Lewis Capaldi: I don’t think I’m a pop star

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Media captionLewis Capaldi on fame, funny posts and sad songs

For a man with the biggest sad song of the year, some of Lewis Capaldi’s social media posts have been among the funniest.

There was the time when the Scots singer-songwriter – who topped the charts for seven weeks with Someone You Loved – filmed himself walking up and down Hollywood Boulevard in search of a plunger after having blocked his own hotel toilet.

Then the one where he described his Brit Awards Critics’ Choice nomination as, ahem, “one for the Tinder” profile.

And who could forget the 22-year-old posting footage of himself singing opera in the shower in a pair of daft sunglasses, before declaring deadpan into the camera: “I wish to be taken seriously as an artist.”

Now, his forthcoming debut album, Divinely Uninspired to Hellish Extent, may have a similarly droll title, but don’t be fooled. Contained within is an emotional rollercoaster of a pop record; piano-driven and packed with power ballads about breakups, heartache and insecurity.

How then does one begin to reconcile Lewis, the perennial joker, with Capaldi, the serious chart-topping recording artist?

“No-one is in one mood all the time, d’ya know what I mean?” he says from the exec suite of his west London hotel (which incidentally is also experiencing plumbing issues today).

“Sometimes I want to talk about plunging a toilet; other times I have thoughts and feelings.

“It just so happens that writing songs about my emotions is much easier to do than writing about going to the toilet.”

“One of them is much more listenable,” he adds, with comic timing.

Puppies and spaghetti

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Lewis Capaldi

Capaldi is talking to the BBC at the start of a day of press which will later include a magazine interview conducted while throwing axes.

He’s game for most things it seems, except that is being constantly labelled by the music press as “the male Adele” or “the Scottish Ed Sheeran” (“I’ll stick with just Lewis,” he says).

When it comes to songwriting though, the light-hearted soul – as anyone who saw his Napolean Dynamite/Alan Partridge-inspired pole dancing stripper video for lead single, Grace, will testify – finds he’s naturally drawn to the darkness.

He’s learning to embrace it though.

“When you’re happy you’re thinking about puppies and spaghetti… just enjoying being happy.

“You’re not nit-picking at why you’re happy so it’s much more interesting to write about the stuff that makes you sad.”

“That’s quite bleak,” he notes to himself, with a wry smile.

“I think most people should try it because it’s bloody great and it alleviates all this pressure.

“You’ll be a much happier person if you talk about what makes you sad.”

Not genetically modified

In a pop music world of Instagram picture perfection and righteous Twitter indignation, Capaldi’s regular public splurges offer fans a totally unfiltered account of his ordinary off-stage existence,

That’s how he hopes his music comes across too.

“I don’t think I’m a pop star necessarily,” he declares, “I don’t think I have the poise or grace or air about me for that.

“I’m a singer – I’ve definitely done that a lot!

“People just like to know where their stuff is coming from in 2019, whether that’s food or meat or vegetables – people want to know it’s not genetically modified and they want to know that music is coming from someone that talks about going to bathroom as much I do.”

Is there anything he wouldn’t share with us all?

“I had a haemorrhoid the other week and I took a picture of that I probably wouldn’t put that on the internet, or any nude pics for that matter.”

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Lewis Capaldi

His ability to remain grounded and sing songs of such sweet sorrow with a straight face will be put to the test with a string of festival dates this summer and a sold out UK tour in November.

Such was the demand for it that’s he’s already upgraded to an arena tour for 2020, where fans, who are fellow sufferers of anxiety, will be able to get support.

The only complaint so far with his newly-packed schedule is not being able “to play Playstation in my pants” quite as much as he used to.

The video for Someone You Loved helped Capaldi to finally meet a long lost famous family relative for the first time, in the form of Doctor Who/The Thick of It star and “lovely guy” Peter Capaldi.

Well not quite, as the West Lothian singer corrects me: “He wasn’t long lost, I’d just never met him! It wasn’t like [holds arms out] ‘Peter, I’ve found you…’

“But it’s not everyday you can say you’ve got a genuine world class actor in your music video, especially when the only other serious music video we’ve done before have been me stripping.”

The album sees him shift from his indie guitar pub singer roots, which were largely inspired by another famous Scottish singer of Italian heritage; Paolo Nutini, and Capaldi saves one of his favourite lines for last on final track, Headspace.

I never thought a lie could sound so sweet / Until you opened your mouth and said you loved me.

“[There are] little nuggets like that to make you as sad as humanly possible,” he jokes.

Another track, Forever, sees him channel the spirit of, well, spirits themselves, to excuse a late night phone call.

Out of my mind / I don’t remember calling / Had too much tonic wine / Sometimes it does the talking.

Then there’s Fade, “a morose love song” about “the bittersweet feeling of realising that you’ve fallen in love,” because “now I’ve got so much more to lose” he explains.

Stressful and boring

While the BBC Sound of 2018 tip loves playing his songs live (“there’s no greater compliment than someone paying money to see you”), the recording of the album itself sounds like it was an equally bittersweet experience.

“There’s nothing funny about recording an album,” reveals Capaldi, as if to debunk another showbiz myth. “It’s stressful and boring – I’ll tell you that.

“Singing the same line 47 times, just to be told ‘you know what, I think we’re gonna go with the first take; there’s just this raw emotion in it’ – it drives me up the wall!

“So we tried to do that as little as possible.

“The interesting thing I found was, you start off loving the song and when you write it there’s this excitement in you and then you start arranging it and adding instruments in and you’re like ‘oh this is incredible’ and then you start recording it and you start to hate the song completely!

“What was interesting for me was [adopts cod Transatlantic accent ] ‘it’s a bit of a journey.’

“It’s a process to get from this amazing feeling you had about the song. You go through rigmarole to get back to that initial feeling.”

Capaldi appears to have come out of the emotional album ringer with his sense of humour fully in tact.

He says he’d never do a comedy show per se – a la Bafta-nominated rapper Big Narstie – because “I’m only funny in 15 second bursts.”

Before heading off to consider his next humorous post, he leaves us with some sound listening suggestions for when sadness next strikes.

“I think being melancholic on a Sunday is underrated,” he proclaims.

“If it’s raining outside, the light pitter-patter of rain on the window… Just enjoy it, put on some sad music – my album! – and ride it out.

“You’re gonna have a cracking time.”

Divinely Uninspired to Hellish Extent is out on 17 May.

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