The wonderful Rhys Lewis took over Borderline last week, wowing Londoners with his rich, smooth vocals and melodic, emotive tracks. We had the pleasure of meeting and chatting to him pre-show about city living, songwriting, and that ever-elusive debut album.
Speaking about his latest track ‘Living In The City’, he explains that it came together towards the end of the writing process for his album. “I spent a long time in London slogging away at the music thing. Once I got Decca on board it was kind of a relief, it was nice to get rewarded for a lot of hard work, and I just felt lucky. So I guess it’s looking back on the times when I was plugging every day, getting fed up and feeling like I wasn’t getting anywhere.”
Actually writing the track whilst in Berlin with a friend, away from London – the city in question: “I think it was leaving London and having that perspective from somewhere else and looking back on where I’ve been living for the past few years.”
“I have a love/hate relationship with London, it has so much to offer and every day can be different if you want it to be, but there’re times where you wanna just be a local in a pub and go round the corner and know you’re gonna bump into a friend. But, once you know London a bit you get kind of proud of being a Londoner and you don’t want to leave.”
The music video, like the track itself, is exceptional, directed by MVA award winning Rafe Jennings, who as Rhys explains has done a lot of work with the likes of Will Joseph Cook. “Will’s got great ideas as an artist and his videos are just really well made and funny, there’s kind of an edge to them as well and when I saw Rafe’s ideas for this I knew that he’d certainly be able to execute his vision really well, I felt in safe hands going with him.”
The city has undoubtedly influenced Rhys’ music, but it’s fair to say that it’s played its part in shaping him as a person too. “I’ve had to grow up a lot faster. It’s forced me to grow up and it’s improved me as a musician because you’re surrounded by so many musicians and when you see people doing what you, yourself have an adoration for, the next thing you do is go and write another song, or go home and practice.”
London’s not the only city that has a place in his heart though, “Berlin is awesome,” says Rhys. “I don’t think I’ve been to enough places to know categorically, but I’ve spent a lot of time in Berlin, or maybe Stockholm, but Berlin still feels very authentic, small businesses are still thriving and there’s lots of cool bars and musicians and artists can still make great stuff because it’s not too expensive to live, it’s accessible.”
Although it’s clear that cities and his immediate location is a massive influence on his music, like many other musicians his relationships have also come into play. “A lot of my songs, I write them after the relationship is over in retrospect when I want to appreciate those emotions. I’m one of those people who isn’t very vocal about my feelings when I’m in a relationship, I think I’m working at getting better at it.” Rhys reflects.
Speaking of his next single ‘Honest’, he explains that it’s about the importance of being honest with someone, especially with the little things that might annoy us. “Sometimes I just let the little things become big things because I don’t say them, I’d make issues out of not saying little things at the time.” Something I’m sure we’ve all done at one point or another.
Having recently spent a lot of time in the studio, Rhys tells us how excited he is to be getting back into live performances. Reflecting on his debut, sold out, London show, where he first performed the album tracks live. “It felt like the first time I’d stepped on stage as an artist, I had played live before but then I went into the studio, got to know the songs intrinsically and then when I came back to the live show it felt like I was in command of the songs a lot more. I felt like I could not worry about the performance, but rather enjoy it a lot more.”
This relaxed confidence that Rhys comments on is ever noticeable when watching him perform (see video above). Something, which will no doubt go from strength to strength with time as he continues to perform his new material in lieu of the album Lewis repeatedly mentions.
That said album, however, may be a long time coming as he explains that there’s no actual release date as yet. Focussing on bringing us the hits in single-form first. But, you’ll all be pleased to know that there’re many sides of Rhys that we’re yet to experience: “I feel like there’s a lot of different moods, shades and emotion. There’s a lot of stuff on the album about love but I’ve tried to come at it from a different angle and there are a few songs like living in the city that express who I am personally and not just about someone else.”
Are you excited? We are.