Lewis Capaldi is a Scottish singer-songwriter and guitarist set to do remarkable things in 2018. Since the release of his debut EP ‘Bloom’, Capaldi has been named as one of the Vevo dscvr 'Artists to Watch 2018' and is on the BBC Music’s Sound of 2018 longlist. He’s got the kind of voice which makes you want to have a little cry and is a lovely, funny, intermittently-sweary man to chat with. We talked in November about his recent success, lyrics about Robbie William’s and dating in West Lothian.
You recently finished touring with Rag’n’Bone Man, how did it go?
It was class man. I’ve supported him once before in Hamburg and it was my first show outside the UK. It was the worst show I’ve ever played, like in my fucking life. We hired a bunch of gear over there instead of taking our own. The guitar we had was just awful and didn’t stay in tune and the amp was fucked. It was really good to get a call saying “do you wanna come on tour?”, just to be like alright I can show you that I’m not fucking terrible. It was good, the last show was actually on Monday, I got home yesterday. It’s been mad because before that I was in America, this is the first day I’ve been home since the 11th of October. The tour itself was unbelievable. It was my first experience of a big scale tour, the rooms were massive and it was bigger than anything I’ve ever played before. It was a really nice experience just to be like this is what it’s gonna be like on a proper tour and this is how it’s gonna be if fingers crossed things go well. He’s lovely as well, it’s always good to be on tour with someone who’s nice. I went to loads of places I’ve never been before.
What were some of your favourite places?
Barcelona was unreal, I got so pissed the night before though and I was hungover on the day of the show but it went well and everyone was really nice. Switzerland was amazing, it’s probably one of those places I would have never visited but I was fucking blown away by that, that was fucking beautiful. We got to go back to Berlin, I love Berlin. It was class to experience how touring’s done properly and to see the production that Rag’n’Bone Man has. Now I’m home for two days and then I’m off to Hong Kong.
What are you going to get up to in your two days at home?
I need to basically go do all my Christmas shopping because I’m not back till the 22nd of December. We leave for Hong Kong, then it’s over to Milan for a festival and then I’ve got my headline tour.
How does it feel that so many of your upcoming shows are already sold out?
That’s the most bizarre thing for me, the fact that people want to come see me. Once I got over the initial shock of the streams and stuff, I was like that’s amazing, there’s all these numbers online but like is anyone actually gonna part with money to come see us live? So for this tour in December to be sold out and my show in Glasgow for my February tour to be sold out as well, that’s like 1400 people, that’s just fucking wild. To only have an EP out and it still be so early. I mean I’ve been playing gigs since I was 12. Playing live has always been a big thing for me.
What were your first gigs like when you were 12?
My brother used to be in bands so he would help me book gigs in pubs. Obviously I wasn’t allowed to be there so I would just go and hide in the toilets or something and wait. Then I would run up, plug my guitar in and play my set. Once I started playing I was usually good so no one was going to kick me out after I’d been on stage. I’ve never really stopped gigging since I was 12. It was only when I released ‘Bruises’ that more serious stuff started happening. Before then I was just gigging and writing, gigging and writing, until I was 20 when ‘Bruises’ came out. Those 8 years were like a practice run for what’s happening now.
What were some of your first songs like?
They were fucking shit, they were terrible. I still remember lyrics to one of the songs. I was trying to be like I’m 12 but I know shit. I was trying to be profound but a 12-year-old being profound is nonsense. I remember at the time Robbie Williams was talking about like aliens so the lyrics were “the recording is going down the drain and Robbie Williams has gone insane”. It was fucking shit, like really, really bad lyrics. But in my head I was like fucking yes, I’m 12 years old and I’m nailing it. People would be like “woh how’s he so fucking edgy?”. Over the years I’ve got a tiny bit less shit so hopefully by the time I’m 40 I’ll be able to write a song that isn’t complete shit.
The ‘Bloom’ EP is absolutely beautiful though; did you have any vocal coaching at school?
No, I’ve never had a vocal coach or anything. Now I’ve started learning how to breathe and stuff properly for these bigger tours, but I’ve never had vocal lessons. Singings just always been something I did. At school it was like “that Lewis kid man, he sings, he’s a wee chubby bastard”. Up until I was 17 my voice didn’t sound as raspy as this, but I was always trying to sing like people who I like. I like singers like Paolo Nutini and Joe Cocker. They had these low, gravelly voices and at 12 obviously I didn’t have that voice but I was trying to push my voice into that area. I wouldn’t naturally sing like this if I hadn’t tried to add grit to my voice. I mean I’ve probably done irreputable damage to my voice by trying to get there but I like the way it sounds.
Why did you choose the name ‘Bloom’?
Once we released ‘Bruises’ and had the artwork it was a stem so then I had the idea that the EP was going to be called ‘Bloom’ and that’s why the artwork is floral. My manager was like “this looks like a Topman t-shirt that you’ve just put on your single”. For me it was about the connotations about what bloom means, something coming into life for the first time. This is the beginning, and this is the bare bones of what I’m doing. These songs are all relatively stripped back. I want people to know that it is going to grow and expand. It’s a nod to future releases, that it’ll come into life even more.
How was working with Malay on ‘Fade’ and which other songwriters would you like to work with?
Working with Malay was fucking wild. Back when I first started working with my managers they were like give us a list of producers and writers you’d like to work with and he was at the top of the list. At the time they said that’s not going to happen but eventually I got this phone call after ‘Bruises’ came out, saying I was going to New York to write with Malay. I was buzzing. It all happened so quickly. I wrote that song in August and it came out in October. Malay’s super chilled out so he just started playing these piano chords and I started singing. We finished the song in a day and then recorded it the second day. I’ve worked with him since and the stuff we’ve been working on sounds amazing.
Is this stuff for an upcoming album?
Everything I write I have an album in mind but there’s no concrete plans at the minute. I don’t know when that would be and stuff. I’m just writing and writing and writing every day. I’d love to write with Sia. I think she’s fucking brilliant. I only just started getting into her like two months ago so, she’s unbelievable. I’m a big rap fan so Chance the Rapper would be amazing. There’s a guy called Daniel Caesar who’s amazing, he’s an R&B/soul singer. Anybody who wants to would be lovely.
What have you found most surreal after the success of ‘Bruises’?
People who want to phone us up and talk about my music amazing. Stuff like this is unbelievable to me. I love talking shit about my music so I could go all day. For me the most surreal moment was when my agent had booked a show in Ireland at a festival called Electric Picnic. I’d never been to Ireland and the tent was like 3000/4000 capacity. I thought no one was going to come and it would be shit. I was standing outside the tent 20 minutes before I was going on and the tent was empty. I went back and did my vocal warm ups ready for the show. I walked up to the stage, grabbed my guitar, then I looked up and it was fucking rammed, back to front. It was fucking mental. All these kids my age singing back all these songs that aren’t even out yet.
I’m really sorry but I’ve been told to ask you some quirky questions. If you were to take someone out on a date in your home town West Lothian where would you go?
Ah there’s fuck all here haha. I’d probably just get a train ticket to Glasgow. I’d take them to the train station and then just leave.
Final question, what’s your favourite joke?
My grades at school, they were a fucking joke. Fuck knows man. I don’t know any jokes… that’s bad, I need to scrub up.
Check out Lewis Capaldi’s European headline tour in February 2018.
Interview by Sam Stone @babbikat