Superb English singer-songwriter Lewis Watson has just this month released his achingly emotional second album, midnight. We chatted to the young mastermind to get his thoughts on the release's lyrical imagery, as well as filming 360 videos on sketchy roofs in East London.
Q1/ There seems to be a time theme going on with the titles of your two albums, The Morning and midnight; what was it about those times of the day that spoke to you specifically?
The Morning was called The Morning for many reasons. [It was] my first album, and the morning’s the first part of the day. The main reason was that the hidden track at the end of the album was called The Morning. I just thought it was just a nice way to work out the name for the album.
This album is quite a contrast [to] that album, I believe - its sound or the lyrics - but the creation process behind it was extremely different. This one was self-funded and I did it in two and a half weeks with my mates, in a room. The first one was done over almost two years with a lot of different people.
And, the secret track at the end of this album is called midnight. It’s kind of like a tip of the cap to my first record in that respect, as well.
Q2/ This album deals with similar themes to the last, of love and loss, but midnight seems a little more upbeat. How did the more buoyant feel come about?
I think as a person, I’m just happier... that certainly comes through in the songs. I also think I’ve matured quite a lot as a songwriter and musician. When I was younger, the easy songs to write were the sadder songs. Also, they kind of gave me a sort of therapy. There are still very quiet moments in this album - there’s a song which is just one take of me and a guitar. There’s a song at the end of the album, just me and a piano. There are still very intimate moments, but you’re right, I think it’s just the way it happened.
Q3/ The imagery within your lyrics is striking, specifically in Deep The Water with “When your hair spills light on my shoulders” and in Little Light, “I was longing for the rain, you were the flood that made me overflow.” Does it take you a while to get them the way you would like them to be?
The lyrics are extremely important to me, so it’s great that you’ve picked up on that. Yeah, they take me a long time to write. I want to get them right. And hopefully I’ll be singing these songs for the rest of my life, and so [I want to] always live in that moment. It takes me much longer to write the songs, but I think that’s a much better payoff at the end.
Q4/ How did the idea for your 360 music video for Little Light come about?
I’d done a show in London earlier in the year with the band, and this company [called Melody VR] approached us and said they'd really like to record the gig in virtual reality, and have people be able to plug in and be in the middle of the crowd, and be on stage, with their headsets... [It was] something I just found extremely interesting. It worked out they found it would be easier if we were in [an] open space with natural light, so my manager [...] found this place in East London. We all got up on this roof and played the track through to a kind of futuristic camera, and it came out really well.
Q5/ Why was that specific roof chosen when it seemed like there were a lot of pallets and planks of wood lying around - was it in construction?
It was being refurbed at the time, but I really liked that look of it being quite derelict, and not pristine. Actually, it’s funny, the guys working on it had said we couldn’t walk past a certain line because we’d just fall through the roof and die, really. So we set up far away from that and just played the song. But yeah, it just had a good look. It wasn’t perfect. It wasn’t pristine. That was something that excited me.
Q6/ You had over 90 songs when you went to write The Morning. Was it a similar situation with midnight?
I think there were 95 songs. Yeah, they certainly weren’t all album material. My manager and myself have a songwriting folder where all of the songs are, and we just kind of looked through that and made sure there weren’t any songs that were getting overlooked. There are a lot of demos to pick from. On this trip to Sydney we were looking through the folder again and listening to demos, and [we've] picked a few already for the next album. It’s a good problem to have, too many songs.
Q7/ You’re known for your stripped-back, acoustic versions of songs, especially on some of your older YouTube clips. How do you bring that style to live shows whilst still giving an energetic performance?
When we do a live show with the band, I’ll take a third of the gig and do it by myself and play the more intimate songs. I like to get into the crowd a lot, and play and have them sing along and get them involved. The bigger songs are very personal to me and I feel like I get quite self-indulgent on stage, which I don’t think is a bad thing. I just reach inside and sing new songs, and hopefully that comes across.
Being a punter at my show... it’s something I’ll never be able to go through. I think even with the bigger-sounding songs, it’s still very close and very personal. Whenever I go to a gig, that’s what I’m after. I can [get a] snapshot of how that artist is feeling, and the array of their emotions. That’s what I try and replicate for people coming to my gig.
Lewis Watson is touring the land Down Under in June on the following dates;
15th Jun @ The Factory Theatre, Sydney
16th Jun @ The Triffid, Brisbane
17th Jun @ The Evelyn Hotel, Melbourne (18+)
18th Jun @ The Evelyn Hotel, Melbourne
21st Jun @ Fowlers Live, Adelaide
22nd Jun @ Astor Theatre, Perth
midnight is out now via Cooking Vinyl. Read our review here.