Oxfordshire singer-songwriter Rhys Lewis today (Friday, 10th July) releases his debut album, 'Things I Chose To Remember', via Decca Records. Recorded to analogue tape, it's a record that revels in the tactile, swimming through acute feelings of love, heartbreak, and loss. To celebrate the release, Rhys has talked us through each of the full-length's reflections on life, track by track.
Better Than Today
We've been living through some pretty turbulent times in recent years. I wrote this song to ease my anxiety about the state of the world and remind myself that, whatever our differences are, whatever we choose to believe in, we all live with the same good intentions common, and we're all hoping for a better tomorrow.
No Right To Love You
This song came out of the conflicting emotions I felt during a break-up that I went through a few years ago. Ending a relationship with someone you still love is a strange thing to go through. As the person doing the breaking up, it's confusing to feel both regretful and relieved at the same time. I wanted to articulate that tension and express how heavy the absence of someone can feel when you haven't yet broken the habit of loving them.
When Was The Last Time?
'When Was The Last Time?' puts a unique twist on a break-up narrative by zeroing in on the excruciating period just before a couple's tensions come to a head. "You know, when she's leaving kisses off her texts or not saying goodnight when she goes to bed," he says. "Slowly you start to put those things together, and evidence arrives of a fatal prognosis."
Under The Sun
It's easy to miss the rose-tinted version of someone. The memories of my last relationship were so filtered and altered by nostalgia that, for a time, the past with her was perfect. Nothing and no-one was as special or exciting when compared to the fictions I had in my head. I spent a year of my life carrying around a delusion, missing someone that didn't really exist. This song was written from the depths of that delusion so it felt strange to get to the other side of it and see the past, and this song, for what it was.
'What If' came from the regret I felt from letting go of something good too soon. My mind was a mess at the time, and I rushed into a decision to end things. Now thinking about her has become a bad habit, a kind of accepted addiction, like checking my phone. She changed me, and breaking up with her changed me, all in ways I'm forever grateful for. So it's hard to keep my mind away from the idea of going back to her, especially when the ways in which I've changed make me feel closer to her. I understand her more; I understand myself more. I never understood either when we were together, which is why it didn't work at the time.
I've seen my parents go through some tough times with their relationship in recent years. It's been difficult, but also inspiring, watching them deal with the ups and downs of their marriage. They've questioned a lot these last few years whether staying together is the right thing to do, if the bad days are worth the good or if they'd be happier living life apart. It affects me a lot seeing my parents struggle with their thoughts in this way, knowing how unhappy and alone they've both felt in the low moments. This song came from the question I knew they were asking themselves in those times of mutual loneliness - have we run out of reasons to stay?
Pursuing a career in music, a career in anything for that matter, can be all-consuming and easily become an obsession. Obsessions have a tendency to push other things to the peripheries of life, and before you know it, you've lost sight of everything else altogether. It sometimes feels like a big boulder that you can't stop pushing uphill for fear that will roll in the wrong direction, crushing you on the way back down to square one. So you focus all your energy on the boulder and, as a consequence, have little of it left to offer anything or anyone else. Luckily for me, my friends and family were always understanding of my commitment to what I was doing, accepting of my absence in their lives and unconditionally supportive whenever I needed to call upon them for it. So this song is a thank you, of sorts; a celebration of the people in my life that have always been there for me.
Myself and Aidan sat down at the piano in the studio one afternoon after getting back from a long tour. We'd both missed our families whilst away so decided to write something that showed our appreciation of the people in our lives we'd be lost without. Aidan had written the piano part years ago but thought it might suit that sentiment. He started playing it, and the chorus just fell out when I started singing with it. It's one of my favourite songs on the record, and I'm glad I'm able to dedicate a song from my debut record to my family.
Be Your Man
'Be Your Man' is about getting closer to someone and then coming to the realisation that they're still not over their last relationship. It makes you feel like you've not really been given a fair chance when the person you're with keeps comparing you to what they had with someone else.
I started to sense that she wasn't ready to embrace something new as she was still holding onto the past. It was a shame because I thought we had something great, but I got tired of feeling like I was living in someone else's shadow. I guess writing this song was my way of dealing with it. I hope that people will be able to relate to the lyrics and that it helps others going through the same situation.
Hold On To Happiness
We're simple creatures at heart, I don't believe we need a lot to be happy, but we live in a complicated world now that seems to make us focus more on the things we don't have than the things we do. Social media makes people fall into that trap, and I've realised how damaging it is.
Life just happens, and it'll pass you by if you let it. So, I'm trying to stay more in the present, to be truly there when the moment's golden, to make memories I'll reminisce not regret.
What Wild Things Were
The climate crisis is an issue that has filled me with anxiety in recent years. I've read lots of books and articles about it to try and get my head around the scale of the problem and to better understand the future we are set to face. Lots of facts and figures get laid out in relation to not-so-distant decades to come; what the world might look like in 2050, for example. I'll be 59 years old in 2050; perhaps I'll be a father. It got me thinking about what kind of world I might be bringing a child into. I put myself in that future reality and wrote this song as an elegy for the world we allowed to burn. I think that the responsibility we have in preserving a future for the next generation is one of the most powerful and emotional motivations for changing our own behaviour and being part of the solution when it comes to climate change. Reflecting on the issue through writing this song made me engage with it more emotionally, so I hope it has a similar effect on people who hear it.