Just after Australian singer/songwriter Dean Lewis started dominating the radio with his hit song, Waves, I caught up with him to discuss the process behind his songwriting, plans for the future, and what influences him as a musician. This is just a snippet of what he said while preparing his debut EP, Same Kind of Different.
Congratulations on the recent release of your single, Waves. What was the inspiration behind this?
Thanks so much! I wrote the song about that excitement you have about the world when you’re a kid. I was in London about a year ago and wasn’t enjoying it as much as I thought I would. So I started thinking back to that excited feeling I used to have about the smallest things and began to wonder where it had gone – and how could I get it back.
Is that something that normally informs your songwriting?
It informed this song. It plays a big part in my mind, and I notice I put lines into other songs about the same thing. I just finished recording this song called Crawl and one of the lines is “I was trying to find the child that I was before”. So it finds its way into my songwriting. But Waves was different because that’s what the entire song was about.
The reaction to this song so far has been incredible with over 2.6 million streams globally, it hitting #6 on the Australian Spotify viral chart and Top 40 on iTunes Australia and been added to Triple J. Was that something you expected and how does it make you feel to have had that success so quickly?
It’s really exciting to be honest. Watching the stream numbers is cool, I actually got a little bit to into checking the numbers every day and my manager had to say “You really have to stop checking!” ‘cause I was doing her head in!
I’ve spent last two years writing in my room, so it’s been great to actually have a REAL song out there with REAL people hearing it. Not just my close friends and family! I was hoping it would connect but you never know. I think for me, if I finish recording a song and can’t stop listening to it, then I think maybe there’s something special in it. Whereas if I don’t listen to it over and over again I get kind of concerned and try to figure out why.
You just released your “One Take” live video of Waves. Can you talk me through that process?
Ow yes! It was an interesting one. In my mind I had this idea of me sitting at a Piano and playing the song through with a cellist. Then my friend Joel Farland came in and had an idea about me walking and changing instruments. Something a bit more unique. We practiced a few times the day before then went in and did it and that’s what we got. I personally find it hard to watch myself back so I actually haven’t watched it all the way through, but the reaction has been great.
Who are your idols, both personally and professionally?
Noel Gallagher! I spent maybe five years coming home from school or work and just watching him play acoustic versions of his songs on Youtube. I swear I have seen every single Oasis video on Youtube. I got obsessed with his simple songwriting and big choruses. I never went to a music school but I picked it up from watching Noel and learning how he put songs together, it was a great time.
How and when were you inspired to make music your career path?
I was sitting with my younger brother and my dad put on a DVD called “Oasis Manchester Live 2005”. I remember watching Liam Gallagher walk out with this hat and red jacket and he was just the coolest guy ever. Then watching him interact with Noel, it was really cool to watch, and I just had the bug ever since.
If you could collaborate with anyone in the industry (living or dead), who would it be and why?
Just for a point of difference I’d say Van Mcann from Catfish and the Bottlemen. I’m just obsessed with his songwriting. It’s so simple and melodic. He doesn’t over think it, and that inspires me.
What were some of the highlights of that experience so far?
Supporting Lisa [Mitchell] was my first proper tour. So it was quite the learning curve. I was opening first, so on a few nights I’d only get five minutes to sound check. And as an opener people aren’t necessarily there to see you, so it was quite nerve wracking. But the pay off was when, despite all this, the entire room is silent and listening and there’s an energy in the room. That was special and I was lucky enough for it to happen a few times.
How much of an indication is Waves of what people can expect to hear from your EP [Same Kind of Different]?
To be honest I write different kinds of songs all the time. When I’m struggling to come up with songs I’ll imagine I’m another artist and I’ll try to write from their perspective, which leads me to coming up with something quite different from my usual songs. I get bored doing the same thing over and over again.
Although there usually is something that joins them together, my own style. Plus for me I kind of view an EP and an album as a collection of songs – I’m not too fussy or trying to break boundaries, I just want to put out great songs that I like and mean something to me.
What’s the epitome of success for you?
Well I’m looking forward to being able to put out songs to a bigger audience. I’d love to have people waiting to hear new music on a bigger scale. Being able to travel through Europe and maybe to the US and do shows. That would be it!
What music are you listening to at the moment?
I’m currently obsessed with Catfish and the Bottlemen’s new album The Ride. I’m a big fan of Amy Shark’s song Adore. That song blew my mind.
Where do you see yourself in the next five years?
Hopefully doing another album and putting out songs I like! With Spotify and Apple music I feel like it’s so much easier to reach other places in the world, so I’d like to be playing shows throughout Europe and America as well.
What have you got planned for the rest of this year?
I’m spending quite a bit of time in Europe and some in the US. I think there might even be some festivals this year so fingers crossed. It’s a very exciting time.
[Editor/Author Note: To view this interview in its original capacity, visit AMNplify. Statistics were correct at the time of the piece’s first publication.]