Rhys Lewis has been gaining support from tastemakers throughout the year. His sensitive songwriting and nostalgic tones have many tipping him for huge things following well received sets at the likes of Great Escape, Bushstock, Neighbourhood festival and more. We caught up with him ahead of his first headline European show in Utretch to chat new music, the digital revolution and the importance of mental health.


So this is your first time touring in Europe, how has it been so far?

First show last night, really fun. I get more nervous when it’s headline shows, I think having the band behind me helps, whereas going out on the road solo there’s nowhere to hide. First time on the tour bus too, there’s good and bad things but on the whole it’s been really fun.

Does it feel good to be challenging yourself on different turf?

It feels easier in some respects because maybe in London and certainly in the UK it’s so saturated, there are so many people doing it and it’s so competitive. Not to say there isn’t in other places in Europe but when you come aboard, you feel like a UK artist doing your thing in another country. It suddenly puts you in another lane which is nice, I think the audience perceive you slightly differently when you’re coming from a different place.

Have you had any tour disasters as of yet?

I dropped my phone down the back of a seat on the bus and it went basically into a little box that the seats are on. I don’t think anything has ever come out of there. For a whole day I didn’t have a phone and eventually we broke in and it was covered in hair and chewing gum, it was disgusting.

Other than that it’s been pretty good, I’ve lost at FIFA quite a lot. I thought I’d be really good but nobody is being nice to me, it’s pretty disastrous. Surely I can be like “I’m the artist, you should let me win.”

Your latest single 'Be Your Man' has been going down a treat. Can you give us some context and background to the track?

I wrote that song when I was seeing someone who had just got out of a relationship and she was comparing me to what she had, looking for a carbon copy replacement. Even though I was very much into her, it felt at odds with what she wanted and fizzled. I felt as though I was living in somebody’s shadow.

The reaction has been fantastic as I was really nervous about putting it out as it’s one of the most stripped back and raw songs. It’s nice to know it’s had that emotional connection and people are still listening to it.

And can we talk a little more about your songwriting style in general, do you find it easier writing within a moment or do you tend to reflect on events and emotions?

I’ve started to write more in the moment, but I have definitely written more on reflection this past year. I tend to lean towards more melancholic subjects, heartbreak and hard times in life. If you’re writing every day, you’re not necessarily experiencing that hardship every single day so you have to go back to moments where you felt vulnerable, or alone. I also find it easier to process something when I write a song about it, it’s almost like my closure.

We are currently in The Netherland so as an emerging artist, do you think that's it's easier to have a global foot print these days with digital platforms such as Spotify etc?

Absolutely. It’s crazy to think of the scope Spotify can bring. Anyone in the world can listen to your music at any time and they are discovering it through things such as playlists and New Music Fridays etc. It’s amazing to look and who’s listening and where, so you can now plan a tour based on your listenership which makes complete sense.

Are you playing the same setlist on this tour as your UK shows or are you switching it up?

I’m trying some new songs. It’s always good to add things I’ve never played before as it keeps you on your toes as when you get used to playing certain tracks, you can switch out of your performance.

Is this a good space to test out new tracks with potentially less pressure than say one of your London headlines?

The biggest shows for now are still going to be in London and doing this leading up to the UK tour is a good way of breaking in some of the new material while trying certain things out. Plus, you get to know songs so well when playing live, it’s such a different setting to the studio. Some things don’t translate from the studio so you have to adapt and translate them for the stage, learn the dynamics.

How has your songwriting changed and evolved from your early demos and tracks?

That’s a really good question. In terms of process I used to slave away at one song for a week, and because I’d taken so long to write it I was very precious about it. Maybe I held on to it too much and wanted it to be better than it maybe was, so I wouldn’t value it for how good the song was I would value you it for the time I spent on it. Sometimes it’s not about the time spent, it’s about if it connects.

So instead I got into the habit of writing every day, even if it wasn’t finished completely, I’d get it down and potentially go back to ideas that worked. Then I’d go back and finish or polish them, I’ve got in to the habit of realising songs are never actually finished until they are mixed, mastered and signed off.

Songs can change so much when you take them into the studio with a producer. If you don’t approach it with an open mind, if you go in saying “this is what I want it to sound like” then they don’t have the opportunity to hear it for the first time and suggest what they would do with it. Letting people in on your ideas and learning how to collaborate has definitely improved my music.

You're on a label with huge musical heritage [Decca]. Who would you say are your musical heroes? And have they had any influence on your sound/style?

I think the artist who first really compelled me was Jimi Hendrix. He made the guitar sound like a voice, it spoke and it sang and I thought that was incredible. I remember picking up guitar and wanting to play like him. Alex Turner was the first songwriter at age 13/14 that I really paid attention to. Their subject matter is so youthful and colloquial, it was the first time I listened to a modern band and thought “I love the lyrics.” He was the first person who made me think about songs as well as the sound.

You've spoken recently about mental health and the importance of sharing your feelings and emotions. Your writing style is also very personal; do you find it helps you to share on stage with your audience?

Going back to the songwriting process it feels like it bookends something for me, and by writing and performing it helps me to process my own thoughts and emotions. Again on stage you almost forget you went through something because you simply get used to the song and then when people approach you afterwards and tell you “oh this song means a lot because of XYZ”; that’s really special as an artist.

When it comes to mental health, a recent track ‘I Know the Feeling’ touched on this. It was written about a friend who was going through a tough time and I think everyone has those moments where they feel low, lacking motivation and don’t know where they are. When you talk about it, as soon as you share your thoughts and worries, even by just talking about it can make you feel better. It may not get rid of the problem but just knowing someone is there is really important.

I’ve been through things before where I’ve felt too proud to talk it through. This can be really damaging as you become trapped in your own head and those around you don’t know what you’re really going through. Especially in times where you feel guilty being low, by talking it through it stops you from perpetuating those negative thoughts.

Would you recommend songwriting or playing an instrument to anybody struggling with anxiety/depression?

Definitely. I think any kind of art to be honest. There are some emotions or thoughts that may not fit into songs, there’s times where I just need to write stuff down, scribble it out and I don’t even need to read it again. But by writing it down it helps me process how I’m feeling. Poetry or art or anything that’s aimed at expressing how you’re feeling, that is an outlet and it can take something that may be eating away at you and get it out onto paper. You’ve dealt with it in your own way.

It’s mainly about mindfulness. A lot of our problems with mental health is that people don’t keep their mind healthy. When we talk about our bodies we know we should eat well, go the gym, but we don’t always have the same attitude with our mind. If we maintain our mental health in a better way, I think we would see less of these issues in society.

So you recently released new single 'Wish I Was Sober', can you tell me a little about the track?

It’s a song about being broken up with and basically getting drunk, drowning sorrows, and wanting to call them on the way home. It’s a feeling a lot of people have been through, luckily I chose not. I was in a relationship where I didn’t actually acknowledge how good it was and I didn’t vocalise my emotions to her. She didn’t really know how I felt about her and I lost her because of that. I knew it was all on me so it hurt even more.

What else do you have planned for the rest of 2017?


I’m heading out on tour with James TW and then I’m heading back to the studio to write before a UK tour in November.



Rhys Lewis headlines Oslo, Hackney on November 22nd. Tickets are available now.