The past few years have been ones of discovery for LEWIS FIELDHOUSE. In 2013, the London-based singer-songwriter set off on a creative journey, one that began in his hometown and took him all the way to California before coming full circle, seeing him return a man with a new perspective on life, his work, and what he intended to do.
“[My time in California’s Central Valley] was absolutely vital to me as the musician I am now. I went out there to try and push myself musically, try to network more and just see what connections I could make, but it didn’t really go to plan,” says Fieldhouse. “I was dumped in the first week of my trip by a girl that I had fallen quite hard for, but actually, that opened the floodgates on something I think I had been depressed about for a while.” His mother had recently been ill due to cancer. “I’d been distracting myself, not dealing with the enormity of it. I think being so far from home really forced me to look myself in the eye and say ‘What the hell does this mean?’”
Fieldhouse spent six weeks in Central Valley trying to make sense of what was happening in his personal life, and this time spent in reflection also led him to question where he was going musically. “I’d recently released an EP and even though I was pleased with it, I knew it wasn’t really where I wanted to be going.” His moment of epiphany occurred unexpectedly one afternoon at a music festival in Los Angeles. “I was in Echo Park and ‘Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings’ by Father John Misty came on through the PA (he wasn’t even playing there). It hit me over the head like a hammer and that’s when I knew where my direction lay.”
In the coming months, Fieldhouse would begin to construct the beginnings of a sound clearly influenced by Misty’s dusty rock and narrative-weaving lyrics, a development which culminated in the creation of his persona, Theodor Washington. “I’d say Theodor is more of an idealised version of myself that I can look up to, some sort of fearless warrior that transcends human airs and graces, a purer version of myself. He helped me to get out of bed in California when I was at my lowest,” explains Fieldhouse. “The persona allows me to be more honest about my life and to not be so caught up in the vast arch of a life story, but rather to focus on what is happening in front of me. I was on the trip of a lifetime; I needed to go out and make something of it, otherwise, I’d have ended up hating myself. He doesn’t just help me make music, he helps me live better.”
Despite anchoring himself in Theodor, it was during his time writing in California that Fieldhouse’s fear of crafting personal songs began to dissipate along with his self-imposed expectations. He discovered that he could be more honest with his songs and that people would still accept it. “I’d been quite afraid to be myself in my writing until that moment. It really helped me break down the barriers that I’d put up for myself, so many preconceptions about songwriting that had just floated in and stuck in my head for years. They all kind of melted away.” He discovered a newfound confidence in his ability, and a willingness to trust his own voice.
Fieldhouse’s debut album – Theodor Washington and the Central Valley – is a capsule of this time of his life. Drenched in Americana, the album recounts his time in California in cinematic fashion, flitting between soaring and anthemic rock (“Naked Psychopathic Blues”) to intimate and introspective RnB (“He Hath Made You Rich”). Fieldhouse’s vocal adjusts accordingly, effortlessly drifting between his euphoric wails and whispered crooning with a deftly impressive range, and variety when it comes to his music is something that he is passionate about.
“I’ve always written in different genres – I can’t help myself! It was a bit of a blessing when this Americana sound came into my life,” He states. “I try to knit everything together through lyrics, so making the record out of the story of my trip was a massive help. I had so much to write about – and the songs kind of fell out one after another – but the variety also reflects the music I want to make. It is about life, and my life isn’t just in one speed. Sometimes it’s manic, sometimes it’s really slow and gentle. I think people relate to that.”
The album itself was funded in its entirety through crowd-funding website Kickstarter, an experience that proved “massively humbling”, and Fieldhouse can’t wait to give back to his supporters by taking to the stage. “I’m really excited for the tour!” says Fieldhouse. “I’m a bit of a chatterbox on stage; I love to tell the story of my journey so people know why I’m singing what I’m singing. So if you come see me, feel free to join in, ask questions – whatever!
“Personal connection is quite important to me; I try to make sure that I talk to everyone after the shows too. I think it’s nice for people to actually be able to engage with art and artists they value. This world can be pretty cold and cynical.”
It can, but in that world, Lewis Fieldhouse’s music is an island of earnest respite.
Lewis Fieldhouse’s Theodor Washington and the Central Valley is released and available to buy on Friday 2nd December. You can stream the album in full on this page.