In collaboration with
- Words Jordan White
- Photography Elizabeth Miranda
- Groomer Nathaniel Dezan @ Opus Beauty
We meet Australia's latest musical export, the sensational Dean Lewis.
Does a musicians life stay the same after they clock up more than a million views / listens across streaming services? This is a questions that Australia’s finest export Dean Lewis has been pondering over recently, following the success of his breakout hits, “Waves” and the monumental “Be Alright”.
He’s gone from growing up idolising Noel Gallagher and preaching the lyrics to every Oasis song under the sun–the point in young Dean’s life that ultimately got him into music–to sitting pretty with half a billion streams, all before he’s even released an album. It almost makes me wonder what goes through an artist’s mind when their career is only in its first few chapters, yet their achievements have already stretched into sequels.
“I think you get your first million streams and it kind of blows your mind and you get caught up in the numbers,” Dean tells me when we speak via phone. “Then the numbers sort of start to blur a little bit because it’s hard to comprehend who’s listening.” Keeping in firm touch with reality, to Dean everything begins to feel real the moment he puts on a show and sees it sell out. “You can see people in front of you singing along and that’s when it feels mental.”
And that’s exactly what “the wonder from down under” has conquered on his current tour across North America. Just 2 years ago, Dean could be seen fledging around onstage with just a piano, a keyboard and about 60 spectators in London’s St. Pancras Church. Now he’s backed by a full band whose aim is to usher vitality each time they grace the stage – recently including The Ellen DeGeneres Show. “When I got the call I was super excited and then super nervous, the reality set in and I was like, ‘oh my god I actually have to play this amazing show.’” Dean reveals to me he was fine right up until the curtain dropped and that’s when the heart racing began, albeit this is the life for the majority of non-native musicians stepping foot onto a show that can ultimately ‘make you’ in the States. “I felt like how I did at the first gig I ever played, the open mic nights where my hands would shake uncontrollably.” He says that now, but if you’ve seen the performance of ‘Be Alright’ on Ellen, you’d assume Dean’s been at it much longer than the few years he has.
And to think that “Be Alright” is the hit that nearly never was! “I was on this farm in Melbourne writing songs for other people, I had a day off up there and I recorded this idea into my voice notes and my phone ended up breaking… Luckily I managed to send this voice memo before my phone broke that night to this ex-girlfriend of mine. The next morning when my phone had fallen on the floor I had this gem left over, this little bit of the songs melody and verse going into the pre-chorus.”
From swiftly busting the song out and deeming it “pretty cool,” Dean wasn’t head over heels until his family members approved it, leading him to recording it four times over to get it bang on. It’s clear to see he’s a perfectionist, but his perfectionism has brought him a long way; enough to be named as one of Apple Music’s Up Next artists. “We couldn’t believe it when it came in, it’s probably some of the best news I’ve ever got,” Dean yells. “It’s one of those things where I feel like I have a song that’s out there right now that a lot of people know but no one really knows me and I think this is a really good opportunity.” The prestigious feat enables Dean to be the face of billboards across America, something that comes as a huge honour. “I feel so lucky that they’ve chosen me out of all of the other artists they could’ve chosen, so it really is an honour.”
I would’ve thought that by now, and especially after the announcement of being Apple’s One to Watch, that Dean would be experiencing the pre-album pressure than many artists feel on their debut, although it seems to be the complete opposite. Dean’s debut record A Place We Knew–the name originating from “all the different places I’ve been, houses and apartments I’ve lived in through past relationships”–has been in its final stages for some time now and its release date of March 22nd is slowly creeping up. “Maybe 5 or 6 songs from the album I had already written so I had no pressure. I had the next few singles and I just had to record them and make sure they were great.” The truth is, Dean couldn’t be more relaxed. “I think if I was one of those artists who has a hit song, which is incredible lucky, but then the label say, ‘hey man, where’s the next one? Is it ready cause we need to release it in a month,’ I don’t think I would deal well in that situation and so I compile so many songs before I release anything.”
With enough content piled up to last him at least a few albums, I couldn’t picture Dean Lewis placed anywhere other than under the stage spotlight. A handful of musicians ‘fall into’ this career path but for Dean, it was destiny. The future is looking not just bright, but fluorescent; playing shows across Australia to a capacity of 5,000 and slowly but surely bringing those same numbers on over to America and Europe. “I feel like it’s building! More and more people are hearing the songs.” Dean’s album A Place We Knew is on the horizon, a pinnacle moment that musicians lead up to their whole careers, and he’s already looking ahead, “to be able to write another album after this and to create something that’s credible and meaningful and moving towards that is the best thing in the world to me.”