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Dean Lewis on the making of his new album

INTERVIEW BY MAEVE KERR-CROWLEY

Riding the wave.

When an Aussie musician manages to break into the international charts, we can’t help but feel proud.

Sydney local Dean Lewis wooed the nation back in 2016 with his debut single ‘Waves’. But these days, you’ll likely know him as the plaintive, heartbroken voice behind ‘Be Alright’ – which has enjoyed a lengthy stay in both local and overseas charts since its release.

Now, he’s about to drop his first album, A Place We Knew. We chatted with Dean ahead of the debut, to find out what we can expect from the new tracks.

How are you feeling with the new album coming out?

I feel like I haven’t had much time to even think about anything. We’re on the road in America doing all this radio stuff and these shows and in between that, just trying to keep everything together. Because, yeah, there’s just chaos. How is this album different from what we’ve heard from you so far? My first EP was just me kind of throwing things at the wall, and I didn’t really know what my sound was. But I think now I know what a ‘Dean Lewis song’ actually is, if you know what I mean. So, they’re just better songs. I wanted it to be authentic and raw, and not just a flash in the pan, couple of months of listening kind of thing. I wanted it to be something that people listen to for a good couple of years.

Which song are you most excited for people to hear?

I had this feeling before I released ‘Be Alright’, like ‘oh, this feels really big’. I have that feeling with a song called ‘Stay Awake’ as well, which I’m really excited about. There’s a bit more positivity behind some of the tracks than we’ve heard in your previous singles.

Is that a reflection of where you’re at personally?

I mean, I got to about the seventh sad song and was like ‘what are you doing? Stop’. I’m not always just sitting here crying, like people would think from my songs. I’m actually quite a happy, positive dude. So I guess there’s more of that in a couple of the songs. There’s one song called ‘A Place We Knew’ which I was writing about my girlfriend at the time. It’s quite happy, which is cool. But then I got to the end and realised it really didn’t have that thing. So I added this little twist in where it’s like, ‘now we’ve changed and that’s over’ – which actually happened eventually, strangely enough. You can’t be too happy, because that’s just boring to me. You’ve got to have some sort of twist in a song.

You’re very visual when it comes to writing your songs. Can you talk us through that?

Yeah, I like to think of them as little movie scenes. I want to write a song where I’m reaching out for someone’s hand, and they’re reaching out for mine, and I’m just saying that in a really simple way. And the listener can close their eyes and imagine it. For me, that’s about being really descriptive and simple. ‘Be Alright’ was a lot like that. I love writing songs where I’m describing a little scene. It’s something that Bruce Springsteen did quite well and that I really connected with.

Has the huge success of ‘Be Alright’ changed much for you? 

It’s changed everything. Literally everything. It’s opened a lot of doors. [The song] charted in America, which is just bizarre. We’re doing all these radio interviews, and every day something is happening that’s really exciting. It’s changed my life in every way you can imagine.

You started out writing songs for other people and found that it didn’t suit you. Have you considered going back to it now that you’re more in touch with your sound?

You know, I still have this fear of giving something away that I love so much. I’ve had some people reach out now to do some stuff though, and I definitely want to get back into it in the future. But I think my goal right now is to release my first album and establish some sort of name for myself. I just want to prove myself on my own terms and with my own name, and then maybe consider writing for other people.

Do you think you’re on track with making your own name?

I hope so. ‘Be Alright’ has gotten so big it’s almost a scary thing. It becomes something you almost have to tackle, because you don’t want to just be [known for] one song. In Australia I’ve had a few songs now that have connected. But, around the world, I’m mostly just known for ‘Be Alright’. I guess the challenge now is to be like, ‘well, I have all these other songs that I feel really good about’. And hopefully they even get close to the success of ‘Be Alright’.

A Place We Knew is out now via ISLAND RECORDS AUSTRALIA/Universal Music.
deanlewismusic.com

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