Sam Lewis makes his musical return this summer with his new album The City and I, his second album.
I caught up with the singer to talk about the new album, recording the album independently and what lies ahead.
- You are about to released your new album The City and I so what can we expect from the record?
I think there is a development from the first album really as a lot of song writing has gone into it.
It’s a very personal album but I have fleshed it out in terms of the instrumentation quite a lot as I worked with some fantastic musicians that are part of the London music scene - it really feature a lot of other great musicians such as Tom Skinner on drums, Jessica Lauren on keyboards.
So I think that the album is a fuller sound and a better sound.
- You have touched on my next question as you say there is a fuller sound to the album but in parts it’s quite acoustic and there is an intimate feel to the record so how would you describe it's sound to someone who is coming to your music for the first time?
Kind of acoustic soul, it’s soul in the sense that the music comes from the soul and the heart.
It’ very personal and sometimes it’s almost like a letter to somebody and then sometimes it is broader and more of a universal theme. But it is all coming very much from my personal feelings.
- This is your second album so how do you feel you have developed as a musician during these two records?
I did a little bit of co-writing on this album with a great song-writer called Anna Wayland from New York and I learnt a lot from her and she encouraged me to go a lot further with my lyrics and read a lot more poetry and things like that.
So I become more inspired and took the whole lyric writing thing a lot further. But as a musician and a writer you always grow because there are always new experiences that filter into what you are doing.
- Chris Morphitis helped produce so how did that collaboration come about?
Chris is a very old friend and he actually produced my first album and he is becoming a great producer, he is just working from his studio at the bottom of his garden (laughs).
He has just got a great sound and a great sense of music and recording. I really love to work with my friends.
- Well that’s my next question how did you find working with him and what did his input bring to the record?
Chris is always pushing to find an original sound, even if the music is some ways conventional he is always looking to have a slightly different take on it, and I feel like that is an essential thing - people who are pushing for something more interesting.
Along with the other musicians as their influence just slightly expanding all the time on what I originally heard and just bringing a new thing to it. It’s very much a collaborative record even if it is just under my name.
- You have mentioned the musicians who helped make this record so how exciting is it for you as a performer to be able to go into a studio and be surrounded with very talented and like-minded people?
It’s a very honour and a real privilege to be honest. It really is a great thing and it really brings the music to life, you have something in your head and then suddenly you are playing it and there is all this different stuff coming out. It’s very exciting actually and a very magical experience.
- So can you see yourself recording like this in the future?
Oh definitely. I think the next thing I am going to do is spend a long time writing and then record really quick, maybe try and get it done in a week and record everything live. This took quite a long time in the end and I would like to do it super quick next time.
- How much is recording an album a process that you enjoy? I talk to a lot of musicians and they find the creative and recording process very difficult.
I think I went through some difficult times with this album actually because you can change your direction half way through, you can be working on a song and then the other songs that you have written take the album in a different direction and so you take that song out of the mix.
You are constantly making quite difficult decisions and listening to your own hopefully good stuff but also stuff that isn’t coming out the way you want it and that can be quite difficult sometimes.
Also doing it all self funded can slow everything down because you can’t just pay loads of money to people you have to find a way to do it as cheap as possible. So it’s tricky but it is the most important thing that I do and I love it as well.
- What does this album say about you as an artist?
Hopefully it is letting people into my view of the world and also my view of music and what I have listened to in the past and hopefully painting a picture of my influences but also the way that I process things.
- So where did your love of music start and when did you make the decision to make it more than just a hobby?
I was just brought up in a house where music was played all of the time and then my dad started teaching me guitar when I was eleven or twelve. I really enjoyed it because at the time my dad was living separately from my mum and it was a really good chance for me to get to know my dad again through the guitar, so that was a really important thing for me at the time.
It was a few years later when I realised that I really did enjoy playing the guitar more than I enjoyed playing anything else and think at that point I was quite hooked by it. Then I was a bit older and at school it started to become the thing that I was doing with all my spare time, I was in a band and I was rehearsing.
It became time to leave school and go to uni but I just wanted to be in a band so I got myself into a music college and just kept pushing in that direction - I didn’t want to go off to uni like everyone else. I just wanted to get on with it.
- Your break came when you met KT Tunstall and went on to be her guitar player between 2004 - 2009 so how did your time there prepare you for the work that you are doing now?
I think hugely as I learnt a lot from KT about song-writing and we became really good friends, she gave me advice and listen to my stuff before anyone else really.
She would always give me very honest and yet very supportive advice and she encouraged me to go and do my own thing even though it would take me away from her band. I think she was very self-less and she just encouraged me to it so it was hugely important.
All of the travelling experiences and all of the experiences on stage every night, sometimes they were big stages and big gigs, and it really inspires you and it makes you believe that things are possible.
- You have penned all the tracks on the album so what inspires you to write?
Very much personal experiences and relationship experiences, I try to write from the strongest emotions that I have in me. There are a lot of songs on this album that questions my place in the world and the bigger universal things.
And then there are also a lot of relationship and love songs as they are something that interest me good and honest love songs, they don’t have to be entirely happy but they are telling the story of a relationship. - You have talked already about how the album is independently financed so how difficult a process if that but on the flip side of that how great is it to have that creative control?
Absolutely yeah. I have a deal now but the making of the album was completely unhindered by, like you say, influence.
I think these days things are becoming harder for creative people because the money in the industry is tighter so if people work with you they really want you to get results and make money (laughs), so they bully you into doing a certain type of thing.
I don’t think that I could go down that route as it really isn’t me so I am very lucky to be able to do it unhindered and then find a record company to help release it - it’s a good position.
- And are we going to be able to see you play live over the summer?
Yes I am going to be playing a couple of festivals over the summer I am just waiting for confirmation - the dates will be announced on my website. I am going to be doing some festivals and I will be doing some more touring in the autumn.
- You have an ever growing fanbase so for any of the fans who are reading this interview do you have a message for them?
Just I am looking forward to playing some gigs and turning this into a live thing so hopefully I will be seeing them at some gigs.
- Finally what's coming up for you?
I have another band that I play in called Owiny Sigoma with some guys in Kenya and they are coming over to do some touring as well - I write and I sing a bit on that as well.
So there are some festivals happening with that so that will be different and a lot of fun. I have also just got married so I am just enjoying home life as well.
Sam Lewis - The City And I is avaliable now now from http://www.samlewisworld.com/thecityandi/
FemaleFirst Helen Earnshaw