Lewis Capaldi on new-found fame, fortune, and playing for pals
Lewis Capaldi is, understandably, a hard man to get hold of. Number 1 in the singles charts and with his debut album out, he is interminably busy.
He’s also, it seems, fast asleep when I call. But incredibly apologetic and a little embarrassed when I eventually get hold of him.
“You see people’s true colours when you sleep in, though,” he says. Fortunately his PR guy Gordon is relaxed - “‘it’s all good, chill”. However, manager Ryan is more likely to hurl a (good-natured) torrent of abuse at his charge - “‘Where the *** are you?’”
“We’ve known each other for that long we can say that to each other,” smiles the West Lothian-based songwriter. So his manager is from the school of ‘tough love’? “It’s like, you know when your mum and dad would wake you up for school and they were not gentle with you! ‘It’s half past eight’ and you look at your watch and it’s just half seven!”
Happily, Capaldi is left to do his own thing when it comes to songwriting. “Any pressure’s self-imposed, rather than by label or management,” he says. And he doesn’t feel the need to succeed for financial reasons either.
“My dad always told me there’s no money in music, and I’ve remembered that as the years went on, so any money I do get, that’s nice - but it’s not paramount to what I’m doing.”
In honor of #LewisCapalDay on Saturday 18th May, we've made Lewis these beautiful bespoke fit-for-a-sold-out-arena-tour-pop-star toilet brushes and plunger set.
— Victorious Festival (@VictoriousFest) May 14, 2019
Capaldi was famously estimated as having a ‘net worth’ of $10m - a far cry from the £200 in his bank account, but the rising star has a different attitude to his older musical contemporaries.
“Before Spotify, people were illegally downloading and making no money, but with Spotify you’re making some.
“It’s a very new platform, a new way of consuming music so I think it’ll evolve as the years go on... I’d not have a career if it wasn’t for streaming, but I don’t really think of my music in terms of money.”
Even though, as he points out in one of his famous Instagram rants, he is still living in his childhood room in Whitburn. Capaldi’s parents, though not involved directly, still play a part in the 23-year-old’s career.
“Mum and dad are a good gauge,” he says of the litmus test of his new material. “Though she’ll say: ‘You need new songs,’ and I’ll be: “no-one else has heard these, it’s not my fault you’ve caned the song 400 times!”
So it seems the new material has passed the test of his most serious critics. Next up, the millions who have streamed ‘Grace’ and ‘Someone You Loved’ millions of times.
“You’re only as good as your next song,” he points out, “and playing live’s a really good testing ground for that.”
The Duke of Wellington statue in Glasgow, with its famous cone, plus a Lewis Capaldi mask
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However, his next tour - covering the UK and USA - he will be touring the album, which will by then be very familiar to all. And unlike his mother, he’ll not be bored of the current crop of songs just yet.
“I just want to give people the best show,” he says, “because I hated going to see bands and they played new songs - 'I’ve paid the money to hear songs from the album, just play the album!' It shouldn’t be rocket science - I’ve played gigs so often playing four songs that are out, then one no-one knows - so I'm going to try and relish the fact that people might know all these songs now.”
And of course he’ll be headlining after gigging as support to contemporaries like Rag’n’Bone Man and Sam Smith.
“I’m under no illusions that there’s a lot of guys with guitars singing songs about heartbreak and love and whatever,” Capaldi admits, “but that’s such an enduring sound that’s been about since the dawn of time.”
“It’s nice to be part of a new crop,” he says of these sensitive songwriters, who share some camaraderie rather than rivalry. However, he’s equally supportive of cleaner-cut performers who have arrived via the reality TV format.
“Everyone’s very much being themselves,” he says of his experience on the circuit, “whether someone is a bit better looking, or doesn’t dress like they’ve just rolled out of their bed.”
Lewis Capaldi with cousin Peter Capaldi
“I love things like the X-Factor,” he says, “less so when it was all auditions and laughing at people, but I liked it when got to the live shows.
“Getting into doing music is so hard, and if you have any talent you explore every avenue. “I auditioned for BGT when I was 13,” he reveals, “and never got in, so fair play, whatever you have to do.”
"Ed Sheeran’s the perfect example of someone’s smashed it in singing and being a songwriter," Capaldi adds. "If he writes a song and someone else is singing it, you can tell Ed wrote it."
That perseverance is paying dividends now, with legions of followers, and perks of the fame ranging from a ‘golden bogbrush’ for his private portaloo at a festival he’ll play in August, to free squid for life (his Twitter alias is Lewis Calamari, with an emoji to go with it). Pasties, cows, haircuts and carpets are among the Capaldi-branded items available, all cheerfully endorsed by the man himself.
His followers are similarly game for a laugh, he latest stunt seeing Glasgow’s Duke of Wellington statue being adorned with a Lewis Capaldi mask to go with its famous cone.
“The music I take seriously, but… that face on the statue, it’s so stupid, that’s something I’d find hilarious if it wasn’t my face, just that someone’s gone to that effort,” he laughs.
However, he takes issue with the word ‘fans’, citing fellow Scottish singer Gerry Cinnamon. “He said ‘it’s not ‘fans’, we’re all just pals’, and I’ve never heard anything I agree with more. ‘Fans’ makes me slightly uncomfortable, like the word ‘artist’ - I hate that, I’m a singer. But Gerry’s hit the nail on the head, everyone’s just pals, and I sing my pals some songs. I like that vibe.”
His growing army of pals do indeed treat him like one of their own. “I imagine most singers get tweets saying ‘I love you, you’re amazing’ but I get pelters - they don’t dislike me, but I get slagged off - as you would as a pal.”
Our time is at an end as the singer has a day of interviews lined up, though next on the agenda is a ‘CapAllDay’ breakfast - another of the curious trappings of fame. Is he living the dream? “I’m just so happy I get to do this for a living and don’t have to work in an office, which I'd probably be no good at anyway.”
No signs of fame fatigue then?
“I’m not jaded yet, but ask me in 6 months!” he laughs. “To play these shows live is a privilege rather than a chore - I’m very lucky, so I’m just going to enjoy it as long as I can”.
'Divinely Uninspired to a Hellish Extent' is out now. More at LewisCapaldi.com