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Lewis Watson - his time is now
LEWIS Watson has been touted as "the next Ben Howard" and "an internet sensation". 2013 could prove to be a breakthrough year for Oxford's 20-year-old singer, songwriter. Matt Westcott speaks to him ahead of a sold-out performance at the Think Tank in Newcastle on March 9.
How big a part did social media play in your rise to prominence?
Social media has been great to me and I think that I've tried my hardest to get everything out of it. It's so helpful these days and it's crazy to think that some people don't utilise it. Youtube is where I started and it was good, but I think it's the use of all of the social media sites together which yields the most reward.
Can you think back to your first public performance, what was it like for you and what was the reaction?
It was an open mic at a local Oxford college arts festival which my parents found for me ha ha. I didn't really want to do it because I was terrified of playing live to an audience, but I did it and loved it. I got to do one more song than I was told to do - I like to think it was an encore, but I think I just raced through my set and had extra time. The reaction was very positive and I went on to play an open mic every night for a few weeks!
Did your performances on Youtube etc prepare you in any way for appearing in front of a live audience?
Nothing can prepare you for your first performance, I don't think. it's just a completely different feeling to anything else and this is why people do this, it's such a rush. I love it.
It is inevitable that you will he compared to other singer, songwriters. Do you accept these and embrace them or do you try hard to set your own mark?
I embrace it. I think that every comparison is a compliment in some way and if it allows people to relate easier to my music and me then so be it. I find that when people make the comparisons in order to imply that I don't have my own style or that I'm unoriginal, it's just because they haven't listened to the music. It's easy to compare singer, songwriters as there is a criteria to be in the genre and we all meet it.
What is your approach to songwriting. Does it all relate in some way to personal experience or do you let your imagination run wild?
I wish I had a formula, but it's just a case of it happening when it wants to happen. I only write songs that are real to me though, letting your imagination run wild is fine, but I think that making up a story for song's sake makes that song empty as it's not sincere, you know? That's just my view on my songwriting though, if it works for other people then all power to them.
You've been tipped as a breakthrough act this year, is there any pressure on your shoulders?
There's plenty. I have to please a lot of people and this industry is relentless, but it's worth it. I get to sing for a living, I'm the luckiest guy ever.
Your new EP, 'The Wild' features a full band as opposed to the more stripped down productions you are immediately associated with, what was the thinking behind this?
I've always wanted to play in a band. I was in plenty of little bands when I was younger with my friends for fun and I loved it. The EP still has it's acoustic moments, it's just 'Into The Wild' that features a full band set-up. My last EP had hints of built-up production too. I'm just trying to create a steady evolution, drip feed the band stuff and then pull it out for a stripped back song, trying to capture the best of both worlds.
There are two other new songs and a cover on the EP, what approach did you take to the latter and why was it chosen?
The cover, 'Hold On', was picked because I'm a fan of the song and after seeing SBTRKT at Latitude, I wanted to jam on it a bit. It seemed to just work and I wanted to put something different on the EP, just like I did with the Bombay Bicycle Club cover on my last EP.
You sound as though you have a very busy schedule coming up, are you pretty chilled about the months ahead?
Yeah, it gets a bit mental ha ha. I love it, it is tough and it seems that I don't get much time off, but I love my job and if things are busy, then it must mean that it's going well. That's the way I look at it. A headline tour, then a tour in Australia and then recording an album, that's a good kind of busy.