Sydney-born Dean Lewis has been ready for this moment for a long, long time. At 31, the singer-songwriter, who is Apple Music’s Up Next artist for March 2019, has been obsessed with writing the perfect song since first discovering Oasis and learning to play the guitar at a young age. With songs that range from soaring sing-alongs and intimate ballads to pop confections about life and love, his debut album, A Place We Knew, is genuine and personal. Lewis spoke to Apple Music about the stories and meaning behind his five favorite songs on the album.
“Hold of Me” “I was staying at a beach house for two weeks with my girlfriend at the time and it was bloody awesome. One night, I was sitting on the bed at 1 or 2 a.m. The window was open; you could hear the waves crashing. My girlfriend was half asleep, lying on my shoulder, and I got my guitar. The idea started coming and I just fleshed it out. And the song was done. I went into the studio the very next day and recorded it. It’s one of my first songs that isn’t necessarily about something that’s happened to me. ‘I know you've been hurt in the past, but you've got a hold of me, you can trust me.’ It’s not so much about me being a sad boy. I'm just so proud of the production—it's so epic and triumphant, it felt like the perfect way to start the album.”
“Stay Awake” “It’s about when someone doesn't want to be with you and you get the feeling that the relationship is fading. But you're trying to hold on to that person because you think that’s what you're supposed to do. The initial demo didn't sound like me at all. I’d show people—like my brother for instance—and they’d say, ‘This is a hit song.’ But I won't put a song out if it doesn't sound like me, no matter how big it could be. In the end, the only thing we kept from the original was the acoustic guitar; I redid everything, and it taught me a lot about how you can make a song sound however you want. It turned out to be this authentic, raw track that strikes that balance between rawness and poppiness. It’s a really, really hard thing to get right, and I feel like I nailed it on that song.”
“A Place We Knew” “I was at the Sunset Marquis in Los Angeles about two and a half years ago. I’d released ‘Waves,’ and all of a sudden my life just went crazy. I was living in hotel rooms in England, in America, all these places. I had this relationship at the time, but I was basically just…away. It was this weird, jarring thing. The song is about my ex-girlfriend and the things we’d do, and how I was eventually gone for too long and things fell apart. But I’m thinking about the little things, like how I could picture her taking off her makeup in the hotel room after I’d play a show, and how she always saw the best in me. It took me a while to finish. I was sitting there listening to it, and it just didn’t resonate with me. So I sprinkled a bit more sadness on it. I tried to keep it really raw, and that's something I'm really proud of.”
“For the Last Time” “This is the oldest song on the album. The chorus literally fell down into my head, which has only happened a couple of times in my life. I was like, ‘That’s fucking great.’ So I took out my iPhone and started singing it. I stayed in my car until I had the rest of the chorus. It's a very big moment for any artist when you have that first song that shows you that you can pursue this as a career and not just a hobby. I’ve also got an interesting feeling about it—it’s not an obvious single, but I have a feeling it's going to be the fan favorite.”
“Half a Man” “I decided very early on that I don't want to be the ‘piano guy,’ because then you can only do ballads. But I decided to put ‘Half a Man’ on the album. I released a live version four or five years ago; my fans always loved it, and it was the first song that got people interested in signing me. I realized that a lot of artists I love—even if they're a festival band, which is what I want to be—will put a piano song in, right at the last track. I picked up my guitar and went into my bathroom where it was all reverb-y. The words ‘How am I supposed to love you when I don't love who I am’ came out, and the hairs on the back of my neck stood up. I was like, ‘Someone must have sung this before, this can't be my fucking lyric,’ but it was. I feel like I got really lucky because it's one of those lines that everyone thinks but no one says. And when it gets put into a simple sentence like that, it's like magic. I actually brought that song in when I was writing songs for other people, but in the end I couldn’t give it away. I’m stubborn when I want to be.”
Hold of Me
A Place We Knew
Straight Back Down
Time to Go
Don’t Hold Me
For the Last Time
Half a Man
12 Songs, 40 Minutes
March 22, 2019
An Island Records Australia release; ℗ 2019 Universal Music Australia Pty Ltd.