Momentous Mondays: Influential artists of the next 5-10 years – Week 37: Lewis Capaldi

2020 and 2021 so far… has been a bit of a downer. COVID-19, the bushfires, the floods, the storming of Capitol Hill, Louie Giglio’s ‘white blessing’ gaffe, the accusations of rape by Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins… there’s plenty of things ‘wrong’ that this past year has been and will be remembered for. Yet for all of its shortcomings, this past period has nonetheless graced us with many opportunities. The opportunity to be still, to step back, to slow down, to dwell upon the past and our future, and to reconnect on a soul level with family, friends, acquaintances. The opportunity to reassess our priorities in life and the opportunity to immerse ourselves in media (movies, music, TV shows) that we would never have even considered prior to 2020, that God can and does speak through even if He may not on the surface. Throughout 2020 and into 2021, I myself have been blessed and inspired by music and movies that I would not have even considered watching or listening to even a couple of years ago- and I’m sure many of you all feel the same way as well. That’s not to negate the severity of everything that has occurred on a national and a global scale throughout this time, but as we all can attest and agree upon; God does indeed use a bad situation and turn around the effects and result for His glory and our good.

Throughout this period of reflection and contemplation, and musings of many, many different topics; I’ve been struck by how quickly musicians can rise to stardom. I’ve also pondered as to whether musicians and singers and performers and entertainers who have risen to the top quickly, are more likely to be more successful, popular and even influential; rather than artists who have been around longer, who are ‘veterans’, but peak sales-wise and popularity-wise later in life. I know, I know, it’s a weird and crazy thing to ponder about- but as I had the time, I thought why not. I’ve been immersed in music (Christian and mainstream) for virtually all of my entire life- music and uplifting and inspirational music to be exact, is what I turn to so that I can be inspired and uplifted, so that I don’t feel sad or worried or anxious. Music, or more accurately God moving through music artists, is what keeps me sane, and I thought that as I consumed a lot of it throughout quarantine and lockdown in 2020, that I better analyse what I’m listening to, and to see if there’s a trend as to the type of artists impact me the most.

And as I’ve somewhat analysed and analysed, just simple for curiosity’s sake, I’ve noticed that there probably isn’t a pattern at all- between when artists have their first really big hit, versus low long they continue to be in the industry. A number of artists have had to toil for their first big hit- artists like Train (Drops Of Jupiter), Demi Lovato (Skyscraper), Michael W. Smith (Place In This World), Switchfoot (Dare You To Move), Needtobreathe (Washed By The Water), Amy Grant (Baby Baby), Steven Curtis Chapman (The Great Adventure), Bryan Adams (Everything I Do [I Do It For You]), Delirious? (Deeper), Chris Tomlin (How Great Is Our God), John Mayer (Waiting For The World To Change), Faith Hill (Breathe), DC Talk (Jesus Freak), Newsboys (Shine), Josh Groban (You Raise Me Up), Thomas Rhett (Die A Happy Man), NF (Let You Down), Goo Goo Dolls (Iris), Vanessa Amorosi (Absolutely Everybody), Jason Mraz (I’m Yours) and Seal (Kiss From A Rose)… to name a few (or to name a lot!). Whereas a number of artists have had instant hits sit in their lap from the beginning, and are still going strong today. Owl City burst on the scene with “Fireflies”, as did Carly Rae Jepsen with “Call Me Maybe”. Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood and Guy Sebastian each had number one hits instantly following their wins in Idol (“A Moment Like This”, “Jesus Take The Wheel” and “Angels Brought Me Here” respectively, while Hanson’s “MMMbop” was an instant fan favourite and propelled the teenagers to global stardom. Lady A’s “Need You Now”, Alicia Keys’ “Fallin’”, Daughtry’s “Home”, Evanescence’s “Bring Me To Life” and One Republic’s “Apologise” all wowed us from the start of each of these artist’s careers; while Hoobastank’s “The Reason” literally came out of nowhere, when the band wasn’t even looking for a hit. “Fight Song” (Rachel Platten), “My Church” (Maren Morris), “Wings” (Little Mix), “Love Myself” (Hailee Steinfeld), “Born To Try” (Delta Goodrem) and “Complicated” (Avril Lavigne) were all massive early hits for all of these artists. Yet there is one artist who has had such an explosive and meteoric rise to fame, all because of one song. An artist who has wowed me time and time again over the past year, whom I sort of knew I had to put him in my list of “Influential artists of the next 5-10 years”. “Someone You Loved”, by British rock artist Lewis Capaldi, was on rotation on the radio a large part of 2019 and 2020- and the song is the longest-running top 10 UK single of all time by a British artist. Yes more so than any song from The Beatles, Ed Sheeran, Queen or U2! Don’t believe me? Check out the link on Wikipedia about the success of Lewis’s hit song– and that fact alone should make it obvious that Lewis is going to be a future star.

You cannot fathom some of the stuff when it is going on. It’s just daft. I sometimes worry that people think I’m just talking sh**, and feel I’m not as surprised with things: ‘Oh, he’s been doing so well now that he must be used to it.’ But I’m not. It’s f***ing wild

I’ve got no clue [about how he’s the first artist in history to sell out a UK arena tour before he had even released an album]. ‘What right do I have to be playing arenas?’ is what goes through my head. Impostor syndrome. I’m not better than any of these people, I’m not better at writing songs or singing.

I could always sing loud because I was playing pubs when I was 11, and you’ve got to sing loud there. But I saw Joe Cocker on some Beatles documentary, and I was floored. I tried to sing like that, and I was f***ing terrible, as you would expect from someone going through puberty trying to give it the raspy voice. But then I finally fell into it at around 18. I don’t know if I’ve done some irreparable damage to my voice trying to get here. I never had any lessons, but obviously now I’ve had coaching to keep it going. I get really bad acid reflux, so I’ve got to watch myself on tour: no spicy foods, as little alcohol as possible.

Maybe it’s the way I’m wired; maybe my mum and dad have put pessimism in my veins. But I think it’s a good way to be. Delusions of grandeur can be very, very dangerous indeed. You have to have a word with yourself, like: shut your f***ing hole, you’re living your dream here. Going: ‘Hi, I’m Lewis Capaldi and you’re listening to Chicago’s B96,’ – these people are playing your song, so just get on with it. My pal at home, he literally digs graves for a living. So saying: ‘You’re listening to my new song,’ on some radio station, it’s not really a hard time.

“Someone You Loved”, Lewis’s first and biggest hit to date, was in fact a pretty hard slog to write (around about 6 months!), however it’s very rare to have your first single be as big a hit as this is. With Lewis’s debut album Divinely Uninspired To A Hellish Extent having been nominated for a Critic’s Choice Brit Award in 2019, the album also debuted at the top of UK charts for 6 weeks. In 2017, Lewis’s song “Bruises” quickly amassed close to 28 million plays on Spotify worldwide, making him the fastest ever unsigned artist to reach 25 million plays on the platform at the time; while a list on Wikipedia about his awards and nominations, and tours; should convince you all of Lewis’ fame and burgeoning influence and popularity. Yet while I’m doing all of this blog semi-backwards (listing Lewis’s accomplishments outside of songs first and then speaking about the meanings behind the songs!); Lewis’s real moment to shine throughout his brief but impactful career thus far has indeed been the songs that have captured the hearts of many, having been immensely relatable, and a source of healing and comfort for all who listen.

No I didn’t think this song would take us as far as it’s taken us. Because it’s weird we were touring for two years before this song, and I had thought, right it’s has already reached a point of … In the UK we were doing rooms of 2000 people, and it was great. And this is beyond anything that I’d ever imagined anyway, and it was like “cool, this is it, this is cool”. And this is a dream come true and this is a dream come true, we’ve smashed it. And then this song just really took on a whole other life and really just kicked things up a gear. But yeah, I never imagined it, even now when people ask me, I cannot stress this enough. I have no clue what I’m doing most of the time. And I’m being serious when I say that. I write songs that I think that I enjoy, that I think “I like this.” Then I see what happens, and every step of the way I have been baffled at any response we’ve had, or all these amazing things. Even doing stuff like this, is wild to me, so I don’t understand. I never thought I’d be in a position where someone was asking me about my lyrics to my songs, you know what I mean? So, it’s like I’ve not got a clue what’s going on. But it’s cool, I like it. It’s a nice thing.

With “Someone You Loved” being Lewis’s crowning achievement to date, the song is a sombre ballad, and one whereby Lewis’ laments on a lost love, and sings about how he have his everything, his heart and soul into the relationship, and that she left him anyway. Now Peter (or the persona) just wants someone to love; and with the song having a big universal appeal, it’s a no brainer as to why this song has resonated with so many people. Feelings of isolation, unworthiness, and an identity crisis- are explored here, and though there isn’t really a resolution, my take on this song is that Lewis is diving deep and asking questions, and allowing us all to sit in the issues of wanting a companion, and wrestling with issues of abandonment and self-loathing. Sure, we’d love to have an answer that screams out that this or that will cure my issue of hopelessness or unworthiness; but as Lewis delivers this anthem with even more questions, I am reminded that perhaps going through life knowing where you’re heading and not knowing the definitive answers (like with this song in not knowing that the next partner you find is ‘the one’ or not) is in fact ok. Going through life with friends and family to lean on and for support- even if you don’t know your destination… well you’ll feel more satisfied than the person with no one and a secure identity of where they’re going, right? And if “Someone You Loved” has conjured up discussion around these personal areas, like I hope that they can and will; then this song has done its job by far!

Such is the power of a song overall, that even if Lewis’ only recorded this one song, he’d still be included in this blog series. However an artist is more than his biggest hit, and thankfully the rest of the songs on the debut project continue to impress and probe on issues otherwise not delved into. The piano only “Bruises” speaks about heartbreak and the end of a long relationship, and about both parties feeling bruises because of the fact that something good has ended for whatever reason; while the heartbreaking and emotional “Lost On You” is another piano led tear-jerker, whereby Lewis breaks up with someone even though he still loves them, because he believes there is someone out there better for them. “Grace” a song championing his significant other’s grace that allows for him to live in freedom and to   live to the fullest (and a song that could even be directed at God!); while the sobering break up song “Forever” speaks about how a relationship doesn’t always last forever… and that’s ok when we realise that God can use anything for His glory and our good, yes even the many failed relationships.

“Mercy”, not present on the debut album but on one of Lewis’ independent EPs’, depicts Lewis asking for absolution, forgiveness and mercy for everything wrong in his life (asking a friend or perhaps he’s asking God?), while “Hold Me While You Wait”, the second single from the album, is Lewis’ challenge to his significant other to hold him while he waits for her to make a decision about their crumbling and seemingly failing relationship, and whether she wants to be involved in the relationship anymore or not. Yet apart from “Someone You Loved”, the biggest song from Lewis (which is also about relationships and about the complexities of emotions and feelings), is “Before You Go”, inspired by Lewis’s aunt’s suicide. With the song being a reassurance that there are indeed people in our life who appreciate us and who love us unconditionally- enough to make us hopefully want to keep on going living in this world no matter how hard it gets; Lewis also eloquently reminds us that every breath is a gift and every day is a gift. We only have one life here on this Earth, therefore we better live it well and love people well- because we never know when our last breath will be and we never know when our last day on earth would be.

When you’re writing so directly about a death in a family or whatever, it can be quite a jarring thing and stuff for some people that listen to it and stuff like that. I’ll speak quite candidly about it and stuff and whatever, but I think obviously for some people, it can bring up their own feelings. I try and steer away from making people think about death all the time, because I don’t think that’s a good place to be. So I think for me, that was kind of the thing. With the lyrics in this one, again, it’s just I didn’t want it focused on the act of someone taking a life. That song’s more about the people who, the family members and friends afterwards, like for me, in this case it was my mother’s sister, how they deal with that afterwards. And obviously that was the thing I was a bit tentative when I was writing it. And that’s part of the reason it wasn’t released straight away or whatever, because I didn’t want people to think I was overstepping the mark.

Lewis Capaldi, of Scottish, Irish and Italian ancestry, doesn’t have an enormous discography. He hardly ever collaborates with anyone, and it’s not known when his second album will release. But just like with Conrad Sewell (whom I wrote about a year and a half ago on the back of one album also!), it is the strength of Lewis Capaldi’s songs that make him a must on this list. You may agree with me or you may not. But I’d encourage you all to listen to Divinely Uninspired To A Hellish Extent and be blessed and inspired. Or be challenged and confronted. However you read these songs, there’s no denying the passion, emotion and talent behind this brilliant young man. With Lewis also releasing a live EP in 2020 with songs from his debut album; sky is the limit for this extremely popular musician. Having a familial relation to greatness (Peter Capaldi from Doctor Who) doesn’t hurt as well (they’re second cousins!), and while Lewis keeps mostly to himself and swears like a sailor in his interviews (aka quite frequently!); this is an artist that doesn’t need any ‘extra stuff’ outside of music to make him more relevant or more influential. He’s one of those guys who just is because of the music. So as we eagerly wait for album #2 and I finish my short blog (or mini review!), why don’t we immerse ourselves in one of the most popular and inspiring artists of this generation? I guarantee it, you’ll deifnitley feel emotional and it’ll give you some topics to talk about, namely how to go about a break up and how to navigate the ups and downs of romantic and platonic relationships. So well done Lewis Capaldi! I can’t wait to hear what God has in store for you next! How about all of you? Ready to hear the best that Britain has to offer?

Does Lewis Capaldi make the list for you all when you write your own ‘Influential Artists of the next 5-10 years’ list? Is there any song (other than “Someone You Loved”, “Before You Go”, “Grace”, and “Hold Me While You Wait”) that has impacted you on your journey through life thus far, or even your walk with God? Let us know in the comments. Till next time!

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