Your young teenage years are strange. They feel long, yet they’re over with a blink of an eye. You feel moments of pure elation that can get squandered by one split second change. They’re a whirlwind of over analysed text messages, weekends at the park, outreached arms during a date to the cinema, family squabbles and questionable phases. They’re the years where you figure out who you are, and who you could be.
Lewis Watson has provided the soundtrack for many. I, among others, see Lewis perform and still feel the same amount of pride as I did five years ago. I see him after gigs and still get a little giddy. I ask him questions before a show and still have that lasting admiration.
“I always say it, I’m like, we grew up together.” A smile spreads across his face, you can tell that this essence is special to him. “I’ve gone through so much during that time and I’m sure you have as well, it’s great that you’re still coming to my gigs and I can still say hello to you. I feel like it is quite rare.” he says. There’s a pride that he isn’t just talking to me, but the hundreds of people who have used Lewis’ stories for guidance.
His recently released second album, midnight, is a collection of songs documenting a step into adulthood. The signature acoustic guitar collides with electric, strings weave their way through dazzling key sequence and push Lewis’ vocal to greater elevation. The album takes great leaps into the unknown with the same enthusiasm as a child jumping into a puddle. It’s fuller-bodied and optimistic. The “blissful ignorance” of his debut the morning, is enjoyed by Lewis, explaining “it [gave] me the push to improve and I feel like I really have with the second album. I tried to show in as many ways as possible the evolution from the first record, I think I’ve just grown up and that my sound has matured because of that.”
‘deep the water’ pulsates with emotion, beating with a heart of its own. I believe him when he says “I needed to write that song.”
We’re stood facing each other in a dressing room that may as well be a cupboard, when Lewis confides; “I’m rubbish at talking to people about how I feel, I bottle a lot of stuff up and it gets worse the longer I do it.”
Writing the song allowed a long-feeling emotion to be set free, and finishing it “felt particularly potent.” With a physical sigh of the relief he breathes ,“it really, it was a big weight lifted off of my chest and my shoulders – definitely.
“That song for me is so special and I feel like it really embodies the music I want to make, that song kinda sums me up.”
The urge to write songs runs through Lewis’ veins, it’s a set part of his personality, a trait, a personality. It makes him who he is. admitting that channelling emotions into songs is scary, it consequently sets them free in the most vulnerable adrenaline rush. “I thrive off of that I think”, he says with a twinkle in his eye.
“I write songs for therapy and I only ever write songs for me, it’s only when I feel confident enough to release those songs that I allow them to go to the next step.
“I’ve written a load of songs that nobody else has ever heard. I think that that’s something that is the real charm about song-writing – I don’t have to release 100% of songs that I’ve written and I certainly haven’t.”
Acting as a shoulder to cry on and a familiar face during the time when listeners can’t quite get a grip on their own emotions, there’s an emotional currency to songs drenched in melancholy. “It’s easier to pour your soul into a sad song and really become part of the song, or allow the song to become part of you.” Lewis tells me, and I think of the thumping ache of ‘la song’ and the raw plead of ‘run’.
“I listen to music to really channel my emotions. When I’m alone in my bed, I want to wallow and feel like the music is washing over me, and I think that sad songs really allow that to happen.”
Since he was seventeen, he’s bared the intricacies of his heart with plucked chords and soothing melody. Delicate tales are bittersweet, as salted acoustics cradle sugared odes. Songs like ‘Little Darling’ and ‘Windows’ act almost as lullabies, a staple in the heart of a long-term Lewis Watson fan.
“I feel a very similar thing with artists that I’m into, I think it’s because you feel like you’ve discovered them before anybody else discovered them, so those first songs are so important.” He says, humble that his listeners practically plead for him to sing unplugged in the crowd with him, that fans want to meet him after a show just to say ‘thank you’, that they provide backing vocals for ‘into the wild’. “I think they root themselves even deeper, and you feel a special connection because you feel that you heard it before anybody else.”
There’s something warming in the thought that one day in the future, I’ll share a Lewis Watson song with somebody special; a partner, a child, and that the songs will always trigger the same amount of devotion as they did every time I needed it throughout my teenage years.
Words by Tanyel Gumushan