The young and incredibly talented Lewis Watson from Oxford is the ideal example of a student who turned his dream into a reality. Lewis started his first Youtube channel under the alias ‘Holy Loowis’ in 2010; 7 years later, Lewis collectively holds over 5 million Youtube hits. He is currently touring the world to sold-out crowds, and has also opened up for acts such as Coldplay, Benjamin Francis Leftwich, and Kodaline.
Last week, I caught up with Lewis before his performance at the Tabernacle, Notting Hill. This distinctive show marked the release of his second album, Midnight. In less than a week, the album rose to #29 on the charts, surpassing other British songbirds like Ed Sheeran and Adele. Lewis hit the music scene 7 years ago, serenading us with recognisable acoustic lullabies – a folky, romantic sound that he did best. Today we have a new Lewis Watson, one who has flourished into an incredibly soulful artist, creating catchy and powerful anthems with hauntingly beautiful melodies and lyrics.
Lewis reveals how he started his successful career on Youtube, and how he’s a lot more like us than you’d think. When asked if his Youtube username ‘Holy Loowis’ acted as sort of a ‘Hannah Montana alter-ego/secret identity’, Lewis responds endearingly with a laugh, “hahaha, not quite… I just didn’t want anyone to hear it. Especially not my mates”. Watson admits that even he was hesitant to go public with his art at first. “That channel was for me to learn guitar” he reveals, “when people actually started watching, I almost deleted everything because it just sort of terrified me”.
Many young artists today can surely relate to the apprehension that Lewis admits to. It is not an easy thing to publicise such a personal art form as music. “I’m obviously so glad that I didn’t delete it” Lewis admits, “people were so positive and nice, and I think that gave me the confidence to start actually gigging and playing to real people and not just to my computer”. Lewis quickly went from 1,000 subscribers on his channel to over 23,000; he now boasts almost 100,000 subscribers.
Often we are told that if you are lucky enough to find something you are passionate about, it’s important to realise that ambition and embrace it. I asked Lewis what advice he would give students or young artists that may be a bit reluctant to make their very first ‘public post’. “It’s tough. It’s very tough. It’s very rare that the first video or open mic or whatever it may be is the first one that propels you to stardom”. He admits, “it’s a long process and it took me years, so be prepared to sacrifice a lot of time to do this – but the reason I was completely okay with that was because I loved it. I remember when I played my first gig. I stepped offstage and said to myself, ‘I need to feel that every night because that’s such a high to me'”.
Since Lewis realised this feeling, he knew his calling in life would be very different to the standard 20-something-year-old’s. Lewis sympathises with the struggle of making your voice heard in 2017’s extremely convoluted online social network. “I was super lucky because I started Youtube when it first popped up, so nobody really knew what it all was about. When you would search for acoustic music, I was one of the first few pages to show up, because nobody was really doing it at the time”, Lewis recalls, “nowadays it’s such a saturated market that it’s very tough to shine through”. Every minute, there is an estimated 400 hours worth of video that is being uploaded to Youtube, so one can imagine how difficult it can be to be noticed in such a crowded medium.
When Lewis realised that he wanted music to be his sole profession, he knew that he needed to put in copious effort to make time for this pursuit. Lewis states, “I was doing the Youtube thing and gigging every night, and also in college as well”. As many students know, balancing the often strenuous academic pressures of student life with socialising means it is difficult to make time for personal hobbies. “It sounds so cliche but keep it up”, Lewis urges. “The only way to get better is to keep doing it. If you want to be a painter, or a footballer, or a skateboarder, the way you get better is by practising, and it’s the same with music, songwriting and singing. You need to keep doing it, and whether that’s in the public eye, or in your room – that’s fine, but you need to keep doing it”.
Lewis Watson, once a typical freshman with a big dream, is now celebrating the release of his second studio album, Midnight. “How are you going to celebrate?” I ask him. “I’m actually meeting everybody here after the show. We’re selling the album tonight, so after I get off stage I’m going to run downstairs and grab a sharpie and try and say thank you to everybody and scribble on their album”. Often musicians will charge an extra fee to have a ‘meet & greet’ before or after the show, but the delightful Lewis Watson again proves his humility through his willing interaction with fans.
“I’ve been away for a while and it means so much to me to come back after two and a half years and fill a room. It means so much that people still care, and that’s something that was honestly one of my biggest fears when I took this time out, so I want to thank people. It’s not much, but it’s the least I can do”. Throughout Lewis’ concert, it is easy to feel the connection between himself and his audience. Fans sing along to every word, and you can sense his passion unifying the entire concert hall with every sound wave. Lewis takes a break in the middle of the show to turn on the house lights and take a selfie with the audience – something he likes to do at every show. In that moment, the spotlights are dimmed, and Lewis’ bright smile is joined together with hundreds of other smiling faces. Each person is amalgamated together in a wave of commonality, and we are reminded that beyond the stage, Lewis Watson is just like each one of us. Lewis exclaims, “I love travelling the world, it’s something I never thought I would be able to do, and to be able to do it as my job is incredible”.
Lewis is an undoubtedly talented musician, who eventually built up the courage to show his passion to the world (thankfully). The 24 year old Oxford-born singer serves as a living reminder that if you are lucky enough to find something you’re passionate about, you need to make time to embrace those inner desires and follow your dreams with zealousness and fervor… and like he said, “you need to keep doing it”.
Featured image: Clash Magazine.