- 05 Feb 19
As acoustic pop merchant Lewis Capaldi's star ascends, he talks about the pressure of success and why, if it comes to it, he'd be happy fronting a wedding band.
The first thing Lewis Capaldi does on sitting down with Hot Press is to declare the 12 months just past the craziest of his life.
He's about to wrap up a sold-out tour - including two nights at Dublin's Helix - and has become the first unsigned artist to top the Spotify streaming charts. All of this and, as his inclusion in the Hot Press Hot For countdown confirms, he's just getting started (among other things to look forward to, he's up for the 2019 Brits Critics Choice prize).
"It's not been a normal one," says the 22-year-old West Lothian singer-songwriter who, if you're wondering, is indeed distantly related to Doctor Who star Peter Capaldi. "Over five days, my new EP came out and we did two sold-out shows at the Barrowlands in Glasgow and then Shepherd's Bush Empire. It's a pretty mad. Hopefully it doesn't slow down and I won't become unemployed."
That seems a slim possibility. Capaldi has the potential to be the biggest acoustic pop phenomenon since Ed Sheeran. The comparison might seem lazy considering both are young men with guitars from small town Britain.
Yet like Sheeran, Capaldi has built his audience largely on his own and without record label hype - there is some now but only after his ascent was already well underway.
"My first single was self-released and it went top of Spotify New Music Friday in America," he says. "From there it properly blew up. I thought, 'This is just crazy'."
As with Sheeran, he is careful not to assumes airs - or to take success for granted. In a few hours he will step on stage before an adoring Helix audience. Yet in the lounge of an identikit city centre hotel he is humble and chatty - with a blokey manner that belies his youth.
If there's a funny side to all this, then he is very much in on the joke. It's as if you're interviewing the grizzled middle age version of Capaldi looking back on his early years rather than the young man in the middle of the whirlwind.
"I didn't want to be famous. I wanted to do something in music,' he says. "If that was teaching music or playing in a wedding band that would be fine.
"And those things might still come to pass. I'm 22 and enjoying it. Let's see what's happening five years from now - I might go to university and be a music teacher. I don't take any of this for granted. If I'm not able to sustain a living, I'm happy to go do weddings or whatever."
He's found the best way of coping with his skyrocket rise is to acknowledge the absurdity and to then carry on as if nothing has really changed in his life.
"I was just out of college and suddenly going to LA to meet labels," he says. "I remember coming home and my first thought being "Let's go to the pub'. I'm aware how mental it is and how it's a bit stupid. Not stupid in a bad way. Just unusual.
"The people in the labels are more used to it and they will say things to me like, 'You've just sold out a 2,000 capacity venue... why are you so calm?' I try not to take it too seriously. Taking things too seriously is one reason some young artists have issues with anxiety."
There have, he allows, been moments when it all feels too much. He's had to learn to focus on the positive and be grateful for the opportunities.
"I've had panic attacks," he says. "That's been a case mostly of not looking after myself in terms of drinking. Or of smashing loads of coffees to get through the day."
He's also a perfectionist, which can create difficulties. "If five things are going well you might end up focusing on that one thing that isn't going well. You're playing all these sold out shows or doing TV - but if a song isn't streaming as much as I wanted, it's like, 'We need to fix this'.
My mindset now is that I need to stop and try to look at things from a positive angle. But then that doesn't just apply to music - that's true of life generally."
The Breach EP is out now.