“To write a song, I have to live through it, I’m no good at fabricating things” – hmv.com talks to Lewis Watson
Word of mouth success is a phrase that’s attached to far too many artists, but in the case of 21-year old Lewis Watson, it couldn’t be more fitting. He began his career bashfully uploading covers to YouTube (very bashfully, he even uploaded them under an assumed name…) before eventually releasing a couple of low-key EPs. This drew him to the attention of major label Warners, who snapped him up and swiftly put him to work on his debut album. Over the next two years four more EPs followed, but his debut album The Morning is finally here and will come out on Monday (July 7th).
We chatted to him about making the album, the multitude of producers who worked on it, his big plans for the year and why he once refused to sign a teddy bear…
Can you place when you started work on the album?
“I’ve been recording the album pretty much since I got signed so that’s a two-year period. We were recording for the album for all that time, which has given me the luxury of hindsight, which meant I could really listen back and find out what works. I would like to experience something more intense, to go into a studio for six weeks and make a record. But I’m glad it’s worked out this way this time.”
You’ve re-recorded a few of your earlier songs, was that always the plan? Did you ever think ‘I’m just going to start new’?
“We intentionally made the EPs quite lo-fi, they were rough and that’s how I wanted it to be. I didn’t want people to listen to a few songs and go ‘Oh that’s him, that’s what he does’. I wanted people to see my journey, the evolution of the songs and I’m excited for them to hear the album versions and how I’ve repackaged the older songs. I really wanted there to be a lot of new songs, but I like that I’ve got four that have been released before.”
Can you hear how you’ve grown as a songwriter during the writing process?
“I like to think I’ve matured a bit. Earlier in my career I felt like I was writing words for the sake of them rhyming, now I think about imagery and what the words have underneath them. My approach has changed too. Now it happens when it happens, before I’d come home from college and try to write and get frustrated. I understand that you have to let it happen now.”
You worked with a quite a few producers…
“Yeah, there was Mike Crossley, who’s worked with Arctic Monkeys, Rich Wilkinson, who’s worked with Kaiser Chiefs, Danton Supple, who’s done stuff with Coldplay, Julian Emery, Iain Archer who used to be in Snow Patrol, he helped me a lot and worked on loads of songs with me, he was fantastic.”
Did you always intend to work with lots of people?
“It was just the way it happened, if you record for two years you can’t really book out a producer for two years. It was whenever we could do it, when I wasn’t on tour. I liked it though, they had their own flairs and they each brought something to the table. Next time though I would like to do a record with one producer.”
Were people suggested to you? Or did you ask for anyone?
“My A&R came to me with a list and said to me ‘This guy has worked with this guy, let’s meet with him’, so we did. I’m still learning how records get made, so it was an experience.”
Who did you learn the most from?
“Rich. It was this tiny room, we didn’t have much, we just had the ability to record what we had really well. It made me think more creatively and he pushed me to try new things.”
What was Iain Archer like? He’s co-written some huge songs, like Snow Patrol’s ‘Run’…
“He was great, he’s this tiny Irish guy and he’s so kind and insanely talented. I remember sitting down for the first time, he just came out with this great voice and he’s got this brilliant way of playing guitar, chords just pour out of him. I went away from every session wanting to write more and more, it was very cool.”
What kind of album is this lyrically?
“Everything I’ve written and everything I will write is very personal, it needs to resonate with me first and then hopefully it can resonate with other people. To write a song, I have to live through it, I’m no good at fabricating things, that’s not a skill I have. I wanted songs with sentiments that people can relate to, hopefully that’s what comes across.”
You released an EP last year called ‘Some Songs With Some Friends’ which saw you duetting with people like Gabrielle Aplin and Hudson Taylor, did you not fancy including any collaborations on the album?
“I wanted to push myself and that EP was the first time I’d really been in the studio for another artist. I loved making it, it was so fun to create. I had a lot of songs to pick from this album and I wanted it to be the songs that I was happiest with and I think bringing other people in would have disturbed that. I’d love to do collaborations in the future.”
When did you settle on the title?
“Very late. With the EPs it was always right at the end, I never wanted people to dwell on titles. For this, I knew I only had one first record and I wanted to put a lot more thought into it and so I started to overthink it and that was a bad spiral. I settled on this one because it’s a lyric that’s on the album a few times and it rolls off the tongue quite nicely.”
So what’s the plan for after the record comes out?
“We’ve got festivals then a big UK tour coming after that, then we go to Europe. Then I’d like to press on and go wherever I can, but we’re still working all that out.”
You’re heading out on a signing tour next week, what’s the strangest thing you’ve ever had to sign?
“A pot noodle. A chicken and sweetcorn pot noodle. It was a girl’s birthday and she asked me to sign it. She tweeted me pictures of it too.”
Is there anything you wouldn’t sign?
“One thing. A guy had this teddy, this ruined teddy, he told me he’d had it since it was a baby and he asked me to sign it. I said ‘I can’t ruin this, you might hate my music in a few years’ time’, so I said no to that. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to, but it felt a bit like scribbling on someone’s memory.”
Have you had the experience of signing someone’s body and then they get it tattooed?
“I’ve stopped signing skin actually. But I did do a drawing on someone, and they turned it into a sleeve note. I don’t want anyone getting my signature tattooed on them though.”
Lewis Waton’s debut album The Morning is released on Monday (July 7th) and can be pre-ordered now from hmv stores as well as from our digital store by clicking here.
He will be signing copies of the album and meeting fans at a series of hmv’s next week. He will be visiting hmv Reading, hmv 363 Oxford Street (where he will also be playing live), hmv Sheffield High Street, hmv Middlesbrough, hmv Southampton and hmv Leads Headrow. Click here for full details.
Want to spend the morning with Lewis Watson? You can win the chance to with purehmv, click here to find out more details.