Having a laugh and doing it himself
Lewis Capaldi Nov 10 and 11, Barrowland, Glasgow, Dec 8 Ironworks, Inverness
The video to Grace, an uplifting, sure-fire hit for Lewis Capaldi, features the West Lothian singersongwriter pole-dancing to a room of unimpressed punters. When the chorus kicks in, the deadpan 21-year-old is joined by a group of barely-dressed male performers who ripple and writhe around him. Smiles begin to crack the faces of the men watching before they shower the troupe in cash. Despite a lack of graceful dance moves, Capaldi is used to winning over audiences.
The video is witty, refreshing and fun – traits shared by Capaldi who, despite having had “an incredible, mental” year remains a down-to-earth musician used to working in his parents’ shed in East Whitburn, just a few miles away from Bathgate.
When Bruises, his first release, finally dropped in March last year, the emotional track went on to make Capaldi the fastest ever unsigned artist to reach 25 million plays on Spotify.
Now signed to Virgin/EMI, his new track swaps the dejection of Bruises for loved-up triumphalism. Grace is about, he says, “being with someone who makes any negative shit going on in your life feel irrelevant”.
Capaldi is currently in London on a photoshoot, a part of the job he says is “not for him”. When the record company told him they’d be needing to film a video for Grace, he felt dread. A solution was to make it fun.
“The record company asked some directors to come up with ideas, but none of them were ridiculous enough for me,” he says.
“I had been watching Napolean Dynamite, and at the end of it he does this dance which comes from nowhere. With this song, I don’t think anyone was expecting me to do this and it’s probably the most ridiculous thing I’ve done.”
A light-hearted attitude also informed Capaldi’s approach to opening for established heavy hitters Rag N Bone Man and Sam Smith on their recent tours.
Performing to seas of thousands was quite a different experience to playing the modest rooms of the central belt pub circuit, something Capaldi has done since the age of 12 as a solo artist and as part of “lots of indie bands”.
“It was pretty much been eight solid years of playing to no-one,” says Capaldi. “I spent most of my time in Bathgate with a population of 16,000, and the O2 Arena has a capacity of 20,000.”
He continues: “I was looking out into all these people and telling them how nervous I was. People seemed to connect with that. It was such a moving
experience and I feel like I’ve come out the other side a lot stronger in terms of what it takes to perform to a room of that size.
“I thought that, even if I never get to do it myself, to be the main act, that watching Rory [Graham aka Rag N Bone Man] and Sam do their thing every night was a useful experience. They would play long sets and would always smash it, it was incredible.”
Now Capaldi is doing it himself, beginning an extensive headline UK and European later this month. “People ask how I’ve managed to do this and I’m like, ‘I’ve just been making it up as I go along’,” he says, noting that an album is due in spring.
“Nothing I’ve done in the past two years has made any sense, so I’ve tried not to make any sense out of it. I may as well have a laugh with it and hold on for dear life.”
Grace is out now via Virgin/EMI
West Lothian singersongwriter Lewis Capalsi