Lewis Capaldi has had a whirlwind year. Rising to fame when a video of him performing his stunning piano-led ballad “Bruises” went viral on Twitter, the Scottish songwriter became the fastest ever unsigned artist to reach 25 million plays on Spotify for said song, was longlisted for the BBC Sound of 2018 poll, and his Glasgow Barrowlands show – which went on sale today – sold out in minutes. Taking to Twitter, Capaldi commented: “this is proper mental like genuinely could barely find a pub gig just over a year ago & now getting hundreds of screenshots with people coming out to chubby sad boi playing barrowlands to over 2000 people unreal xox”.
His rocket to the top has been monumental, but it’s no surprise that he should be reaching this point; crafting gorgeous ballads, Capaldi’s songs glisten with emotive lyrics and his incredibly powerful voice. Releasing debut EP “Bloom” in October last year, the four tracks tear at your heartstrings and leave you breathless. But, you know, in a good way.
With his debut album (hopefully) on the way soon, we caught up with the songwriter to discuss inspiration, working with Malay, and what the future holds.
Did you think when you first put out “Bruises” that it would get this reaction?
Absolutely fucking not. My managers will tell you “oh, this was the plan all along,” but this was not the plan all along. It was just fucking mental how quick it all went. The plan was to release “Bruises” and, like, build it up. I thought by now if everything went according to plan and everything was great “Bruises” would probably be on like two million streams, but it’s on like 25 million on Spotify. It’s mental. I was up at midnight spamming everyone I had on Facebook like, “I’ve got this new single, I’ve got this new single!” and then there’d be no fucking reply, and the whole thing that’s now happened is just fucking mental. That’s the thing when you’re young as well – I’ve just turned 21 – you think “I wanna be a singer” and you visualise being on stage in front of people, so to say this is like a dream come true is very cliché but it is genuinely everything you’ve ever fucking wanted.
So you’ve always wanted to be a singer?
I’ve always wanted to do music for a living, but I would’ve been perfectly happy being a music teacher or something like that. From a young age I just always sang. I was always that wee chubby kid that was shite at PE but could sing… And I still am! I’ve always done it and moving from music being a hobby into it being a career was always the plan in some sense, obviously like this is blowing my fucking mind, but it just felt seamless. I just always did it.
Songwriting for me as well – I just always assumed that if you want to be a singer you need to write songs and you need to play guitar, for me that was always a no fucking brainer. So I started writing when I was really young. Every moment I was like “fuck me, I’m amazing at this!” but obviously I was shite when I was 12 and I was shite up until I was 19/20. It wasn’t until I started doing co-writes and learning from other people that I opened up my eyes to see that there’s so much other shit.
My brother introduced me to Slipknot when I was eight and with that I had that kind of ignorance like, “oh, pop music’s shit” and it wasn’t until I was 18 that I started listening to pop music and to the charts. Once I listened to that, everything just opened up for me.
When we wrote “Bruises” it wasn’t like a eureka moment at all. I was writing solid, like, every day for a year, just putting all the songs in a pile. I have a pal who’s a roofer, Connor, and I send him all my songs, and I sent it to him – it was called “Something In The Water Part 2” back then, because I had another part to the song then and I thought I was being edgy – so I wrote that and he texted me like “bro, this fucking song is fucking unbelievable. There’s something about it which is really special.” And I was like “right, cool”, added it to the set at the King Tut show before any music was out. I played that song, and it was the only song I had with just piano and vocal, and somebody filmed it and it kind of went mini-viral. People just kept re-tweeting it. All of a sudden it fucking exploded and it was that song and it was like “fuck people really react to it so I should probably look at it.” I love it now, but I feel like I’ve got better songs in me. That’s what’s really good about seeing people react to the EP, because they are like “oh I love ‘Bruises’ but I also love this one and this one and this one.”
And so is the plan for an album now?
Yeah, but that’s way off. I think for me it’s about just trying… I think it would be very easy for me now to just rush an album. I want my debut album to be 10 songs and I want it to be 10 like, fucking good ones. It would be so easy for me to put something out. I’m not exaggerating when I say I’ve got like 10-12 albums worth of songs. Probably more than that. So I could do it, but I’d rather get to as many people as possible and do tours and get around. If the hype fucking dies, so be it. I’d rather try and do it this way.
“The fact that people are spending money to come and see a chubby, sad boy on stage, that’s mental!”
10-12 albums worth? How did you make the cut for what you wanted to put on the EP?
Well “Bruises” we’ve covered… It sounds weird but I didn’t want to clutter up my Apple Music page or Spotify page! I don’t want there to be loads of music out for the sake of it, so I wanted the EP to be quite small. So there’s “Lost On You”. I was in a session and we wrote a song that I didn’t really like so I wanted to make something else. We were a bit nervous about doing a piano ballad again but we thought “fuck it” and stuck it out. I feel like “Lost On You” is a better song than “Bruises” is, “Lost On You” is more like a songwriter song. “Fade” was so quick; I wrote it with Malay who’s done all of the Frank Ocean stuff and we just went in, wrote it, put it down. It took us two days and then we’d done the demo. I showed my managers in a cab in New York after the session and they were like “this is the next single,” didn’t fucking miss a beat.
Back when I first started with my managers like two or three years ago, they asked who I wanted to work with and Malay was top of the list. They were like “that’s not fucking happening!” Then “Bruises” came out and they were like “it’s still not going to happen.” But then I just got a phone call one day like “we’re going to New York next week and you’re going to work with Malay” and I was like “fuck.” It was so good, it was class. He’s so relaxed as well, he just came out, both sat there, started playing piano and it just fucking came!
“Mercy” I wrote in LA. Originally it was six minutes, it took a lot to cut it down. I do have six minute songs, but I felt like that one didn’t need to be. There was a bit of arguing back and forth about whether it should go on the EP, and I was like “I fucking want this on the EP.”
And where do you find inspiration for your songwriting?
I like films. There’s a film called Submarine and I had a song called “Submarine” when I was 16. In the film they say something like “it probably won’t matter when I’m older but I feel sad about it now” and in the song it was like “we both know none of this will matter when we’re old.” I’ve also got a song called “Headspace” and one of the lyrics from is “I can take the hit, but I’m sorry I don’t want the bruise” and that’s because my brother was standing in the kitchen one day and I think my brother punched him in the arm and he was like “fuck, I don’t want the bruise” and I was like “class – I’m having that!” That’s just how I do it. I’ve got hundreds of lyrics on my phone and I just dig back and see if I like them. Sometimes I start with a title – I’ve got a song called “Bamboo” because I wanted a song called “Bamboo” and I’ve got a song called “Elephant” because I wanted a song called “Elephant”. So stuff like that. It’s just whatever comes naturally. But I like being out of my comfort zone when I write songs, it makes me write better songs.
You’re being tipped for so much, does it get overwhelming?
Yes! There’s not really time to take it in. This is what I’ve always done so playing the shows is fine but it’s more like, I used to send out messages on Facebook asking if people wanted to come to gigs and everyone used to be like “nah” and now people are asking [me] for tickets! That’s the most overwhelming, people’s perception. And the fact that people are spending money to come and see a chubby, sad boy on stage, that’s mental! It blows my fucking mind. I’m quite cynical – being that I’m Scottish – I feel like streams and that are fucking amazing, but it’s not something tangible that you can see, so when people come out that’s incredible.
It’s amazing to actually see people’s faces. To see the people and speak to them who are pretty much the reason why I have a job, it’s amazing. I want my music to evoke a reaction, make your blood boil or your heart warm – that’s a lyric by the way. I just want people to have a reaction, whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing I’m not bothered!