On Dean Lewis’s latest single, “Be Alright” for Island Records, he perfectly captures gut-wrenching heartbreak that comes with the hardships of a break-up. But while it deals candidly with anguish, the chorus swells with hope; a recognition that this pain is only temporary, with Lewis emotively singing “It’s never easy to walk away/ Let her go/ it’ll be ok”.
Lewis says the song is written about a bunch of different relationships. It was at the end of one of those relationships that he remembers driving straight to his brother’s house, “He met me at the front door, handed me a glass of whiskey, and said ‘It’s over, put the phone away, it will be alright.’ We had a drink and it just felt good to talk. For me this song is about hope and knowing that when you surround yourself with good people, things do work out.”
The song is stirring and stripped back in instrumentation allowing listeners to really grapple with the emotional weight of the track. Sonically, the song places Lewis in the vein of his heroes like Noel Gallagher and Richard Ashcroft. “Be Alright” is a testament to his knack for writing thoughtful, evocative no-frills pop songs, and signifies Lewis as a bona fide star in the making.
But, surprisingly, it almost didn’t happen.
Before Lewis’ debut EP Same Kind Of Different, before the international tours, and certainly before his chart-topping hit “Waves”, Lewis was a sound guy. This job was disheartening for Lewis – he spent most his days watching others live out the dream.
He made a little music back then: A song, and a video had been uploaded online, and the response had been good, but not life-changing. He let it rest, not sure if anything would come out of it. It didn’t look like a career in music was on the cards for him.
But a friend of his changed all of that. Years ago, at a function, his friend befriended a woman who was in music publishing. After chatting, he told him about Lewis: How he was having trouble making it in the music industry, how he couldn’t seem to catch a break. His friend asked if she wouldn’t mind listening to Lewis’ music. She listened immediately and was completely won over by Lewis’ raw talent and unique songwriting. He was pretty much signed to her publishing company by the end of the taxi ride home.
At first, he did a little bit of songwriting for other artists, but found it frustrating and unfulfilling. It wasn’t until Lewis’ publishing company sent him to the small town of Hitchin in Hertfordshire, England to work with producers Nick Atkinson and Edd Holloway, that things started to take off. The first song they worked on was “Waves” which turned Lewis from unknown songwriter to hit-maker overnight.
“Waves” was added to Triple J rotation, has had over 122 million streams, 31 million video views and was the second biggest Australian single of 2017. Suddenly, Lewis was gracing the stages of Europe’s biggest television shows, playing headline shows and festivals slots across Australia and the US. “Waves” even appeared on programs like Suits, Riverdale and Grey’s Anatomy.
When recording “Be Alright”, Lewis struggled to capture the heightened emotions of the demo. He went back to the UK to record and reconnected with Atkinson and Holloway and recorded the song four times, “I finally knew we had it because when I was listening back to the song, I could feel the emotion coming out of my voice.”
“Be Alright” is the first taste of Lewis’ forthcoming album, and signals a newfound conviction in his own storytelling and singing capabilities, something, Lewis explains, he had to learn. “I think a lot of people are in their rooms writing songs, thinking it’s not good enough or wondering why your voice doesn’t sound like everyone else’s. But those things you think are weaknesses are actually your strengths. It’s what makes you unique. And after a bit of time, it’s the thing that gives you confidence.”