Lewis Watson should get used to being noticed. The 20-year-old British crooner was just another moppy-haired kid two years ago when he posted videos of himself to YouTube, covering songs by his musical heroes like Bon Iver and Bombay Bicycle Club, and caught the attention of hundreds of thousands of viewers, not to mention DJs, music writers and record labels.
These days, Watson has just released his fifth EP in just over a year, titled Some Songs With Some Friends, which is shooting up the charts and seems poised to make Lewis a very recognizable guy. DuJour spoke with Watson and got the scoop on his tour, the new album and when he first knew he’d hit it big.
You just wrapped up your tour first through the U.K. and parts of the U.S. How was that?
Brilliant. I love touring. When I played in New York, [musician] Ben Howard happened to be standing outside of the venue—trying to get into the venue next door—and when I went out to say hi, we were both stuck in the snow because neither of us had our IDs.
You’ve become quite popular. How has it felt for you to have such a rapid rise—your album’s up on the charts with artists like Beyoncé!
It sure hasn’t felt like a quick rise! Some Songs With Some Friends is the fifth EP I’ve released now, and I’ve loved the experience of hearing the response from fans. I wouldn’t classify myself amongst those people at all though. They’re way up there. It’s cool to be up there with them for a day or two a year though!
Do you remember the first time that you were recognized on the streets?
I do! It was in Oxford, which is my hometown, and I was coming back from college and a girl ran after me to say hi and that she really liked my music. It was amazing. Nothing compares.
Were you always musically inclined or is it something you discovered later on?
I got my guitar on my 16th birthday. I always wanted to learn an instrument; I just never had the time. I tried pretty hard at school because I didn’t have a set ambition, and I wanted to be able to pick from every subject when I finally had a goal. I played a lot of sports, too—just in case I wanted to do that for a living as well. Because of my busy schedule, the whole learning an instrument thing just didn’t happen. When school finished and I had some more time, I did it as soon as I could. My family loves music of all genres, but nobody plays an instrument. It was cool to be the first.
You were discovered through YouTube. How do you think social media has impacted your career?
Social media has been great to me, definitely, but I can’t stress how important performing in front of real people at real open mic gig was for me as well. I did it almost every night, and it really helped me form the confidence to then use on a YouTube video or a live stream. I think that relying solely on social media is a negative thing. You’ll end up playing your second gig to thousands of people, and you won’t know how to handle yourself or appreciate fully how good that really is. I’ve played plenty of gigs to nobody, and it’s really made me appreciate everybody that comes to a show of mine.
You write all of your own music. Where do you draw inspiration?
I’m inspired by real experiences that I’ve been through or that have connected with me. If I hear a story from somebody and it resonates with me, I’ll write about it. A lot of the stories behind the songs could be a bit ambiguous though—I don’t want people knowing everything! One of my new songs is called “Stay,” and I wrote it about a dream I had. I was watching a talent show of some kind and a girl came on and played the most beautiful song on a pedal steel guitar. I’d never heard it before and I told myself to wake up and write the song that I was hearing. Unfortunately though, the more she sang, the more she lulled me to sleep and I woke up hours later and had forgotten the song, so I wrote “Stay” about that experience.
What’s next for you?
I’ll have my first album out around May in 2014 and will do all of the touring around that, I’m sure. I can’t wait. This year has been great, but I can’t wait to step it up!