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A Chat with Lewis McKale (19.04.23)

A Chat with Lewis McKale (19.04.23)

With a soothing folk sound, warm vocals and mellifluous tracks, singer-songwriter Lewis Mckale is the future of folk music. We speak with this talented musician about his album Self Help Tapebeing a solo musician, fears and future plans.

OSR: What drew you to music?

Mckale: From a young age I was raised on music by my parents. Music was in my blood, my dad was a musician too but I was a very shy child. I always wanted to learn an instrument but just lacked the confidence.

Music was also one of my strongest subjects at school but I dropped it at GCSE…it still remains one of my biggest regrets to this day! I eventually picked up a guitar when I was 15 and taught myself. After years of many failed bands, I discovered folk music and realized I didn’t need to be in a band! 11 years later, here I am!

OSR: What does music mean to you?

Mckale: Everything. As an artist, my songs reference different aspects of my life but then as a music fan, songs I love always remind me of moments in my life. Everyone’s life should have a good soundtrack!

Music is a gateway for me to express myself. Interestingly a song on my new album, ‘Thanks For Nothing’, was written about an old friend who cut me out of their life for no reason. It was over 10 years ago and it really hurt me a lot. I wrote this song as a way of getting closure, which I never got all those years ago. Confessional songs like these have helped me overcome a lot of obstacles in the past few years.

OSR: Is there a backstory or theme to your album Self Help Tape?

Mckale: I’m obsessed with old media, like vinyls, tapes, VHS, etc. During the pandemic, when I was writing songs for Self Help TapeI recorded a “sister EP” called Heartbetamax. Betamax is a forgotten media that I grew up with (I’m not that old but my parents just happened to have a fully functional Betamax recorder that lasted until the mid 90’s!). These days we have streaming services like Spotify, we have forgotten about physical media and with that I feel the art form of listening to albums is going to be forgotten. People would rather listen to single tracks in playlists for the sake of convenience.

I associate media with old memories. For me, making a mixtape for a friend or for a journey is like a time capsule. Especially songs when recorded off the radio. I wanted to recreate a collection of songs that represented a time in my life, especially the past few years, dealing with loss, some rejection, moving to a new location and coping with the competitive world of the arts.

OSR: Did you face any challenges when making the album?

Mckale: I started writing and recording the album at the start of 2020, I just moved to Spain and life was already challenging with emigrating during a global pandemic, life was pretty weird. Another challenge I faced was self-production, I recorded and mixed this album all by myself and learned as I went on. With the lockdown, I had enough time to learn.

I have also handcrafted all the CDs by hand, every single one! From putting together the cases to airbrushing ink over a stencil on every CD. This album is a real labor of love!

OSR: What do you hope people take from the album and your music in general?

Mckale: Despite the uptempo melodies, the lyrics are quite sad in a lot of these songs. But the general theme of this album is about how sad songs can also be therapeutic. Hence the name Self Help Tape. A lot of sad, angry and heavy music got me through the rough times in my life. It’s about understanding that someone else out there understands you.

The opening track, ‘Expectations’, is about how hard it can be to keep up with what is expected of you. Another track, ‘Second Best’, is about the feeling of being undervalued by your peers in the competitive world. Each of these tracks deals with different aspects of mental health and I have always wanted to bare my soul so that others can easily hear these songs and somehow relate to them.

OSR: If you could change one thing about Self Help Tapewhat would it be?

Mckale: The album has its imperfections but I feel it’s all part of its charm and all part of the journey. Every time I write and record new material, I always think about what I can develop for the next record. It’s all part of the process. In conclusion, I wouldn’t change anything, that is what it is.

OSR: Do you believe Self Help Tape shows an evolution in your music?

Mckale: Of course, November of 2021 marked 10 years since I released my debut EP, My Father’s Son. I honestly can’t listen to it! It’s horrible! But it does show where I started and how I got to my latest record. I do feel that I am ready to take more risks these days in terms of production and my lyrics are a lot more confessional.

OSR: What is the best thing about being a solo artist?

Mckale: Go on stage! I’ve been gigging as a solo artist for over 10 years and I still enjoy the buzz of performing in front of people. It never gets boring and it’s highly addictive. During lockdown, although I enjoyed the live streams, it wasn’t the same! I missed the atmosphere of a live audience and I especially missed chatting to people after the show. One of the best things about the past decade of gigging is all the amazing friends I’ve made over the years, I’ve met some amazing people.

I’m actually doing a small tour in the UK in May with my dear friend James D’Maxim, and I am super excited about catching up with some old friends in certain parts of the UK and hoping to make some new friends too.

OSR: What about the worst thing about being a solo artist?

Mckale: I only speak for myself here but I suppose when you’re a solo artist without a driving license, that can be a bit of a pain (and expensive), but I am one of those weirdos that actually likes public transport or sleeping on sofas or floors. So it’s hard to say what the worst thing is! It’s all good to me.

OSR: What is your greatest fear?

Mckale: Bungee jumping! Ha ha. In terms of music, I don’t have any fears. I guess the only fear I’d have is if someone told me I couldn’t play guitar anymore or write songs, that would be awful.

OSR: Do you have any future plans as a musician?

Mckale: I’m currently working on an exciting project with Tim Holehouse, we will be releasing something later this year, keep your eyes and ears peeled!

My next album is nearly done. It’s a bit different to Self Help Tape, it’s not electronic or hip-hop. It’s a little bluesy and experimental but I don’t want to give too much away right now. I’m already excited about getting that out there, something from the next record should surface in 2024. Let’s wait and see.

Many thanks to Lewis McKale for speaking with us! For more from Lewis McKale, check out his Facebook, TwitterInstagram and Spotify.

This artist was discovered via Musosoup #sustainablecurator