On 'Spirit,' Leona Lewis Was The U.K.'s Girl Next Door Who Conquered The Globe. Now, On 'Echo,' She's Taken Charge Of Her Image And Her Songwriting—And Is Ready For A World Tour
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In practice, this meant telling the titanic figures of Cowell and Davis-both credited as producers on "Echo"-that she wanted a greater hand in songwriting.
She has co-writes on 10 of the U.S. version's 14 tracks (including hidden track "Stone Hearts & Hand Grenades") as compared with two on "Spirit," although the U.K. version replaces the Tedder/Lewis composition "You Don't Care" with a show-stopping cover version of Oasis' "Stop Crying Your Heart Out."
And, while Shack says that "Oasis have more resonance in Europe-a lot of middle America won't know that track at all," Lewis savvily points out that different international editions mean there is scope for repackaging the release with additional tracks further down the marketing line. The special edition of "Spirit" was responsible for 800,000 of its total U.K. sale, according to the OCC.
For "Echo," Lewis wrote a wish list of "everyone I wanted to work with." A fan of his 2008 hit "Let It Rock," she sought out Kevin Rudolf to co-write the uptempo "Love Letter." John Shanks, who has written for Bon Jovi and Kelly Clarkson, was recruited for "Broken," co-written with A. "Novel" Stevenson.
"I wanted a song that was just massive," Lewis says. "That one for me is the most vocally crazy."
Overall, "Echo" throws less of what Lewis describes as the "conventional" R&B-diva shapes. "Outta My Head," co-written by Swedish pop powerhouse Max Martin, is a Euro-club banger that, with a couple of strategic remixes, could do healthy business on next's summer dance charts. "Don't Let Me Down," co-written with Justin Timberlake and featuring him on backing vocals, is strings-drenched, midtempo, taut funk.
And then there's Tedder. He and the rest of OneRepublic guest on "Lost Then Found," while he and Lewis also wrote "You Don't Care," working on it in Tedder's Denver studio and London's Abbey Road-the latter location enabling Beatles enthusiast Tedder to channel the spirit of "Strawberry Fields Forever" in the opening bars.
"We've got a good chemistry together,"Lewis says. "He really gets me as a person."
"Leona's still learning as a writer but she has some definite God-given talent," Tedder says. "To some degree she's my muse. All that matters to us is putting really meaningful lyrics with really meaningful melodies. When she sings a song, you know you're going to be hearing it 10, 15 years from now at weddings."
Tedder first encountered Lewis at a songwriters conference organized by Davis at the Beverly Hills Hilton in early 2007. Lewis performed in front of a range of A-list hitmakers that also included, Tedder recalls, Stargate, Ne-Yo, Diane Warren and Desmond Child. By coincidence, it was the same week Tedder wrote "Bleeding Love."
"Clive is very old-fashioned and still the best," Tedder says. "That was probably the single smartest thing he did in the whole Leona album process. I think just about every hit she had from 'Spirit' came from the people in that room."
With "Echo," Lewis was determined to be front and center of that creative process. Was Cowell, the man who effectively discovered her, supportive of that?
"Simon doesn't really care whether I've written it or it's by Max Martin or Ryan Tedder," she says. "He just wants the best song. So when I sent him 'Happy,' I was like, 'I hope he doesn't actually see that I've written it.' But then he was like, 'Oh, this is amazing.' Then he found out I co-wrote it, and he was just like, 'Well done, I really rate you for that.' "
It's this evolution of Lewis, Shack says, that is key to the "Echo" campaign. "It's about movement, growth, her coming of age," he says.