At the time I meet him Dean’s, his album ‘A Place We Knew’, has been out for a little over a week. The lead single, Be Alright, has had phenomenal success, hitting over 450 million streams on Spotify alone. “’Be Alright’ was global – in every country, it blew up. Australia, Germany, France, but in England, it just kind of…” he flutters his hands out in front of him and lets out a laugh. “England’s known to be tough to crack for an Australian artist. I feel very lucky to have any kind of success here. We’re still selling out shows without a lot of radio support.” They’ve nearly sold out two nights at the Shepherds Bush Empire.
We get another round and we begin to discuss the difference in international crowds. “That’s an interesting one. You know what, the only difference to me is that they’ll sing in an accent. Like in Germany, they’ll sing (he clears his throat, and sings the chorus from Waves, with harder S’s and deeper O’s). But generally, they’re all the same – they connect with the same songs. With ‘Hold of Me’, crowds seem to be reacting really well before they’ve even heard it.”
We talk of how Instagram seems to be an immediate barometer for music – fans DM him or tag him in the songs they’re enjoying. He tells me it seems pretty even, and he’s enjoying that – “It’s been really good to know the songs that people are connecting with. It’s almost even, every song on the album is getting equal love. That’s really cool.”
He seems very genuine, and there’s no veneer of a media persona – we’re able to talk candidly. We talk about meeting fans, and it’s clear this is significant to him; he tells me of how it’s important to have a personal impact, use their names, look them in the eye. Where does this come from? “Look: I was a sound recordist when I was younger” he tells me. “I boomed for people like Katy Perry and 5SOS. And I know how it feels to be the invisible guy in the corner. It was literally my job to be quiet. Maybe if I was 18 and in this position, I’d think “I’m the fucking man!” – but I’m not. I’m 31, this [fame] happened late for me, I’d established who I was. That definitely gave me a good appreciation of everything.”
It’s nearing the end of the night, so we squeeze our way out of the bar – now absolutely packed – and onto the street outside. We chat a little about what Dean’s listening to at the minute, and he pulls his phone out and scrolls through his recently played on Spotify. George Ezra, the 1975, Vampire Weekend, Catfish and the Bottlemen. “I love Vann McCann. I love Catfish and the Bottlemen. People ask me for advice on writing, and I always say, go watch a Catfish acoustic performance. It’s so simple, it’s incredible. That’s so hard to do, man”. I tell him I’d had the chance to watch them at Wembley recently, and that my ears had only just recovered. “They have so many big songs. So many. And he’s such a smart dude, so conversational. I’m a huge, huge fan of them. There’s brilliance in simplicity. I’m not necessarily inspired directly by them, but sometimes I’ll listen to their songs and go: fuck, that’s good. And it makes me want to pick up my guitar and write something. Not because I want to write something similar, but because I’m just so inspired by how good it is”.
Dean Lewis performs at London’s 02 Shepards Bush Empire on the 15th and 16th of April. You can stream ‘7 minutes’, below.