Things I Chose to Remember

Things I Chose to Remember

There was a time when Rhys Lewis wasn’t sure that his debut album would see the light of day. The songs were in place, but the London-based singer-songwriter’s life wasn’t. “I’d just gone through a breakup and I’d just fired a manager,” he tells Apple Music. “I was really anxious about where my life was going. I’d been signed for, like, two years, and thought, ‘Hang on. I’ve not released an album. I've not got a manager. Am I going to get dropped?’” He wasn’t going to get dropped, but his label did suggest it wouldn’t be a great idea to release an album while he didn’t have a manager. So while he looked for a new one, Lewis continued writing songs. Having previously worked at home, allowing songwriting to consume every waking minute, he started working to set hours in a studio with producer Aidan Glover. That allowed him to draw borders between his work and personal life, to spend more time with friends and family. “I was forced to revaluate what I was doing musically and in my own life,” he says. “That was the headspace I was going into, writing these songs and looking at myself and what I could change and what I had control of.” These new sessions initially fed in 2019’s In Between Minds EP, and soon Lewis had a batch of demos that excited him more than the album that he’d iced. The label agreed, and a new debut began to emerge. “That’s why there’s a lot of different emotions on this record,” he says. “It was a real turning point in my life. I feel like I did learn a lot and grow a lot as a person. So hopefully you can hear that in the record in moments.” That scope of emotions—drawn from his own experiences and the lives around him—is matched by a musical curiosity that puts his bruised-but-not-beaten voice to elegant fusions of soul, guitar pop, folk, piano balladry, and electronic. Here, he takes us through the record track by track. Better Than Today “It’s a hopeful song. Myself and Aidan were getting really frustrated. We’d just been to America, and we were around lots of people talking about Trump and that election. I was about to go Glastonbury, and the day that I went to Glastonbury, Brexit [was in the news]. I was just losing faith in society. It was divisive. I think it was really easy to vilify everyone who voted against what you believed in as idiots or bigoted: If you voted for Brexit, then you were a xenophobe. If you voted for Trump, you're a racist. And I think the situation is so much more complicated than that. The song was a reminder to myself not to point fingers. You're never going to change or understand anyone else's opinion if you go in there already kind of vindicating them. So it was to say, hopefully, we all want tomorrow to be a better version of what we’ve got now. I don't believe that the majority of people go into the ballot box to vote for something evil. I think, however they’ve come to that belief, they do believe that it's going to make their life better and the majority of everyone else's life better.” No Right to Love You “I think this is the oldest song I’ve got. I moved to London to get into writing songs for other people. I was trying to get into sessions, trying to email publishers. I wrote [this] and it was the one song where people started to go, ‘I really like your voice.’ I'd never thought of myself as the singer—I was just demoing the songs. It was the first one where I thought, ‘Oh, maybe that could be me as an artist.’ It’s probably the most honest song on the record; it’s certainly the most emotional. I went to a friend's house in Kefalonia. Everywhere I went in London, I was just thinking about my ex. So he was like, ‘Look, just come here for a few days.’ I stayed about a week and just wrote the song. That one felt very much like, ‘I just need to actually get this out.’” When Was the Last Time? “It’s a bit of a tragic one. I just found that moment when you're in love and you’re too weak to let go of something, even if you know it’s kind of dead, really interesting. You're just waiting for someone else to say it. And you just start to feel these little telltale signs of something that’s come into the dying breaths of its life. [Musically], the aim for everything to creep in was that you didn’t really realize that everything was growing—a bit like the realization of a relationship ending. It just sort of creeps up on you. We wanted everything to feel like that, and to start very intimate and like a thought that expands. By the end of the last chorus, it’s quite big, a dramatic thing.” Under the Sun “It’s got a bit of a rhythm to it. And it was actually, in the original demos, just on guitar. Then Aidan suggested starting with two bass guitars. We listened to this Laura Marling song [’Soothing’]—it’s got two basses on it. We heard that texture and thought, ‘Actually, that can be really interesting.’ We just ran with it, and it just became this quirky little thing that was quite fun to produce. And I’m pleased that it’s got this interesting syncopated rhythm through it. It’s a nice flavor and a different palette of sounds to add to the record.” What If “Something I really struggle with is general anxiety and complete overthinking. This was one song that the idea of Emotional Delusion as a working title [for the album] came from, because it sums up what you go through in your head when you're thinking about a breakup. You go through it, and you know it’s the right thing to do. And as soon as it happens, because you miss that person, you think, ‘Actually, no, I could’ve done something different. And what if I’d done that, and what if I’d done this?’ And it just keeps you up until the point that your guilt for letting someone go gets in the way of your rational thinking. Hopefully, it feels like there’s some kind of tension and darkness in the song as this strange, overthinking delusion. We wanted it to feel epic and to have this sense of journey and the explosiveness, and a bit of darkness.” Lonely Place “It’s about my parents. I've seen my parents go through a strange up-and-down decade, I suppose. And it's been really tough. It’s hard when you see two people you really admire and love struggle with each other. They're so popular with all their friends and family, but with each other, they just don’t get on at times. I think there's that constant question of whether it’s really worth staying together, and that’s a really sad thing to have to ask yourself—and ask each other. Whenever I go home for Christmas, and then we all leave the house again, I know we're leaving them in this kind of like strange, awkward space. So this idea of this lonely place sort of comes from them. I think the gospel element is a texture that feels really nostalgic to me and Aidan, listening to lots of soul music. It’s this idea of looking back at relationship, seeing what it was and what it is now—celebrating what it was, but in a sad way. It felt like an interesting texture to use as the starting, haunting theme or motif of the song.” Good People “This is also about my family and my friends. I wrote it in LA when I’d been away touring and ended up staying to do some writing. I was just really missing them all. I think I felt quite selfish, because the last four years of my life have been so self-indulgent and so involved in my career, it feels like I’ve missed a lot of life with them and a lot of events. Writing songs is not going to help that much, but appreciating them in a song was a nice thing to do. And it kind of just fell out, because when you’re feeling homesick, it’s really nice to think about people you miss, and it became quite a happy song. And I don't really write many happy songs. The first incarnation of the record that I ended up not using was very heavily influenced by soul music, and this song came out with a Bill Withers-inspired feel to it. I’m pleased that there’s that kind of flavor on the record as well.” Some Days “This is actually about my parents as well—the unconditional love that you get. I can be away for months, and I can be really wrapped up in my own bubble. But then if I go through something that’s really tough or a breakup, or I’m really struggling, I’ll call my mum, and she’ll always have time for me. I think that’s amazing, and I do take it for granted sometimes. There’s moments in your life where you're really struggling with something, and you just call your parents up, and they just know exactly what to say, or you just feel really supported. This song came out of thinking, ‘God, I don't know what I’d do without having that.’ And I know that I’m lucky to have that, because not everyone does.” Be Your Man “Producing this was more of an exercise of making a different version [from the 2017 acoustic single] for the record and for a different purpose. I was so attached to the original acoustic version, I wasn't sure how producing it up would go, but I was really pleasantly surprised by the energy that came out of it. It went from being a quite fragile, delicate thing to being a more aggressive and angry sentiment. It really changed the song for me, and I really enjoyed hearing it in a different perspective.” Hold On to Happiness “After the breakup I went through before getting into this album, I realized I'd really messed up the relationship by being too wrapped up in what I was doing with my music. When you're chasing something, a career or this idea of a dream, it’s so easy to be blinded by it, you can't really see anything outside of it. I went to write with a guy called Simon Aldred [Cherry Ghost main man], and he talked to me about this book by Bertrand Russell called The Conquest of Happiness and how most things that make you happy are really simple and easy and logical and pragmatic—but we're always chasing complicated things that we think are going to give us this amazing feeling or make us feel complete. I think I was missing out on the simple things in life. And this song reminded me to just be able to look up a little bit more and appreciate what was around me.” What Wild Things Were “There’s a book called The Uninhabitable Earth, which is by David Wallace-Wells. It sort of says, ‘In 2050, this is what we can expect about the world, this is how hot it’s going to be…’—all these horrible statistics about 2050. I'll be 50-something. I might have a kid. It suddenly didn’t feel far away. And so the idea was to write something set in the future, this kind of apocalyptic world. We’re losing so much of the natural habitat and nature in general that it’s not hard to imagine a life where you have to explain to your kids what the seasons were. We all have childhood memories of the seasons being so visceral and impactful. So the first verse is to kind of remind people of what that was. And I think setting it in the future reframes the present, this idea that we’re looking at something now, going, ‘Actually, we’re really fucking up.’ It keeps me up at night, and it’s something I think a lot about. So writing a song about it felt necessary to me, and it’s something we should all be talking about.”

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