He was a breakout internet star who was snapped up by a major label.
But when Lewis Watson walked away from his deal with Warner Brothers after releasing his debut album, he was determined that it wouldn’t mean the end of his burgeoning music career.
And he insists he still has a good relationship with his old label, saying he doesn’t ‘want to drag them through the dirt’. But once his A&R man left Warners several months into the project, he was left without a champion for his music.
He was soon picked up by Cooking Vinyl, a label he feels more in tune with.
Lewis released his first EP of original material independently in 2012 after racking up huge numbers of plays for his covers on YouTube. Warners came knocking and released his debut album, The Morning, in 2014.
‘That first record was very much a Frankenstein’s monster of an album. I love that record, I’m very proud of it, I’ll never have another first record, and it was a snapshot of the music I was creating at that time. But a lot of those songs are demos and we had no way of getting with producers we wanted as we had no A&R at the label, so I was quite happy to walk away from that experience.
This feels like an album release the way it should be. It’s very much from me, the artwork, the album title, the mixes, not some guy sat in his officeLewis Watson
‘It’s not because Warner Brothers are an awful label, but the whole major label thing didn’t really fit me.
‘I got signed off the back of recording and releasing an EP independently, and that’s something I’m very passionate about. The deal was that they would make me a better version of myself and everything would still come from me, but it soon became very apparent that wasn’t the case.
‘Cooking Vinyl has this amazing legacy and incredible roster, I was very excited when they came forward. I was very keen to do this record independently but they came in and said: “Hey let’s work together,” and they swayed me away from that, and I’m glad that did.
‘This feels like an album release the way it should be. It’s very much from me, the artwork, the album title, the mixes, not some guy sat in his office. So far it really has been a dream.’
In stark contrast to the protracted writing and recording sessions of his debut, the new album, Midnight, was recorded in two weeks in one studio. Even the title is meant to contrast the debut.
‘The record is a big evolution from the first one. Morning and Midnight are very contrasting parts of the day.
‘It was a very conscious decision to do this quickly in one place. The first record was recorded over almost two years with different people in eight or nine different rooms. I think we did a good job in not covering that up by making it as fluid as possible, but I can hear it – oh, I was in Liverpool when I recorded that, or wherever, it’s not a very solid snapshot of music.
‘I wanted to do this in one room with the same people and the same producer. From the first track to the 11th, it was a very conscious decision for this journey of an album to be more together and more thought-out and clear.’
The Wedgewood Rooms, Southsea
Tuesday, March 21