Just a few years ago, a health diagnosis and looming surgery had the potential to permanently damage Erika Lewis’ vocal nerves. There was a chance she would never sing again. Knowing that she may have to walk away from music, she moved forward on a new, possibly last, album at the urging of a friend. Thankfully, she has since recovered and is set to release that record—A Walk Around the Sun—on April 29.
I recently sat down with Lewis to discuss sweet memories, weaving a basket of music, and finding solace in lyrics.
AH: A Walk Around the Sun is a beautiful record. It instantly took me back to a memory of being a kid and my mother dancing around with me in her arms while listening to a Patsy Cline record. It is amazing what music can do to the brain and what it can trigger. When you listen to these tracks now, what does the album mean to you? What does it trigger in your mind?
EL: Thank you, that’s a wonderful image to share. I hope when my son hears this album in the future, it will trigger sweet memories for him too. When I listen, I certainly feel a sense of accomplishment and relief. It means so much to me to have it to offer and feels like the foundation I needed to be able to put more of myself into my own music going forward.
AH: There were big stakes in this record for you. A looming surgery meant your singing voice may have been permanently impacted, so you recorded A Walk Around the Sun as a “just in case” scenario. Was doing so just as much for you as it was for listeners? Did having this album recorded help to ease any emotional anxiety going into the surgery?
EL: Absolutely. The prospect of losing my voice was paralyzing and I am lucky enough to have friends who helped initiate the recording process, knowing that I would regret it if I didn’t do it. Not only for myself but for those who have listened to and enjoyed my music over the years.
I think probably, yes, there was a sense of lessened anxiety knowing that I had made something I could share, from my heart, despite the surgery’s outcome.
AH: When you knew that you would sing again, did this album take on a different perspective for you? Did it mean something to you that you hadn’t expected when you went into the studio?
EL: The process of making the album felt like a gift, and ultimately receiving a good prognosis was the cherry on top. I had no context for recording in a studio the way that we did and couldn’t have imagined how intensive and deeply gratifying it would be.
AH: Because you had such a personal connection to not only the songs, but the record itself, is it difficult to put it out into the world or does it help to close a chapter in your life that you are ready to move on from?
EL: I have always felt conflicted in wanting to share my songs and also feeling really vulnerable in the process. The circumstances around making the album helped me rise to the occasion and put everything I had into the process in order to have something, not only for myself but for anyone who wanted to listen. It felt very do or die at the time. It’s been nearly two years since I started working on the album and I am beyond ready to get it out there and see what’s next.
AH: There’s something whimsical about the record. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but it transports me somewhere else, and in this day and age, it’s nice to escape reality for a little while. What does writing music do for you that being a listener alone cannot?
EL: Songwriting, for sure, gives me a place to express an intensity of feeling and perhaps make sense of things in a somewhat abstract way, through words and sound. It can feel like weaving a basket to hold an experience or place in time.
AH: What would someone learn about you in sitting down to listen to A Walk Around the Sun front to back?
EL: Probably that I’m sentimental and a hopeless romantic!
AH: Not only does the record sound great, but lyrically it draws you in and forces the listener to pay attention. Talk to me a bit about these tracks and how much of your life they encompass. Do they go back a few years or are they all relatively new in your songwriting catalog?
EL: The songs are a mix of new and old, the oldest going back 12 years or so and the newest ones written in 2020. Some are directly inspired by real situations in my life while others are sort of riffing on an emotion or feeling and creating a story around that.
AH: What would the Erika who first picked up a guitar and wrote her first song think of this record? Would anything surprise her?
EL: I believe she would be thrilled and delighted to have made this album and to be reaching so many people with it.
AH: When you hang up your guitar and call it a day, what do you want to be remembered for? What do you want your musical legacy to be?
EL: I’d certainly like my music to be remembered. In what capacity, I don’t know, but perhaps the songs will be relatable enough in some way to touch on or get to the core of feelings that people have and can’t always express. And hopefully they can find solace in them the way you do when you have a conversation and feel understood.
AH: Time machine question. If you could jump ahead 10 years and get a glimpse of what your career looks like a decade from now, would you take that journey? If not, why?
EL: People like to say, “If I only knew then what I know now…”, and it’s nice to imagine what life could be with less trials and tribulations, but I’m certain the best things about where I am now would be different if I had been able to look ahead and glimpse the future. So, no, I wouldn’t take that ride, despite all of the uncertainty of what lies ahead.
For more information on Erika Lewis, visit https://erikalewismusic.bandcamp.com/.