Roman Lewis is a British singer-songwriter who has already attracted quite a following for someone as young as he his. In addition to songwriting and singing, Lewis is also fluent in French. In fact, he leads off his new EP with the Jacques Brel classic “Ne Me Quitte Pas.” By phone, he discussed his the making of his EP and his appreciation for poetry.
Americana Highways: What was the biggest challenge in writing and recording My First Failed Fairytale?
Roman Lewis: The biggest challenge was the halfway point. I started writing when I was 14. That was four years ago. I was writing about girls and love, and teen angst. Then I had this break-up, and I finished that EP and put it to bed. Then it came to a point where I was going to write another EP. I didn’t know where to go from there until I realized that I hadn’t finished saying what I had to say with the first EP. I didn’t want to revisit those emotions though. It had been maybe six months or a year, and I thought “This EP is going to be terrible. I’m never going to write it. Screw everything!” I was kind of dramatic about it. Eventually I started writing the songs, and really loving it. Now revisiting those emotions – even though I didn’t want to – has given me closure.
AH: What was the most important lesson you learned from recording the EP?
RL: Because this is my first real project, a lot of the stuff I was learning about was pretty basic. Catherine Marks produced it and she really threw me in the deep end. She would just press record and expect me to magically come up with the bass part to the song. I’d never picked up a bass in my life so I’d have to figure out how to play bass in the spot. She’s used to working with much more technically advanced musicians than I am. It was super stressful but I learned a lot from it. Also I think I realized the importance of spontaneity. I really had no idea how these songs were going to sound when I started recording them. The first time we went into the studio, we recorded a song called “Rose”, which is on the first EP, and it had this really jammy guitar part. It made me really happy and that was turning point. It could just as easily have been a sad little folk EP but because of how much fun Catherine and I were having in the studio, it was a lot more fun.
AH: What was your reaction when it was finally finished?
RL: It was very surreal. You spend all this time thinking and imagining this thing. Then you finally have it. It exists! I’m happy to say I’m proud of it.
AH: I read that you have an interest in 18th Century poetry. What drew you to poetry?
RL: I’d be blatantly lying to you if I said I was an 18th century poetry enthusiast. This all came from that song I spoke about earlier: “Rose.” I had the idea for it – again I was 14 at this point – when we were studying English poetry at school. I read a poem called “The Poison Tree” by William Blake. It was personifying hatred as this poison tree. I loved that and it stayed with me. When it came to writing “Rose” I personified love as a rose. I guess that’s not the most original concept, but at the time I was pretty pleased with myself.
AH: Do you have any favorite poets?
RL: I do love William Blake. As lyricists go, I love Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan, Nick Drake, Kendrick Lamar. A good lyricist is a poet in my opinion
AH: What’s next for you?
RL: I’m working on the next project. First I just want to get My First Failed Fairytale heard by as many people as I can, then hopefully carry on doing what I love.
AH: What would you be doing if you weren’t making music?
RL: I’d be making music. Whatever I’d be doing, even if it could only be in my free time I’d make music. Since I get to do it full time, in my spare time I do maths tutoring which I really love. If it wasn’t for the music I’d be at Imperial College studying Physics. I finished school last year and that’s where I was supposed to go. I do kind of miss it but when you’re making music for a living you really can’t complain. This is the dream.
My First Failed Fairytale will be available everywhere on February 14. https://www.facebook.com/RomanLewisMusic/