Rhys Lewis is a singer-songwriter on the rise. Currently, on tour with Julia Michael’s, Rhys is winning over the hearts of crowds with his open and vulnerable lyrics. These lyrics are opening a place of connection. “I find it empowering to be able to put my emotions into something that I can share with the world and feel comfortable with that.” Lewis says ” That is the most rewarding thing, to know that what helped you through something is potentially helping someone else.“
The artists’ honest storytelling has garnered attention in high stream counts, and appearances on a number of TV shows such as The Hills, Love Island, and more. With the success of his EP’s and singles, the soulful singer is set to release his debut album in 2020. We talked about what excites him most in our interview below.
Rhys Lewis was an absolute treat as a live act. He played some of his heart-breaking songs like ‘Reason To Hate You’ and ‘No Right To Love You’. Along with those he played songs to look forward to on his next album including ‘Somedays’ a truly beautiful song. The artist played a lovely opening set that the crowd didn’t want to end. As an opening act Rhys Lewis gained several fans from the sold-out crowd. Spectators could be seen looking up and adding the artist to playlists on Spotify, and cries of “That went by too fast, I wish we got more songs.”
Fans will be able to hear more songs on an upcoming UK headlining tour and as future success is sure to follow the singer from Oxfordshire, England.
Read my full interview with Rhys Lewis below. We talk about stories from tour and embarrassing performing stories, his honest and vulnerable songwriting, gaining confidence as a live act, his upcoming album, and more.
I’m here with the insanely talented Rhys Lewis. Welcome to Salt Lake City, how are you doing?
Rhys Lewis: I’m well, I’m a little bit exhausted because we have been driving a lot the last few days. We had some big ones and just drove from Colorado and then before that we drove from Minneapolis to Denver. So we have had some really big drives. But that has been amazing because I have never done this type of touring and to see this country in this way, in an RV is amazing. There’s a lot of nothing in all of these places but the nothingness is actually quite interesting for me and my keys player who has never seen it before, so it has been really cool. It’s been really fun.
And you’re on tour with Julia Michaels and you’ve been all over the world for this tour, what have been some of your favorite things?
Yes! Well I mean we have seen so many new places. The first time I went to Australia was on this tour. To see Australia was amazing, even to travel that far and see some of the crowds singing my songs as well was a real special thing. Going around Europe, I have been around Europe quite a lot but there were even cities that I have never been to before. If you get like a day off and a chance to go explore the city and you get to experience some of the culture and traditions. Sadly, we haven’t had loads of time on this tour to do that because the drives have been so much bigger, compared to Europe these have like dwarfed any drives we’ve done in Europe. But it’s just been incredible and I’ve found it quite sort of a real challenge to get through these shows because it’s not a normal thing to do as a singer to do this many shows at once and to do all of this traveling it’s quite extraordinary to go and travel this much and to stay healthy and get through these shows. So I’m pleased that it has gone well and I’m pleased that I’ve gotten through these shows. It does feel like an achievement.
It is an achievement. Rhys, I have been excited all week for this. A lot of your lyrics and songwriting are very vulnerable and you do it seemingly effortlessly and with power, what is that process like?
Oh, thank you so much! It took a while to get there actually. I remember when I first started writing the song I was not really putting much truth into them, and I didn’t, to be honest, have much to say or to write about because I hadn’t really gone through anything. I’ve gone from sort of just enjoying the process of songwriting to then actually really relying on it and needing it for an emotional outlet. It is a powerful thing. I find it empowering to be able to put my emotions into something that I can share with the world and feel comfortable with that. It is amazing to stand on stage and be able to communicate that with a lot of people, and even just to release music and hear the other people on other side of the world have been touched by or it, or have felt it as a support in their life. That is the most rewarding thing, to know that what helped you through something is potentially helping someone else. Speaking in the same emotional language of something that I’ve gone through is a powerful thing and I suppose the more I’ve done it the more comfortable I’ve become at doing it. I do now find it a bit of a privilege to have an audience that wants to listen to my stuff and know that anything I do release has people that care about it enough to want to stream it, and download it, and come and see a show. It is a privilege indeed to do this as a career and know that there are people out there that want to hear it.
Speaking of songwriting, I loved your Instagram highlight of odd lyrics. It’s been a little over a year but you pointed out some of the odd lyrics in popular songs. I wanted to see if you had a new lyric or what your favorite odd lyric is?
Oh right (Laughs) yeah yeah, do you know what there was one the other day that we said it and I fail to remember. If I remember I’ll message you. There are some bizarre ones. Actually, when I posted that someone mentioned some of my lyrics and told me how they don’t make sense. It was like the minute you kind of open up the gates for criticism you know that you are going to be caught. So, hopefully none of mine are too suspect but I’m sure there are a few (laughs).
Yeah, and I wanted to ask because I just thought it highlighted the humor and your personality…
Oh, actually you know that new song Monkey dance or Dance Monkey which is one of the biggest songs in the world right now that was shown to me by a radio station I was having an interview with. I listened to it and I was thinking “how is this?” it’s like just gibberish lyrics so you can write about that because I could not believe that it was like #1 somewhere and was like an adult nursery rhyme.
That’s why I appreciate lyrics like yours that are open and deep. Tonight, we are here at The Depot and what can we expect from a Rhys Lewis live show?
Oooh. I mean I think in a similar way to my lyrics I think I have a quite open, vulnerable side to myself on stage because I am a little bit shy when I get on stage. I don’t think my friends would call me shy, I’m quite confident in a few areas of my life. But when it comes to being on stage I still feel a bit awkward sometimes. I think part of that is because some of the lyrics I have, and some of the songs I have are quite revealing. I still haven’t figured out how to go on stage and be myself. Some days you can stand up there and really feel yourself and just have this easy way with the audience. Other days you feel like a stranger to yourself and everyone in the room. I haven’t really figured out how to make that more consistent yet but I do know that the more I do it, the more comfortable I’m getting. I feel like I’m always honest in the sense that I don’t ever try to pretend like I’m really happy or whatever it is. The way I feel is the way I feel and you get the show you get. I don’t tend to try and plan it, I just try to go out and enjoy it as much as possible. I want to be in the moment with Aiden who is my keys player and really on delivering the best show possible. It is a set that feels very much autobiographical which is nice. It is full of all my influences musically as well.
And to feel yourself does a lot of it come from feeling acceptance from the crowd?
You know what that part is so strange and I can’t quite put my finger on it. Sometimes the crowds just bring an energy that you don’t expect and you rise to the occasion because they bring an energy you have to match. Where that can fall down is when you don’t have the energy to fully meet them and so you feel like you’re constantly not quite getting to where they want you to get to. Then other times you’ve got loads of energy and you go out there and you’re really fired up and then you get out there on stage and no one is really feeling it, or there is a lot of chatter, sometimes the rooms too big, or the sounds not right. Loads of things can sort of put you off and it is quite funny where there are so many things you can control and so many things you can’t. Sometimes those are the things that define the way you feel or the way that the audience interacts with you. I’ve kind of gotten used to doing as much as you can to make sure I give a great show, and whatever else happens happens. Like I don’t take it too hard if I don’t catch a crowd that night because there are times you don’t expect to because you feel like shit and you feel it is a terrible show but then that terrible show seems to be the one people really liked and you go off stage thinking “I played terribly” but then the crowed quite enjoyed it. I worry too much about giving a really really great show or perfect vocal performance where actually when thinking or worrying about that you almost give a worse performance or a performance that is to in your head and you’re not looking up or out at the crowd and seeing what they’re giving you. It’s a conversation isn’t it? You have to recognize the crowd that’s there and how they’re feeling collectively and you have to try to match that with your delivery but also at the same time it is like a balancing act and I can’t worry too much about what they’re thinking. So you just do your job and it is a load of contradictions I’ve found and you have to just focus on the way that you’re feeling and the way that they’re feeling. The best times are when your energy levels match and something in the room just happens and you have a great show and you don’t think about it. So it is often when you are not thinking and feeling mostly in a great show.
It’s interesting all the factors that go in. Again, I watched all of your Instagram highlights and had a good laugh. One of them I’m sure is another factor of a live show and you talked about being self-conscious during a live set that your fly was down the whole time and you were unable to check. What are some other funny live show experiences you have like that?
Oh, I’ve had a few on this tour. I had one when we were in Madrid and again, it was almost to the end of the European tour and I was slightly tired, sleep-deprived, and delirious and I speak a little bit of Spanish so I thought it would be nice if I did on stage and without realizing it we were playing Lisbon the next day and I went on stage and shouted “Hola, Lisbon” and I got a really strange reaction but I hadn’t realized I said Lisbon and my keys player Aiden was looking at me and I was just thinking ‘that was quite the strange reaction’ and got to the end of the gig and said to Aiden “they were a bit weird at the start, weren’t they?” and Aiden was like “you do realize you got on stage and said hello to the wrong city?” So that is one and then I have had a few where I have been gassy and like wanted to burp. Sometimes you scarf something down a meal or have a drink before taking the stage and you feel like every song you have to hide or take a step away from the mic and do like a gentle burp. So stuff like that is going on in your head while you are trying to show you are being sincere. So there is a lot that can go wrong (laughs) Those things are quite funny.
You have finished recording your debut album and it is coming out in 2020, what are you most excited from it?
Oh, there are a few. One of the songs is called ‘When was the last time?” and it is a song me and Aiden wrote as well and it kind of just fell out. It was one of those songs that just came to be. He was like doing this piano thing and I just started singing over it in the studio and before we knew it we had what I think is this really powerful chorus. It’s a really powerful song and it’s like we didn’t even try to write it, it just sort of came and I love those. I think because I have such fond memories with writing it and because we had a great time recording it as well we got a really interesting piano song and recorded it all to tape, it’s a quite nostalgic thing listening to it. I’m excited about that song in particular. There are loads of others on the album that… there’s another song called “Somedays” which is about my family and my friends who I don’t see much of but when I do I really appreciate and miss them. Then there is one called ‘Good People’ which is another song about my family and friends. There is a mix of everything which I like. Then another song that is quite close to my heart is called ‘What wild things were’ and it is a song that I wrote about my feelings towards climate change and things like that. It’s weird having driven around America in an RV guzzling loads of petrol gas, I feel like a hypocrite. But I do care immensely about that issue. I struggle with the fact that my career has such a heavy carbon footprint and it is a song about that and may be sort of guilt-fueled but at the same time it is one that I hope can bring awareness to my fans of the issue.
Wow, that is a pretty deep thought and I am excited about the album. I have a question that I ask in every interview and that is if Rhys Lewis likes karaoke? and if so, what your go-to song would be?
I love karaoke! I do love karaoke. Do you know that Pina Colada song? I really like that song. I go for that one I think. That was weirdly one of the songs that two years ago in Europe we would finish the show and then our sound engineer would turn that song on as we were leaving and then it became this really nostalgic thing and so we put it on as sort of this warm-up thing. It’s quite funny because its a bit of a ridiculous song. It’s a really fun song and everyone knows the words to the chorus so I go for that one. Or… do you know that song which is quite good if you’ve got a group of friends to sing the other bit the “Don’t you want me baby?” song. Anything in the eighties really.
Well. thank you, Rhys. It’s been really great to sit down with you, I can’t wait for the show tonight, and for the album in 2020. I really appreciate it.
No worries. Thank you. It’s been great chatting with you.