Dean Lewis on His Breakthrough U.S. Hit 'Be Alright' & Selling Out Tour Dates: 'It's Getting Insane'
The Australian singer-songwriter talks about the “amazing” U.S. success of his single & upcoming debut full-length album on the Pop Shop Podcast.
“You kind of grow up hearing that this could never happen from Australia,” Dean Lewis says of finding American success with his single “Be Alright.” “There’s only a few [Australian] artists that can do anything [here] … It’s blown all our minds that it’s starting to connect over here and working the charts. It’s amazing.”
The Australian singer-songwriter is riding high on Billboard’s charts with “Be Alright,” his breakthrough hit song in the U.S. The track has reached the top five of the Adult Pop Songs airplay chart as well as the top 20 of the Pop Songs airplay tally and the top 40 of the Billboard Hot 100. Meanwhile, Lewis himself has reached No. 2 on Billboard's Emerging Artists chart.
"Be Alright" previews Lewis’ first full-length studio album, A Place We Knew, which is due March 22 via Island Records. It follows his six-song EP, Some Kind of Different, in 2017.
“I’m really proud and excited about it,” Lewis tells the Billboard Pop Shop Podcast of the forthcoming 12-song set. “I’ve been able to write this album from what feels right.” (Listen to his full interview, below.)
Before Lewis whittled down the album to its dozen songs -- which include "Be Alright" and his new single "7 Minutes" -- he started with quite a few more tunes that were in the running for the set.
“I actually did have about 60 songs,” he says, “but … there were always ones that held their hand up. These are the ones.”
Further, he says, “For the album, I wanted to make sure I wrote half of it just myself, with no co-writes.” (Lewis co-wrote “Be Alright” with Jon Hume.)
“You know, I started out writing songs for other people and I just wanted to prove to myself that the songs that I write on my own are as good as the other ones. And I feel like they are.”
Speaking of songwriting, Lewis signed his first publishing deal back in 2015. Since then, how does he think he has grown as a songwriter? “I didn't know who I was [back then]. You know, song ideas have always come down quite easily. … This is for me [what] I call my second phase of songwriting. … The first phase is when you learn to take down ideas. The second one, for me, which might sound really obvious, [but] it took me a few years, was like, 'Oh, you can actually take this melody and idea and craft it into any message that you really want.' That was definitely something that I've really improved on. … But I've definitely changed a lot as a songwriter. I think I know who I am. Especially I know when a song sounds like me.”
Surprisingly, Lewis didn’t start writing and playing music until he was 18 or 19 (“I started quite late”). Though, he had been taking music lessons much younger, at the request of his father.
“My dad always had music playing. He had guitars around. We loved The Beatles. I'd be George [Harrison] and he'd [his brother] be John [Lennon]. So we always had music growing up. He got us lessons at, like, 11 [years old]. … But it wasn't until I was 18 when I was like, ‘I want a guitar. I want to do this for me.’”
Fans will be able to see Lewis out on the road on tour in the U.S. and Canada through March 17. He’ll then head over to Europe in April, and continue touring for months afterward.
“It's almost like a year we're going to be [touring] nonstop. Which is incredible. And the shows in Europe… for me, they're big. Like, 1,500-cap [venue] in Amsterdam. It's like, 'I don't know anyone in Amsterdam.' And we sold that out in like 48 hours. It's getting insane. We're going to be on the road for a year and I'm really excited to see where it ends up, because I've only put out two songs from the album, and an EP. So… no one really knows what I've got in store and what's gonna happen. I don't know what's gonna happen.”
Also in our interview with Lewis, he sings a bit of the first song he wrote, discusses how Oasis inspired him as a musician, how he plans to stay healthy on the road this year, and the feedback he’s received from fans about “Be Alright.”
In addition to the interview with Lewis, Pop Shop hosts Keith and Katie discuss their thoughts on the upcoming 2019 Academy Awards, including who they think may win the best original score and best original song categories, as well as what they are looking for in some of the performances on the show. And, in the regular Chart Stat of the Week feature, the duo recall when the Oscars met Dolly Parton at the top of the Billboard Hot 100 in 1981 with her Academy Award-nominated tune “9 to 5.”
The Billboard Pop Shop Podcast is your one-stop shop for all things pop on Billboard's weekly charts. You can always count on a lively discussion about the latest pop news, fun chart stats and stories, new music, and guest interviews with music stars and folks from the world of pop. Casual pop fans and chart junkies can hear Billboard's senior director of charts Keith Caulfield and deputy editor, digital Katie Atkinson every week on the podcast, which can be streamed on Billboard.com or downloaded in Apple Podcasts or your favorite podcast provider. (Click here to listen to the previous edition of the show on Billboard.com.)