m going to explore that a bit more. 

I don’t talk about this often but I loved Eminem growing up, man. I was obsessed with Eminem. Me, my friends and my brother used to do these, it was awful, but like we tried to freestyle with each other. And I think that’s actually really helped with Be Alright, you know, being able to almost freestyle melodies. I can bring that into the singer songwriter world, which I don’t think anyone else is doing. Be Alright was that and it worked.

 

On the topic of songwriting, as a songwriter whose achieved global success how has your relationship with self-doubt changed throughout your musical journey so far?

I think I’m a huge self doubter. Oh, my God. So I know when a song is really, really good. But there is still that thing of external validation? Like, how’s the song gonna go? What are people going to think? There’s a thing when you put out a song, you know pretty quickly. You get this influx of people messaging and reposting it. Then it either dies off or keeps growing. And the ones that keep growing are so one in a million. How Do I Say Goodbye is the first song that that came out and kept growing. I think I have a lot of self doubt, I always think that I’m living on the edge of, if this song doesn’t work, I feel like, will I get to keep going for instance. I think if you’re an artist that gets into that high tier, you know you can put a song out, and you automatically get this huge push behind you and if you’re someone who’s focused on external validation then that’s good. Whereas, if you’re in that sort of mid tier of artists, where you sort of living and dying by your next single, there is so much self doubt, because you have to keep going, you can’t stop. And it feels like, if you do then the wheels sort of feel like they’re going to fall off. I feel like that’s encouraged now with the algorithms, with releasing music, and TikTok. If you stop, everything stops. They reward you to keep going. But I also do work a lot now on stoicism. I read a lot about about trying to stop controlling things that I can’t control. Focusing on the things I can control. 

 

I often see, and even as an artist myself, it’s very easy to get lost in listening and taking on other peoples opinion of what your art should be and sound like…

I know what you’re saying. When I did Be Alright I re-recorded it about 4 times. 4 Different versions. The day before its release I got told by a high level exec that “I think the song is great but I think you chose the wrong version.” However, I backed myself and didn’t change it. It was super satisfying when that song became a hit. I think you do have to face so many people that will tell you their opinion and the one thing I’ve learnt is to say no a lot! People will look you in the eye and say this is a song you should put out and then when it doesn’t work out they will not be there. So one thing I’ve tried to do is if I do fail then at least I want to fail on my own terms. Say no a lot and trust your instincts. 

 

What 3 songs would you choose to soundtrack your perfect day? (Morning, midday & evening?)

Evening – Walk Through Hell by Anson Seabra 

Midday – Dancing In The Dark by Bruce Springsteen

Morning – Glimpse of Us by Joji

 

The Hardest Part is out now, follow Dean via @deanlewis

 

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