The Hardest Love

Dean Lewis

The Hardest Love

Dean Lewis’ approach to his second record was simple: take what he liked about his debut, 2019’s A Place We Knew, and do more of it. “I’d seen other artists go completely leftfield on their second album, and I didn’t want to do that,” the Australian singer-songwriter tells Apple Music. “I actually looked at the three songs that resonated the most with me from my first album, which were ‘Waves,’ ‘Be Alright,’ and ‘Half a Man.’ Conveniently, they’d been the songs that really connected to people, and I went, ‘That’s the style. I want to go more into that.’” Accordingly, The Hardest Love finds Lewis refining his emotive, ballad-heavy singer-songwriter sound, one that suits the album’s primary lyrical themes given that five of its songs are inspired by a relationship that didn’t work out. “I feel like that was the last relationship I’m going to pursue in my life where it’s probably not what’s best for me, and now I’m aware of that,” he offers. “Now I think I know the problem, and I’m going to be looking for healthy relationships. The name The Hardest Love summed up the album for me.” Here, Lewis provides a track-by-track rundown of The Hardest Love. “Small Disasters” “I wrote ‘Small Disasters’ the day after I wrote [2018 single] ‘Be Alright.’ But this is the one song that my whole family was always resending me, saying, ‘Dean, you have to listen to “Small Disasters.”’ So, I finally caved and listened to it, and it was this five-year-old demo of me on the piano. I reworked some of the lyrics, changed the structure, came up with this new guitar riff in my hotel room, and changed the key, and it started to feel like me. It’s about being cheated on again, but it’s also about two people who were luckless lovers with a past of small disasters. I was in a relationship at the time, and I found out the girl was seeing someone else. That song is recounting the scene as it happened.” “Looks Like Me” “Five songs on this album are all about this one girl. This song [was written while I was] living at the Andaz Hotel on Sunset Boulevard. I would walk down Sunset Boulevard, and I’d go to [grocery store] Pink Dot and get a Red Bull and M&Ms, and I had my headphones on, and I’d just listen to all these demos that I was writing about her. And I was always wondering if she was thinking about me, and I put that in: ‘Now I’m walking down Sunset with my feelings on repeat.’ And it’s really about that relationship and her telling me once that she was hanging out with a guy who looked like me. I thought that line was just too good to pass up.” “The Hardest Love” “I finished the song and showed my friend, and she goes, ‘Yeah, it’s a good song, but it doesn’t blow me away.’ So, I went back to my apartment, and I had the first verse and the first chorus, and I deleted the rest of the song. And this girl I was writing the song about was sick, and the line came out that we went to hospital, and then the doctor said they can’t fix it, and I was almost watching it happen in front of me. And then the girl passes away, and it has this horn section that is like a beautiful representation of that person going to the other side. I had a friend who was basically the fifth sibling in my family. She was really sick. She had this disease where they didn’t really know what it was, and she was always in and out of hospitals, and when I realized that I’d sort of inadvertently written a song about her. I ended up showing her the song because I couldn’t believe the similarities. She ended up passing away about a year ago. The song is sort of dedicated to her in a way, and it was nice I was able to show it to her.” “Hurtless” “‘Hurtless’ is like the sequel to ‘Be Alright.’ In a way, it’s about me finding myself in the same situation a few years later and realizing this is kind of stupid. And it’s that idea of imagining yourself with someone and it doesn’t work out, and that person’s not for you. Stylistically, it’s very similar to ‘Be Alright.’ It has that spoken-word verse where it’s describing a scene, into an emotional chorus which is very wordy. It felt like a sister song to ‘Be Alright’ in terms of the style.” “All for You” “This was another song I wrote about the girl that I thought things were going to work out with, and it’s me saying I’ll love you until your heart breaks open, and you’ll see that we were always meant to be together. There was always something that would stop her from fully coming in and committing to this relationship that we were starting to build. The song is quite hopeful and it’s saying, ‘If only you could see you through my eyes’ ’cause I feel like she never would see herself as how good she was. She always would see the worst in herself, and I always saw the best in her, so it’s just a really sweet love song.” “How Do I Say Goodbye” “A song I wrote about my dad. My dad was really sick with an aggressive form of cancer. I wrote the song simply because I didn’t know how to say goodbye. My dad taught me how to play guitar. He’s given me my love of music. I’m very close to him, and it was a very emotional song. I cried about 15 times in the writing of it just because it was so emotional and deep for me. I don’t think I’m ever going to write a song as good as this. He’s actually in remission now, and I was able to play him the song, and he loves it but can’t listen to it. He listened to it once and was like, that’s enough for me.” “Scares Me” “It’s about the same girl. It’s about when we got really close. We were friends at first, and I realized I really liked this person, and it’s a scary feeling to know that you can get hurt by this person if you open up and say you want to be with them. It’s a very vulnerable time and it’s a scary time. When I wrote this song, I was nervous about releasing it. Sometimes there are lyrics that are very vulnerable where I think, ‘People are going to laugh at me for saying that.’ But I think, in my past, whenever I’ve had a really vulnerable lyric, those things have really connected to people. So, I override my fear of being a bit embarrassed by saying, ‘It’s going to help people. People will relate to it, and they’ll connect to it.’” “Something to Help” “I was in LA. I wrote this with [producer and songwriter] Tyler Johnson. He just did the Harry Styles record [Harry’s House]. I started playing some chords, and it came out very quickly. It was written within an hour. This is the first song I wrote for the album. It’s describing a scene. It’s saying, we’re not in love anymore, and you’re in love with somebody else, and it’s OK. And at the end, I sing about that—we don’t need to make a big deal of it. It’s just over, and it doesn’t need to be dramatic.” “Into the Breeze” “One of my favorite songs I’ve ever written. It was after I’d been touring the world, and I had some time off, and I was trying to come to terms with my life. There’s a lyric in there where I talk about how I’ve been to so many places, but I’ve never seen them. And I felt like I’d spent three years of my life going to hotels and radio stations all throughout America, doing interviews, and being in these incredible cities and not really seeing anything. And also, being under so much pressure to succeed. I lived with my grandmother a few years before this. I had nothing, and all of a sudden, I had something, and I didn’t want to lose that. I think now I make better choices with people, and I think that was me reflecting on it.” “To Have You Today” “I wrote it in London, and I was on tour. I was on the phone to the same girl, and I hung up and I took my guitar out and the song came out. It’s just a love song. It’s a mood, it’s a feeling. I wrote the lyrics out, and I stuck on a photo of a chair on a hill overlooking a town, and I imagined two people, me and this girl, sitting on a nice afternoon. It feels like that. It’s a little movie. And it’s a hope that never really came true, but it sums up how she made me feel, and I couldn’t explain it. It’s very simple and it just fell from the sky.”

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