Lewis Watson has reinvented himself, not just visually, but musically and professionally. midnight, the Oxford singer’s sensational second album, is testament to that change. Written and recorded entirely under his own stream, with friends as collaborators, it’s a sonic leap on from his largely acoustic debut – bigger, bolder, beautifully textured and more experimental, but still as brutally honest and achingly intimate as his bewitching early EPs.
“It’s an evolution from my first album,” says Lewis. “It’s grander, heavier and more electronic. I still like acoustic music – and there are some quieter songs on there – but I also love Death Cab For Cutie, Bombay Bicycle Club and Bon Iver. It is a big change, but it’s still me. Maybe me with added spice.”
Key to midnight is the stately, stirring, Snow Patrol-esque ‘deep the water’, the first song Lewis wrote for the album after a self-imposed six months away from making music in 2015. “I was still playing shows,” says Lewis. “We toured the States and Australia and played a fantastic festival in the Philippines, but for a full six months, I stopped writing songs. I needed a break, to be reinvigorated, to learn to love it all over again. I took a step back for as long as possible to see what would change.”
Getting together with close friend Anthony West (of Oh Wonder, who produced the album) and Josephine Vander Gucht, the album was recorded in just three weeks last summer at The Vale in Warwickshire.
“I’m loathe to use the word magical, but it really was,” laughs Lewis. “It was a joyous, organic experience. ‘deep the water’ came flooding out of me on the first day and lifted this immense weight from my shoulders. I’d worried I might not be able to write, but I couldn’t stop. For the first time, there was no one shoving words in my direction or making suggestions.”
In a matter of days, they had completed five songs, among them the album’s sweet, spine-tingling, strings-soaked highlight ‘hello hello’ and the epic ‘little light’ an emotionally-exposed love letter to Lewis’ girlfriend of five years.
Another change is Lewis’ finest duet, on the spectral ‘slumber’ featuring Lucy Rose, whom Lewis first heard at college and has been angling to work with ever since. The gorgeous melancholy there is touched on elsewhere in the likes of ‘forever’ which is simultaneously midnight’s poppiest song, but also one of its saddest.
“It was crucial for me that these songs sounded exactly as I imagined them,” says Lewis. “I didn’t want any outside input. We made midnight in a bubble. Every track has my stamp on every aspect. It’s a snapshot of where and who I am right now.”
And that’s the perfect image for the album, because with midnight Lewis Watson has not just evolved but been reborn, creating magic with a new sound, a new look and a new career stretching ahead.