Photo: Lauren Luxenberg

Rhys Lewis

British singer-songwriter Rhys Lewis is in a league of his own.

Lewis has poured his whole heart into his latest single release “To Be Alive” and finds him opening up about his anxieties. With the heart-stopping music video, he takes his anxiety head-on and battles his fear of heights by sky-diving 15,000 feet.

That’s not all he has had to offer recently, however. The deeply personal single is taken from his newly-released second studio album, Corner of the Sky, which came out earlier this month. In a recent interview, we chatted with the artist about his new single, album, and much more.

Congrats on the album and track (“To Be Alive”)! How long did it take for you to write and complete its production?

I started writing for this album in late February 2020, and we finished producing and mixing it at the end of summer, early autumn 2021. So, on and off, it took about a year and half. The writing and recording processes were really separate, and we were working to tape when recording, so building all the productions took a little longer than it would have done if we’d been working with computer and using the writing demos as a starting point. But it was nice to have a blank canvas, and I think creatively quite healthy to not be too attached to any demos or ideas in that way. We ended up taking certain songs in a completely different direction because of that, which was really exciting.

Let’s talk about the music video for “To Be Alive”. It’s so wild! Where did you film it and how was that experience? I mean sky-diving? I could never!

It was one of the most surreal and intense experiences of my life. Such an adrenaline rush. I’m scared of heights too, so I definitely had to psych myself up to do it. The idea to do it for the video came to me quite last-minute, so we ended up having to go to Seville for the jump. The weather in the U.K was too temperamental so not many places were in operation by November (such a boring sentence, sorry haha). Anyways, the experience was completely unique and affirming. I had a pretty tough year personally in 2022, so jumping out of that plane was a symbolic ‘letting go’ of a few things that had been weighing on me. It acted as a bit of a reset mentally, so even though it was just a music video, to me it meant a lot more than that. Definitely do it! I did some reading of a few stats the night before the skydive, turns out you’ve got more chance of dying from choking on your lunch or being killed by a shark than you do from skydiving. All reward, no (well, a small amount of) risk!

On a more serious note, this song focuses on your anxieties. How did you battle them? What advice would you give to fans having those same feelings?

I still struggle with anxiety, it’s something I’m slowly learning how to deal with. Some days I’ll wake up feeling nervous for no reason. When I feel that way, my thoughts can be very negative, narrow and overwhelming. It’s easy to let them spiral and lose perspective on reality. So the narrative in your head can end up warping what’s actually going on in life. Exercising, cooking, reading, playing or listening to music, such simple things really help me get rid of the nervous tension that, in an anxious person, has just become a habit of the mind to produce. So by doing more of the simple things as often as possible, I’m giving my mind and body the time to relax and be peaceful. So that would be my advice, recognise the things in your life that help you feel less anxious and prioritise doing those things, and if you can – make them habits.

You have a tour coming up soon! What can people expect from a Rhys Lewis show?

Good question – it’s been a while since I last played my own shows, so I think I’ll be finding this out with the crowd in Dublin on the first night! I’m lucky to have an incredible band around me; amazing musicians I’m lucky to also call friends, so the shows are going to be really special for me personally. And I hope the crowd picks up on the energy we have playing together on stage. We worked hard in rehearsals to create some epic moments and some intimate ones, so I hope the show feels as exciting to watch as it does to play.

How do you stay grounded in a difficult situation?

Breathe! If I find myself getting overwhelmed or emotional in a situation, I can always trust a few deep breaths to help me get my head back and feel more grounded. When I’m on stage and I feel nervous or uncomfortable I try and take a few deep breaths and relax my shoulders, return to my body and try and settle myself, remember it’s just a moment and I’m in control. Sometimes I realise how shallow my breathing is because I’m tense or nervous and it only takes a few moments of observing your breath and taking a few big lungfuls of air to feel calmer.

What are some of your goals for 2023?

I don’t tend to set goals, but maybe I should! That can be a goal in itself, to set myself some more intentions for the year. I’ve just moved into a new studio, so I’d like to put some time into making that an inspiring creative environment to write the next album in. I also became an uncle last year, twice, so I’d really like to prioritise spending time with my brothers and my new nephew and niece. More immediately, I want to embrace the upcoming tour and be as present as possible throughout that. Travelling and playing shows with great friends is something I don’t get to do very often, so it will be a special few weeks to soak up for sure.