It’s not an unfamiliar story: a talented young individual picks up an instrument, uploads some songs to YouTube, garners a small but supportive following, and is eventually snapped up by a keen-eyed label. It’s hard to imagine though, that many of those lucky few manage to keep the level head of affable 21-year-old Brit, Lewis Watson.
“I don’t think I would ever say [songwriting] came naturally to me, when I was younger I was into poetry quite a bit, so maybe that kind of gave me a leg up, but I wouldn’t say I was a natural [laughs].”
It’s a refreshingly modest attitude that perfectly compliments the delicate and honest music he’s been making since his independently released first EP, It’s Got Four Sad Songs On It BTW, in May 2012.
And it’s not like a little ego wouldn’t be well earned. Not long after releasing It’s Got Four Sad Songs… Watson inked a deal with Warner Music and has since toured internationally, released four more EPs, and is mere months away from releasing his first full-length album.
“I didn’t really expect to do five EPs, and I definitely didn’t expect to do five in a year and a half. It wasn’t our aim to keep up with [the industry], it was just … if I’m a fan of an artist, I’d like it if they were constantly releasing new music rather than giving me 12 tracks to live with for a year.”
Penciled in for release around May this year, Watson hopes the upcoming LP will show a progression in sound that he’s been working on since adding a band to his usual solo routine.
“We spent loads of time producing this whole thing. I’ve been on a load of different instruments and created a load of different textures and I think that it’s just got a step up and it’s a bit bigger now.”
The progression to more band-oriented arrangements can be heard on his latest EP Some Songs With Some Friends, which features collaborative covers of some of the songwriter’s favourite artists.
The EP’s guests include Gabrielle Aplin, Kimberly Anne and Hudson Taylor, who helped to recreate a collection of songs that genre-hop from the saccharin pop of Colbie Caillat’s Droplets to the heartfelt electronica of Everything Everything’s The Peaks.
“When I was younger I’d listen to mostly just metal and Michael Jackson, then when I got older I shared a room with my brother who’d only listen to rap, and my sister in the next room would only listen to pop and Justin Timberlake, so I like to think that I’ve always appreciated a range of genres.
And covers aren’t unusual territory for Watson, who started gaining his following by uploading solo acoustic renditions of other people’s songs.
“The covers for me were the way of teaching myself guitar, and teaching myself to take one thing and change it and morph it and make it into something that was more ‘me’. When you’re referencing great songs all the time you kind of take on little tips and tricks that they do, whether it be in the lyric or the melody or something to do with the guitar riff.
“Initially I wanted to write a song with each of […Songs With Friends’ guests] but … we were quite strapped for time, … and I thought the only way we could guarantee that it was a great song was by doing a cover of a great song”
Having spent some time in Australia last year supporting the equally precocious Birdy, Watson spent some time working with an impressive group of Australian songsmiths.
“One of the songs on my third EP, The Wild, I wrote with Steve Parkin (Basement Birds, Eskimo Joe). I got to write with Josh Pyke, who I think is a fantastic songwriter; Busby Marou, who, again, I think are brilliant; Emma Louise, who is great; and then while I was over I listened to Angus and Julia Stone who are fantastic.
I’ve listened to [Matt Corby’s] music for about three-and-a half, four years over here and … he’s been a really big influence on my sound; I think he’s incredible, not only as a writer and musician, but as a performer as well.”
As for plans to return to our shores, album commitments kept him from coming out in late 2013, but a tour may not be too far away.
“I love Australia and thoroughly enjoyed each trip. Hopefully we’ll come back [in 2014]. I really hope that I’ll get to bring the band and play headline shows, so fingers crossed.”