This time two years ago, Reading-born musician Samuel George Lewis, professionally known as SG Lewis, was in his debut album era, releasing Times. Considering he had already put out five EPs since 2015, this was a moment that clearly had been a long time coming. Met with critical acclaim and containing prestigious collaborations with the likes of Robyn, Nile Rodgers, and Lucky Daye, the 10-track project (recorded between 2018-2020) took major inspiration during its creative process from the dancefloor and his nightlife experience. But, with COVID restrictions in place during the hour of its release, the purpose of Times slightly shifted, becoming music that was both sentimental and a celebration. “This album is an ode to the present moment, and the finite chances we have to celebrate it. It’s an exploration of escapism and euphoria, and the memories attached to those experiences,” Lewis shared in a tweet.
Two years later and the 28-year-old is back into the album cycle groove, releasing his sophomore LP, AudioLust & HigherLove, on January 27. With the world still on lockdown, the beginning stages of the record started to take place just weeks after Times was unleashed. But, how does the inspiration for this one differ? “The last album was very much like an outward-facing album. It was an album that was about a period in time and about people sort of coming together,” Lewis tells EUPHORIA. “Whereas, this album was kind of created in a period of sort of forced isolation as a result of the lockdown. So, I mean, while I still collaborated, while I still worked with other people in writing, it kind of felt like a more introspective approach where the context of live music and clubbing was kind of a distant memory.”
Following a nationwide North American tour in 2022 and a European leg last month, Lewis is now gearing up for his festival sets. And what better way to kick off the festival season this year than starting with Coachella?! “I never take for granted how competitive getting on the lineup is, so to be billed so high on the poster was pretty surreal,” he says with exhilaration. “The Coachella crowd has always been so good to me, and the festival has given me several career highlights, so I’m always so excited to be back there.” On his rider? Tequila, limes, and herbal tea.
“I think that Coachella represents a flag in the ground for so many artists – a moment that is often reflective of where they are at, and how people have connected with their music,” Lewis says about why the prestigious festival is always such a big deal to be a part of. “The audience knows the weight of the occasion, and that everyone will be bringing their A-game, so the anticipation around the sets is a lot higher than an ordinary festival booking. Add to that the setting of the Coachella Valley, and the magic of the desert, and you have the perfect cocktail for legendary moments to happen.”
Returning to the desert for another slice of the action, Lewis teases that this year’s set is going to be “much higher energy” than his previous ones. “I’ve definitely got some good surprises up my sleeve for both weekends. I’ve been spending some time making live edits and remixing my own records to deliver a unique experience for the live show,” Lewis adds. He admits that nerves usually kick in for these types of high-profile events. However, after recently completing a tour across Europe, Lewis is looking forward to continuing his journey on the road and sharing his latest project with the Coachella crowd.
That project, of course, is AudioLust & HigherLove, a 15-track concept album split into two worlds. AudioLust takes on a darker offering while HigherLove serves a more heartfelt purpose. “It’s about the different ways in which we approach love and relationships,” Lewis says. “‘AudioLust’ represents this infatuated, rushy kind of sometimes toxic approach to love and relationships and then ‘HigherLove’ kind of represents this more fulfilled, actualized, longer-lasting version of, I guess, real love.”
Like his previous work, the record features more major collabs with the likes of Ty Dolla $ign, Tove Lo, and Lucky Daye and sonically continues on from the futuristic-disco sound his listeners have fallen head over heels in love with. Oozing with summer anthems and songs that leave you with a lust for wondering, it’s a complete blast and joy to listen to from front to back. What is dissimilar this time around, however, is that Lewis is vocally at the forefront on the majority of the other tracks, ultimately seeing him in his male pop star era. “I think it kind of just happened,” Lewis says about how this came to be. “On the last record, ‘Chemicals’ sort of ended up being the most popular record. That kind of gave me a green light to explore my own voice and my own songwriting because out of all the amazing collaborators that I had on the first record, the song that I was singing on ended up being the most celebrated song.” The success of “Chemicals” left him feeling curious, influencing him to see how far he could explore his own vocals and his skills as a songwriter. And while some might say it’s too early to predict, he might have a modern-day classic already on his hands.
Leading up to the album dropping, Lewis openly expressed on numerous occasions that he was nervous about putting out this particular record, despite being used to releasing bodies of work for nearly a decade now. His newfound confidence as a musician not hidden behind the decks in the background was the main reason for feeling this way. “I really put myself out as a singer on this. I think that the forced isolation meant that collaboration wasn’t quite as convenient as it had been in the past,” he says. “I like to get in the room with people and kind of make music when I make music. I guess the production speed dating approach wasn’t something that existed in the pandemic world [laughs]. So, I really sort of took it upon myself to step into that role and to sing more. It’s much easier to represent an emotion that is about everyone else, but perhaps it’s slightly more uncomfortable to approach it from a more selfish standpoint.”
It appears Lewis had no reason to feel any nerves as the reception of the album from both critics and fans has gone swimmingly well, resulting in his decision to be front and center being welcomed with a warm response. Based on 10 reviews, AudioLust & HigherLove currently has a Metascore of 71 on Metacritic. In a five-star rating from The Telegraph, the newspaper deemed that Lewis is “so much more than “just a DJ,” predicting that he will be selling out and playing to stadium-size venues in the near future. NME also gave Lewis a generous score of four stars, stating that they hope to see more of his “growing confidence as a frontman in the spotlight.”
“I am overwhelmed and happy because I knew going into this release this was a different project to the last one and kind of stylistically and the purpose it serves,” he says. “The fact that I was kind of singing a lot more on this album made me more apprehensive about the reaction to it and perhaps that people wouldn’t have the same enthusiasm for it. I’m just so happy that people are understanding where the album came from and understand the change of approach too.”
Naturally, with Lewis serving as the main vocalist on the album, it instantly feels as if AudioLust & HigherLove is his most personal to date. And while that might be correct, it’s a little ironic that the most personal-sounding song, titled “Oh Laura,” which was chosen to be the album’s focus track, is actually nothing but a fictional story. “There’s no Laura. It was kind of a fun songwriting exercise,” Lewis says. “That I guess is the funny thing about songwriting, sometimes it comes from an experience, and even a song like ‘Different Light’ is definitely more personal to me. But then something that sounds very personal, like, ‘Oh Laura’ is actually, you know, just a dreamt-up scenario.”
Talking of “Different Light,” the 1-minute-41-second long song evidently isn’t long enough for listeners as Lewis has acknowledged that his followers on social media have been requesting an extended version. Does that mean a deluxe version could be on the horizon? It’s not likely but there is still a chance. “I’ve never done a deluxe version of a project and by the time the album is released and I’ve lived with it for so long, I tend to kind of jump around and move on to the next thing quite quickly with music,” Lewis explains. “Those emotions attached to the song were sort of how I felt at the time. And by the time you come to the release of an album, it’s been quite some time since the writing and since those emotions are kind of relevant.” On the plus side, though, if a deluxe isn’t on the cards, he’s already mapping out what might be the next project. “I’m kind of already thinking about the next couple of things, but whether it becomes a deluxe or whether it becomes a new project, I’m not quite sure,” Lewis continues.
Honestly, Lewis’ musical talents at this point are limitless. He’s literally a music maker who does it all. In his own work, he’s written and produced 7 projects, collaborated on tracks with a variety of people from Victoria Monét and Khalid to Clairo and Gallant, and built himself a live following through both his DJ and full band sets. Outside of his own discography, he’s also given a helping hand to some of the best music that’s been released over the past decade, producing and writing bangers for Ray BLK, Dua Lipa, Jessie Ware, Mabel, Dave, and most recently, Tove Lo.
So, who could be next? Well, if he could have everything go his way, Lewis would choose to work in the studio with Bon Iver, Charli XCX, and Sade. “It tends to come from mutual respect. As much as I like to make those lists, I very rarely kind of cold message someone,” he says. “I guess rarely I would, but, you hope that it comes from a place where they’ve heard something that they like of yours and that you are able to kind of connect once you meet in the studio because that mutual respect already exists.” Lewis confesses that the lists he makes for dream collaborations are purely so he can manifest it into existence. “Sometimes those artists might just read that and then they know that’s the way that I feel,” he continues. Given Sade’s extremely elusive lifestyle, I warn him that tracking her down will be a challenge in itself. “That’s one I kind of keep saying because I really don’t have any other idea of how she would ever know or see it,” Lewis admits. “I covered a song of hers for a session that we did a couple of years back with Spotify, making sure that love is sort of publicly displayed so that if she were able to stumble across it, she would know how I felt. Obviously, there’s no guarantee that she’ll ever see that or for her to want to collaborate, but either way, I’ll still remain an avid fan.”
One thing worth mentioning is the LGBTQ+ community and their passion for great dance music. It’s one thing to do songs with artists like Mabel, Lipa, and Tove, who all have a large fan base from the community, but to have those same fans embrace Lewis’ own material has been something he is so grateful for and honored about. “It’s something completely amazing and the energy that I receive from the LGBTQ+ community is one of the most rewarding things about releasing music for me,” he says. “There’s kind of two things. The first being that I make music that is directly influenced by LGBTQ+ communities like disco music is gay, Black music. So, you know, I’ve been heavily inspired by them. So then to receive that love back and to be able to create spaces and safe spaces for those communities to celebrate is an absolute privilege.”
“And then on top of that, as a community, they just care about music a lot and they check the credits. They care about who’s on the production and know every detail and we share that kind of enthusiasm for detail about pop music. I think that’s something we connect over as well.”
The future of SG Lewis is looking bright. Whether a deluxe edition or a new project is in the pipeline remains unknown at this point. What we do know, however, is that he has been back in the studio working on new material. “It’s very early days of kind of figuring out what the next couple of things looks like. But nonetheless, I’m already really excited,” he says. “I have some stuff on my sleeve. I’m starting a label in 2023, which will kind of be club-focused, I’m looking forward to that.”
As AudioLust & HigherLove continues to grow and get discovered by new admirers, Lewis doesn’t ask for much, insisting that he hopes that people get stuck in and find a piece of themselves within the songs. “I guess on a more kind of personal ambition level, I hope that people know more about me as an artist and as a musician, because I think that there’s, there are people that know me from the kind of different things that I do, whether it’s being a producer or a DJ,” he says.