Redbrick’s Maddie Bourne sits down for an honest, open and mouthy chat with Lewis Capaldi
Lewis Capaldi is a contradiction in many terms, but I mean this as a good thing. He’s a young musician who has less than an album of songs released (seven, to date) – yet he single-handedly sold out the O2 Institute’s main stage for his headline show. And Lewis writes heart-achingly passionate songs that produce a sob-fest mid gig from his adoring fans – yet he’s potentially one of the most hilarious, happy-go-lucky people I’ve ever met.
And as I enter his dressing room on Saturday evening, his first words to me are: ‘I’m so sorry, let me just spray something quickly – I kinda did a nervous fart before you came in’. And if that doesn’t sum up Lewis Capaldi, I don’t know what will.
Lewis Capaldi is a name doing the rounds in the music industry at the moment. At just 22-years-young, he’s hit the BBC’s Sound of 2018 long list. He’s played TRNSMT festival in Scotland and his adoring, sobbing fans include a certain Ellie Goulding and a quarter of One Direction in Niall Horan. So just a classic resume for a standard 22-year-old’s CV then. But it’s impossible to be bitter about Lewis’ skyrocketing journey to fame, because he’s just the nicest lad, and you can tell he is relishing every moment of this journey.
Now in the midst of his headline tour, with support Nina Nesbitt, Lewis has enjoyed every second, but his favourite date so far, he tells me, ‘has to be Cambridge. You can just see everybody, right to the back. It was Friday so everyone was a bit pissed and a bit up for it. It was my first headline show in Cambridge as well, I’d never been before – it was incredible, I really liked it.’
And Lewis’ musical journey to the stars began at the tender age of, well: ‘I was four. My family went on holiday – I don’t know why I’m telling you this – but we used to drive from Glasgow to a caravan park in France for some fucking reason. It’s a long fucking drive, and this is when planes already existed! So we used to drive down and my mum and dad always used to play Fleetwood Mac, Genesis, Queen, Adam & The Ants, Simon & Garfunkel and The Proclaimers on repeat.’ And his favourite CD? ‘The Queen one. It had “We Will Rock You” and “We Are The Champions on it”.’
When Lewis arrives at said caravan park, the karaoke entertainment was calling him: ‘I remember getting up on stage and doing a karaoke thing. I was 4-years-old, so I wasn’t a singer. I mean, I was as much of a singer as I was a professional shitter of my pants, so I got up and just sang my heart out. I think I sang “We Are the Champions” first and then I thought it was so cool I asked to go back up. Whether or not I realised then that this was something I wanted to do as a career; that’s a different thing.’
Being someone who writes songs literally designed to get those tears flowing, I asked Lewis how he himself copes with the emotions whilst performing: ‘You know, I’m not the most serious guy – I feel we’ve only been talking two minutes but you can probably realise that! There is emotion there, but I think onstage I’m just enjoying it. Because everyone’s singing along and it’s good, I don’t get sad, per se – it would be fucking difficult if I got sobby every time I go to sing!’
But blasé and partial to a good joke as Lewis is, he isn’t afraid to talk about some pretty serious matters. He’s just quick to throw in a joke or two too, to lighten the mood afterwards. When I ask him how he manages nerves before a show, I see him hesitate. ‘I recently started getting panic attacks and getting anxious and things, but I think I was drinking a lot last year after gigs. I don’t get nervous per se, but I worry – I hope the show goes well.’
Lewis tries to take things as easy as possible, but it’s hard not to let the desire to give the audience a good time worry even Mr. Capaldi. ‘I’m not a perfectionist at all – I’m exactly the fuckin’ opposite! There are so many songs I’ll send to my managers, just recordings on my phone, and they’ll tell me it’s shit but I’m like, “No!” because they don’t get it yet. I sometimes just assume everyone can understand what’s going on in my brain. I’m not a perfectionist at all, but there’s the anxiousness of wanting to do a good show – not so much nerves, but I do a lot of nervous poos and things!’ Don’t we all, Lewis.
Lewis wrote his first song at seven, and his second at eleven. And he’s so embarrassed about them, he makes them the butt of a joke. ‘I think [my first song] was called “Two Minutes After Dawn” and it was fucking shite. I was crooning about a girl leaving me “two minutes after dawn” and I would have been seven years old.’ So it seems heartache always been an inspiration for his hits.
‘The first song I remember sitting down with a guitar to create was called “The Show Must Go On” and it was fuckin’ shit. I was like eleven at this point, and the song was like, “the economy is going down the drain and Robbie Williams is going insane, oh no, got to get on with the show”. At the time, Robbie Williams was into aliens and shit and I was fucking 11-years-old and there I was singing about credit cards?! It was fuckin’ terrible.’
Lewis has come a long way from writing about Stoke-on-Trent’s finest, aliens and our country’s crippling financial crisis: he began posting covers on YouTube, and then branched out into his own (better) song writing. And he’s got some stellar advice for any young person wanting to get into the music industry themselves: ‘Just keep writing. I’m not knocking this at all because I did this for a while myself, but the done thing is to do covers on YouTube – but to really get yourself out there you’ve got to write your own songs.’
How does one write a good song? ‘It’s just one of those things that if you do it long enough you just get better, it’s weird as fuck. Before I released my first single, which was “Bruises”, I had done nine years of solid gigging and writing songs before releasing. Just keep writing and just keep gigging!’
Lewis is living proof that if you keep doing what he calls ‘chipping away’, you’ll get there. And 2019 is set to shoot Capaldi into even more dizzying heights. ‘I’m going on tour with Bastille next year, which will be fucking sick, an album will be out next year at some point and then I’m going to be touring loads more and there’ll be fucking loads more music. Hopefully I won’t get dropped by my record label! I’m going to keep chipping away!’
But as for the present, I ask Lewis what he wants his audience to feel when they leave the venue that night, and he tells me he wants them to have ‘had a fucking good laugh!’. He reckons the audience will be ‘suitably passionate’ as it’s a Saturday night in Birmingham, and this man was on the money. The sold-out room laughed themselves silly and they certainly sobbed themselves silly too. I leave Lewis’ dressing room after an offer of a beer, a G&T, some cakes and sourdough bread, absolutely rooting for the Scottish musician’s stratospheric success, which I predict will be coming very, very soon.