"This man is a melody genius” Music Review Unsigned
Phil Lewis writes catchy, well-crafted songs with lyrics that connect with the good in everyone. His most recent release, Age of Nothing, shows a flair for combining these with ‘80s indie guitar, tribal drums and a love of the Top 40. The result? Radio-friendly songs that stay with you long after the first listen.
In a sense, the Top 40 was my masterclass, and still is. One of my fondest memories is the weekly family ritual of gathering around the radio on a Sunday evening to listen to it. It didn't take long before I started thinking I'd like to make that kind of music. I wrote my first song when I was 12. It was called ‘U.F.O.’ and it was about, er, a U.F.O. But in my defence, I was only 12.
I’ve been a bit of a pop music maverick ever since, taking my influences from the catchiest or most moving music, and not worrying about musical boundaries. In my teenage years, I took a liking to rap and rock (I was even a breakdancer). Friends told me that I couldn't possibly like both, because they were too different. Then Run DMC and Aerosmith released ‘Walk This Way’ and proved me right.
Songwriting and recording
I started booking time in local studios, working with musician friends rather than a band. I’m influenced by acoustic pop song-writers like Crowded House but always go back to those Top 40 influences, from U2 and Tears for Fears to The Killers, Miles Kane and Florence and the Machine. I’ve been songwriting for several years now and the common thread running through people’s feedback is that my songs are ‘catchy’ and stay in their heads. My songs draw people in with rhythm and melody, then explore themes that connect with people’s desire to be a better person, create a better world - without being ‘worthy’. They’re hopeful songs, expressing my experiences as I go through certain stages in my life, and the universal questions and feelings that go with them.
Now, after three albums, a record signing (LPW records for Movements in Space), and a semi-finalist place in the UK Songwriting Competition contest, I feel I’ve finally found my sweet spot as an independent artist. A big part of that is my partnership with Ben Haynes, who produced the record and plays all the instruments. We go back years and he’s worked on previous albums, but this time it’s been far more of a collaboration.
It’s a departure, lyrically, from my previous work. I have a reputation for being positive and upbeat – but this album picks through some of the things that happen after a relationship has ended. It’s about the 'no-man's-land' between relationships, based on recent personal experience. We found the songs just flew out, with moments of sheer inspiration for both of us. With Devil Comes to Dance, I was away for the weekend in the Hague, walking by the side of a river when the chorus just arrived. I only had my camera and e-reader, and no way to write it down, so I ended up walking back to hotel, writing it on the hotel notepad, and then going all the way back again! We were really choosy about the songs we picked because we wanted it to be really focused. There’s no filler – and as a result, this is the most confident I’ve felt about any album.
Albums, influences, and what people say
Age of Nothing 2013, producer & instrumentals Ben Haynes. Influenced by The Killers, Miles Kane, U2, Coldplay.
"an engaging combination of passion and presence mixed with storytelling and emotion" www.gigband.com
Ripples from a Small Pond 2010, produced by Ben Haynes, instrumentals by various. Influenced by Crowded House, REM, Paul Simon, Brian Eno. "A sound that is just begging to be given ample airtime...groove that pulses with influences from near and far." www.musicemissions.com.
Movements in Space 2009, produced by Ben Haynes, instrumentals – various. Influenced by .. U2, Duran Duran, Cheap Trick
“Lewis knows just how to put together a hooky pop song with interesting chord changes, atmospheric keyboards and rocking guitar solos that owe a little bit to The Edge.” Review of ‘Sad’. www.crossrhythms.co.uk
Ancient Light, 2006, produced by Lawson Dando (ex Incredible String Band).
“Full of well written, superbly structured songs that have a lightly infectious nature”, Rhythm and Booze webzine