[Exclusive Interview]: Dean Lewis On Navigating Love and Loss
Griefs stem from our reminiscence of love and loss times. Questing after the untold truths in relationships through constant self-talk, Lewis tries to untangle the entwined feelings in his latest album, The Hardest Love.
Conversing through specificity.
Lewis’ lyricism includes a collective of dialogues to help paint vivid scenes from his stories.
Early morning there’s a message on my phone/It’s my mother saying, Darling, please come home.” – “How Do I Say Goodbye”
And my friend said/“I know you love her, but it's over, mate/It doesn't matter, put the phone away/It's never easy to walk away, let her go/It'll be alright” – “Be Alright”
“I think it draws people in when you talk about specific things and the back and forth (dialogues) like a scene in the movie,” said Lewis. As he attempts to define his particular style, Lewis tends to set a scene at the beginning of his songs by describing the specificity of the environment. He was especially inspired by Bruce Springsteen’s songwriting in “Dancing In The Dark.” When he writes, Lewis puts himself in the scene and talks it out, “for example, in “Hurtless,” I was playing the piano and saying the lyrics.” “It’s more like what I want to say and then add a melody,” said Lewis.
Repeating the same mistakes.
Many fans questioned the intent behind the so-called sequel “Be Alright” and “Hurtless,” and Lewis answered, “I found myself in the same situation again six years later but just with a different girl.” While both songs are stylistically similar, opening with colloquial verses that morph into a grand, emotional chorus, they also show his candor in writing by admitting another failed reoccurring romantic situation – something not everyone is comfortable sharing.
Eminem is one of Lewis’ greatest songwriting inspirations.
“If you listen to “Be Alright” and “Hurtless” then you listen to “Stan” (from Eminem), they’re not rap songs, but there are some of those elements in there,” said Lewis. Eminem was Lewis and his brother’s childhood when they would freestyle to each other until it inspired Lewis’ songwriting style. For example, as Eminem mastered breaking words into syllables to create rhymes, Lewis did something similar in “Hurtless”:
But tellin' me that it was a mistake don't make it hurt less/It don't make it hurtless
Songwriting should be a selfish thing.
Many artists struggle to find relatability through songs, and the secret to forging connections with listeners is to direct all of the energy back to the artists themselves. “You got to be selfish with it, when you’re making great stuff,” said Lewis. “When it becomes general, it becomes nothing.” Truthfully, these imageries Lewis depicts in his songs help listeners empathize with him through their mental movies that are conjured up based on their own experiences. Therefore, even if we have our personal interpretation of the songs, there is a shared emotional connection with the artist through one of humanity’s greatest gifts – empathy – which again emphasizes the importance of specificity in songwriting.
Hardships in grasping for love.
The album The Hardest Love centers around his friend, Clelia, who passed away, his father who had 25% to live past a year, his lost romantic love, and himself. “The fear of losing someone you love is hard,” said Lewis. Besides talking about his friend and family, Lewis also included six songs on the album about one girl. He said, “the hardest love is also the relationship that I tried to get going with this girl that just didn’t work out.” To summarize a phrase to name the album, Lewis deemed “The Hardest Love” the most suitable.
The pivotal role of “How Do I Say Goodbye.”
What resonated with Lewis reciprocated back from the listeners. Not only did the success reflect in the Global 200 charts, “How Do I Say Goodbye” is also Lewis’ favorite and proudest song in his entire discography (along with “Half A Man”).
So how do I say goodbye/To someone who's been with me for my whole damn life?/You gave me my name and the color of your eyes/I see your face when I look at mine – “How Do I Say Goodbye”
“It’s one of those lyrics that I don’t think I can write as good as this ever again,” said Lewis. He felt extremely lucky to have such a catchy, juicy melody that fits perfectly with direct and honest lyrics. Lewis wrote the song without knowing that his father would be in remission after being diagnosed with cancer. The intense fear of loss and frustration captured in the lyrics are heartfelt. “I didn’t grow up in a world where I talk about my emotions a lot…I kind of express it through music,” said Lewis. After posting his father’s reaction to “How Do I Say Goodbye,” the song went viral on TikTok and every chart, especially in Europe. Lewis said, “I learned that the more vulnerable you are with songs, the more it connects.”
Touring as an Australian breakout artist.
Swept up with the instantaneous, fluctuating nature of popularity in the music industry, many artists try to steer clear of becoming one-hit wonders on TikTok. Breaking out of Australia has always been Lewis’ goal as an artist, especially to make it in America. “I think it’s almost impossible to have a hit in America,” said Lewis. “Even big songs now seem to come and go quicker.” Instead of sidestepping posting on TikTok, Lewis utilizes it to his advantage by finding an angle in his songs to post, and the key is to never write for the platform. “I write a lot of songs and I don’t stop,” said Lewis. Despite being in turmoil in the music industry, Lewis still managed to sell out arenas in Australia and the Royal Arena in Denmark and is announcing to expand capacity to 10,000 in the Lanxess Arena in Germany for his upcoming The Future Is Bright Tour.
Five Dean Lewis Touring Essentials
Nelson Inhaler (steam to protect his voice)
His brother (he films a lot of stuff)
A tour bus (he thinks it’s better than flying; the bunks are like wombs)
Good people on the crew (band/people that he can trust)
The Song in The Hardest Love That Dean Lewis Is Most Excited To Perform Live
Lewis: “A song that I really love to play live is called “Scares me.” It’s so fun to play. It’s one of those songs when you’re on the piano, and it’s really connective. When you sing it, the chorus, when it hits and I’m playing the piano, and I hear reverb in my in-ears, it sounds so nice when you hit that chorus. It feels like everything soars. You feel like you’re flying when you sing that chorus…like full control of it, emotional, and sort of not there at the same time.”
Maderlin’s two cents on the album The Hardest Love
Lewis is brilliant at setting up the scenes for his songs, and the opening of “To Have You Today” immediately recalled the bench scene in the movie 500 Days of Summer.
Yeah I know you like to sit at the top of this hill/It’s just you and me/And this beautiful view/And I find it hard to speak/When I’m looking at you – “To Have You Today”
Lewis’ gentle yet impassioned voice in this love song creates a slight undertone of bitterness. Knowing that the couple had parted ways, I think of Summer and Tom (the on-screen couple in 500 Days of Summer) revisiting the bench after their relationship ended. The bench is Tom’s favorite place in town, and they would enjoy the city view together when they hadn’t broken up. When they meet again, Tom is baffled that Summer got married when she told him she didn’t believe in love. Like Tom, Lewis saw this girl as a light in the dark and thought he had found the one, only to realize she didn’t reciprocate the love. I can feel the devastation in Lewis’ songwriting as if I were Tom in the movie, confused at the misaligned idea of love.
A relentless singer-songwriter.
Lewis started his career flying across continents to put himself out there, joining radio shows in Germany, writing in the UK, and signing a record deal in America. After years of touring and releasing albums, Lewis will begin another tour called The Future Is Bright Tour in Moore Park, Australia, on March 10th. “Great art will always find a way,” Lewis quoted from his friend. He had always put this in the back of his mind to remind himself to keep moving and have faith in his work.
Listen to The Hardest Love HERE
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