Since the release of his brilliant breakthrough single “Someone You Loved”, Lewis Capaldi has been an absolute tour de force in the UK, spending seven weeks atop the UK Singles Chart, and scoring a number one record with his debut album Divinely Uninspired to a Hellish Extent. Now with a second North American Tour set to begin in September, and a recent platinum certification of “Someone You Loved” in the US, Lewis seems poised to take over the world.
But if worldwide fame is on the horizon for Lewis, it certainly hasn’t gone to his head. Humble and at times self-effacing, Mr. Capaldi spoke at length with AltWire about his reactions to his sudden stardom, his songwriting process, and what lies ahead for the 22-year-old musician. Read on for more…
AltWire [Luke Morrison]: Tell us about how you got your start in music. What inspired you to take up singing and songwriting and ultimately make music your career?
Lewis Capaldi: What inspired me to do it was my older brother was always in bands growing up – and he would play around where I’m from in Scotland (Edinburgh and all of that). My first proper gig was when I was 11 and I would just gig around Glasgow and Edinburgh. And that was what I did for such a long time. Like, from the age of 11 through to 18 I was just basically solely doing that.
AltWire [Luke Morrison]: We’d love to learn more about your songwriting process and how you normally approach writing songs. Could you tell us more about that?
Lewis Capaldi: So the process definitely just kind of differs from time to time. But, most of the time they’re all personal experiences that the songs come from. Just because I find that that’s the only way that I can write stuff that’s any good because I need to have experienced something to be able to write something decent about it – you know what I mean? It’s either melody or lyrics first, but it kind of differs and if I’m writing about something, I need to write about it usually, like… four months after it happened. For example, on this album, I broke up with someone, and then I wasn’t able to write songs about it until about six months after. Because I feel like that space and time gives you the ability to look back at things and analyze it properly before you write about it.
AltWire [Luke Morrison]: You mentioned that writing your first album was a bit of a grind. Tell us about some of the challenges you faced when writing Divinely Uninspired to a Hellish Extent.
Lewis Capaldi: It wasn’t so much the writing that was difficult – the writing I really enjoyed and actually arranging the songs was really enjoyable, too. But, for me, what I found difficult about it was – the actual process of recording, for me, it is quite an uninspiring thing. I think once you’ve written the song and then arranged it – actually recording the parts – is quite, as I say, ‘a grind’. ‘Cause I got into music to write songs and play live, not to sit in a recording studio for months at a time. And it’s always the same way, where you’ll be doing the vocal, and you’ll sing the same line… 40 times, and then the producer will just say to you, ‘Oh we actually really enjoyed the first take. Let’s just go with the first take.’
So, it was mainly that, but yeah, for me when I’m writing songs, I immediately want to just get out and play them live, like it is. I had never recorded properly before this process and I guess I just found it to be a bit of a slog. Once we got to the end of it, I was like, ‘Oh, I’m glad we did that – but the actual recording, mixing and stuff like that is all, it’s all very important and I think it’s an art-form in itself doing that but, for me, I didn’t like being cooped up.
AltWire [Luke Morrison]: Tell us about what kind of music inspires you to create your own. Do you have a go-to artist or album that really speaks to you?
Lewis Capaldi: Recently, I’ve been really getting back into The Beatles. I kind of fell back in love with their music and, it’s inspiring to have those [and] be able to listen back and, like, you think, ‘It’s crazy that they were able to create such amazing music and such a high standard for such a long time.’ But, I think anytime I hear a song that I love, irrespective about genre – that is inspiring. For example, Kendrick Lamar’s a big one for me. Listening to his music… I don’t ever listen to ‘HUMBLE.’ and think, ‘Oh, I’m gonna go make a song that sounds like that.’ But I listen to it, and it’s so amazing to listen to someone who’s at the top of the game and smashing it and making music that’s this good. And it makes you want to go off and kind of try to strive to be anywhere near as good as that. But, I think I’m still a bit out from [doing tours with] Kendrick Lamar. By a mile.
AltWire [Luke Morrison]: Do you have a preference for the way that you consume music?
Lewis Capaldi: Naw, not really! I think for me that just depends on where I am, what I’m doing. If I’m on the move, Spotify or Apple Music is much easier [for me]. If I’m at home, I buy vinyl and stuff like that. So it’s different – I do it every single way. I’ll often just buy albums on iTunes and if I really love them, I’ll just go out buy it as well. I just kind of do it ‘as and where’, I don’t really have a preferred medium.
AltWire [Luke Morrison]: What was it like in the moments when you found out that your song ‘Someone You Loved’ hit number one on the UK Singles Chart and when your album hit number one in the UK?
Lewis Capaldi: The single was weird because that was just never something that I’d expected. To have a number one album in general as well has been mental – but a number one single – especially for the type of music that I’m making, just seemed very strange. I never expected it to get to that stage, especially because it was a piano ballad… and it was coming up to summer, and it was just a bit of a sad song. But the fact that it went there [to number one] was just, genuinely, so weird.
When it happened I was in my hotel room by myself, so I’d just ordered some beers up to my room. But I think I went bowling afterward… so it wasn’t a very [celebration]-filled day. But it was mad. Because the thing is, as well, you find out in the morning – so I found out at, like, 10 am that it went to number one, but it doesn’t get announced publicly until somewhere around 4 pm in the UK. And it wasn’t until I listened to it then that it actually felt real. When I was told about it, I’d be like, ‘Oh, this doesn’t really feel like a big thing’, and then you heard it on the radio: “This week, number one: Lewis Capaldi – ‘Someone You Loved’”, and it was just mind-blowing.
And the album especially… meant a lot to me because it showed that people who were listening to ‘Someone You Loved’ went out and wanted to hear more of my music, do you know what I mean? I think that was kind of the thing I was scared about when ‘Someone You Love’ did what it did. I was worried that people would maybe just listen to this song and not go beyond and try and find some more [of my] music. But the album was cool because it just shows that people liked what they heard with ‘Someone You Loved’ and then ‘Grace’ and decided that they wanted to go and hear more stuff from me. So yeah, it was very cool.
AltWire [Luke Morrison]: Did you go and do anything, in particular, to celebrate once it all set in?
Lewis Capaldi: Erm, no! I mean I got drunk… and it was number one for seven weeks in the UK so I got drunk one night out every week. But the thing as well is, when a song does that – when it does that well – you have less time… it means you’re a lot more busy. So it’s probably a blessing in disguise. Because otherwise, I would have been fuckin’ out for ages! But erm (laughs)…no I haven’t. I think getting to play the shows we’re doing is fuckin’ celebration enough!
“I think everyone needs to have a cry sometimes. And you know what you can do with my music? You can have a big cry.”
AltWire [Luke Morrison]: Did reaching number one change your perspective or goals for your career?
Lewis Capaldi: My goal – back when I started this – was to play King Tuts** in Glasgow – it’s like a 350-capacity room. And we did that and, for me, ever since then everything’s just been kind of like a bonus. So yeah, I didn’t ever think, ‘Right, okay. This is it. I’m gonna aim for the number one’. I’ve never been this overly mad ambitious person. I just… I just do this because I enjoy [it]. So I’m kind of lucky that I had the people around me – management and label and agents – who really believed in what I was doing, enough work on it. But, yeah, no – it’s weird. It hasn’t really changed it.
Because now, for example, I don’t think just because I’ve had a number one that I’m ever going to get one again. For me, I feel like that was a one-time deal. I just think you can’t be getting greedy! So instead I just kind of say, ‘that’s cool and it’s nice that it happened but you’re only as good as your next song’’ You’ve just got to keep writing.
For album two, I’m not really expecting this response again. Not because I don’t think it’ll be good, but because I think if you just ‘play things by ear’ a bit and just go, ‘OK, I’m gonna make music that I like and release it and see what happens’, you’re going to enjoy it a lot more.
AltWire [Luke Morrison]: You’ve worked with a lot of globally recognized artists like Malay and TMS. Is there anyone, in particular, you’d really love to work with?
Lewis Capaldi: Paul McCartney would be cool, because it’s Paul McCartney. But I think he’s got bigger fish to fry, but erm (laughs)…it’d be cool to try and do something with people like Calvin Harris, or maybe Zedd – just because I think it’d be something completely different. I like the idea of, if I ever do work with someone else, being able to work with someone who doesn’t really do collaboration stuff often. Because I think it’d be cool to have that thing where it’s like, ‘Oh, this person? How the fuck did Lewis manage to get this person to do this song?’ I think it’d be quite cool to be able to work with someone who doesn’t really do many collaborations at all. So, I dunno – maybe someone like Adele, as she doesn’t really do collaborations, but she doesn’t have much to gain from doing a song with me. But, er (laughs), I’ll try my best.
AltWire [Luke Morrison]: From your social media and public appearances you look like you’re having fun doing what you do. Are there times when you’re on the road and it becomes difficult to remain positive?
Lewis Capaldi: Hmm, I don’t know! Because, I don’t think about it. I don’t think about it in those terms. I like to have a laugh most of the time and I think, when I’m away on tour and I ever feel down, I never try and rally myself to be positive when I don’t want to be positive. Because I feel like, it’s good that you have balance. If I feel sad one day I will allow myself to feel sad, because that’s fine. But for the most part, no, I’m still pretty much [having] a good laugh. You know, cause there’s times where I think this is all so fucking weird – like, it’s crazy, what’s happened. So, like, I think that you can’t take it too seriously. Otherwise you can lose your mind a bit.
AltWire [Luke Morrison]: So you recently performed in front of a US audience on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert and you performed on The Late Late Show with James Corden, and you’re scheduled to tour this fall. So how does an American audience compare to back home in the UK?
Lewis Capaldi: I don’t think there are many differences. When we went over the first time … I can’t remember where I read it, but someone in some article had said that they don’t think American audiences would be that into me. And I can’t remember where it was I read it, but I remember thinking, ‘(nonchalantly) well… alright? Cool.’ Like, at the time I was just a bit, like, ‘Well, we’ll see.’ I don’t feel like people are different. I don’t think the audiences are too vastly different. I think you’ve got to give people a lot more credit than that.
I think, for me with the American audiences, it’s still quite early but we’ve been able to do some cool stuff. But, I don’t try and change anything, or tailor anything for audiences personally. I just try and be myself and make the music I make and see what happens – and hopefully people will like that. I think everyone needs to have a cry sometimes. And you know what you can do with my music? You can have a big cry.
AltWire [Luke Morrison]: And, you’ve sort of just answered this, but what can fans who have never seen you expect at one of your live shows?
Lewis Capaldi: (Capaldi jokes) at one of my live shows, they should expect it’s gonna be sad. It’ll be a sad hour. And then I’ll make some fart jokes in between songs and it’ll be just fine. But you know, I do like a good laugh. I just like to have everyone come along and just have a good time. Maybe… I’ll do, like, a strip show… ‘cause I hear that sex sells. So I’ll maybe do some strip tease or something like that. But, erm, yeah, it’s a guy… a little chubby boy on stage, singing about his feelings. And that’s what you’re gonna get.
AltWire [Luke Morrison]: Any interesting tour stories that you’d like to share with us?
Lewis Capaldi: There was the time a member of my band, who will remain nameless, and I won’t say their instrument either, farted and thought he’d shit his pants [Ed. Note – for Americans, pants in the UK = underwear]. That was pretty funny. Well [actually] he did shit his pants. He’s in the car with me right now and he’s furious that I’m divulging this. (laughs)
But I was in the dressing room and he ran in and he was like, ‘(annoyed tone) Aww…’ and he grabbed a pair of underwear from his suitcase. And he tried to run out, and I said, ‘Wow wow wow, what’s going on here?!’ And he said, ‘What? Nothing…’ And I said, ‘Where are you going with those pants?’ And he said, ‘I think I trusted a fart a bit too much.’ And we were going on stage in, like, 20 minutes. That time (laughs) one of the band members almost shit himself was a pretty interesting one.
AltWire [Luke Morrison]: Alright Lewis, the last question is, with a number one album and number one single and international recognition already under your belt, what’s the next stage for you as an artist?
Lewis Capaldi: I just want to see how far we can take [the live show] situation at the moment. In the UK and Ireland, we’ve got to a point now where we can do arenas, which is crazy. But I just want to play as many shows as possible and take that and kind of grow that – see how close we can get, like, everywhere else to that level. I think, I really want to spend as much time as possible over in America as well over the next few months, just trying to see what I can [do now that I’m coming to play shows there].
So yeah, I don’t know, I think I’m just going to try and keep making music, and keep writing. I want to maybe put out something new – not, like, an album or something, but it’d be nice to maybe put out something relatively new, maybe towards the end of the year. I don’t know if I’ll get to do that, though. But we’ll see what happens! I’m going to keep writing, and try and keep gigging and just try and get the music out there to as many people as possible. Maybe release a fitness DVD. And we’ll see what happens.
** King Tuts Wah Wah Hut, Glasgow. Legendary Scottish music venue. Famously hosted Radiohead, The Verve and Oasis (just before the latter’s signing) over a two-week period in the early 90s, as well as many other now-legendary bands since then.