If you like your music gut wrenching and steeped in emotion then up and coming soul artist Rhys Lewis is the man for you. Making soul music with a rock edge, the 23-year-old musician’s debut single “Waking Up Without You” clocked up almost 200,000 plays in its first week and he sold out his first headline show in less than two days. Get to know him here before he hits lofty heights in 2017.
My earliest memory of music would probably be my mum playing Madonna, Barry White and old soul records at home. I remember my twin brother making up a stupid dance to the chorus of Hold Back The Night by The Tramps. My parents were very encouraging of learning an instrument and my dad had an acoustic guitar so I was influenced by them initially. Then bands like The Arctic Monkeys and Franz Ferdinand were breaking onto the scene, so it was a great time to be learning guitar with all these great guitar-band songs coming out. And of course there were so many classics to get to know as well, Led Zep and Hendrix being my favourites.
When I started playing paid covers gigs, birthdays and weddings etc, I guess I started to take it more seriously. But the idea of making a career or a living out of my own music still felt like such an unattainable thing. Then I moved to London, was writing a lot more and became part of the music scene. I met lots of people who were doing music as their full time job, so it became a lot more tangible as a career to work towards.
Travelling and collaborating with people from all over the world has definitely taught me lot about music and songwriting. In Nashville there is a real focus on lyrics and story, set-up and pay-off to the chorus. It's a challenge to write in that way but when it comes off it's often really effective. In Stockholm, melody seems to lead the way and then it’s a challenge to find words that fit. How to say a lot without many words is hard! So as a songwriter I've picked up lots of great skills and tricks to use when I'm writing. And musically I've recognised the importance of finding the truth of an idea. No matter what country you're in, if you can say something that's honest it will translate.
That’s an interesting question. I guess soul music has become known for a certain sound and instrumentation, having come from Rhythm and Blues. But I'd say it's as much about the performance and delivery of a song as it is about the music, that's why I think there are so many iconic singers in this genre. They brought soul to the songs they sung by singing them in such a heartfelt way. I'm pretty sure you could get Bill Withers to play a Coldplay song and he'd turn make it soul.
It can be tough revealing your emotions in such a public way. But writing about something that's on your mind is kind of like free therapy. By the time I sing a new song to a room full of strangers I've already dealt with whatever it's about, so it's nice to then hear that other people feel the same or can relate to it.
Authenticity is really important to me. The songs I've written that seem to resonate the most with people are the ones that genuinely come from a real place or situation I was in. But it can be difficult finding things to write about, we don't go through break-ups every day, we don't fall in love every day, no one wants to hear me sing a song about how much I love beating my housemate at FIFA. So the challenge for me is finding things to write about that are truthful and worth singing about.
I want to release some more singles, do a UK tour and finish writing and recording my album. Then I would love to play Glastonbury and hopefully pass my driving test at some point…