You may not recognize Dean Lewis‘ name, but if you watch the American television shows Suits, Greys Anatomy, Valor, Riverdale or Shadowhunters: The Mortal Instruments, you’ve likely heard his music.
Lewis’ breakout hit, “Waves,” has been featured on multiple television shows and has been certified platinum five times in his native Australia. His followup hit, “Be Alright,” proved to be an even bigger smash and was certified platinum six times, charting in Australia, Belgium, New Zealand, Ireland, Sweden, the Netherlands, Canada and the United States, reaching No. 1 on Billboard’s Adult Top 40 chart in March.
Billboard Radio China had the opportunity to talk with the up-and-coming artist during his recent visit to Hong Kong, where he performed Dean Lewis Mini Showcase, organized by LKFtv and Universal Music Hong Kong. During the interview, he discussed his long musical journey so far, the success of his first two hits, and his current LP.
Lewis’ passion for music harkens back to when the 31-year-old was a teenager and his father showed him a DVD of the group Oasis. Riveted with how “cool” he found them to be, he began watching every Oasis video he could find online.
From that point on, he says, “I guess [it was an] obsession, writing songs. So, I would write songs … I sort of loved it and hated it in the sense that I would be like, it’s never good enough, and I didn’t think it was that good, but I always kept striving to write better and better stuff. I was always watching other people, and I spent a lot of time doing it.”
Eventually, his best mate passed a demo of his to the manager for Savage Garden. She apparently liked what she heard, because she signed him and introduced him to other managers and record labels.
Lewis also explained that it wasn’t a desire for fame or success that drove his passion for making music but that he simply, “just really liked doing it.” Additionally, not being afraid to say no to releasing versions of songs that he doesn’t like, and he doesn’t feel truly represent who he is as a person and an artist, has also contributed to his successes. He takes pride in the fact that he is in control of his own image and the music that is released.
After writing songs for other people for a few months, the aforementioned “Waves” came out, and everything changed. “It was great,” he said, “Two months in, it had like 30,000 views on YouTube, and I thought I’m never going to get to 50,000, and then it went on Riverdale and by the end of the week, it was a million.”
He describes “Waves” as: “A weird song, because it had a gigantic life in Australia but not in the rest of the world. It did a couple of little things in Germany and a few people around the world knew it, [but] the song connects with people and means a lot and deserves to be known, it just never got that big push until it made it on TV.”
If “Waves” was the song that allowed Lewis to dip his toe in the waters of commercial success, it was his second hit — “Be Alright” from his debut LP, A Place We Knew — that pushed him in head-first. The song has reached the upper echelon of music charts worldwide.
“It’s not something you ever feel is possible,” he said with amazement in his voice. “America especially is just like impenetrable. There’s Sia and 5 Seconds of Summer but that’s sort of it, nobody from Australia really has success in America, and to have a song go so well on radio, you start to have success and you think, ‘Oh God, I don’t want to lose that!'”
With the release of A Place We Knew in March and a world tour in support, it doesn’t look as though he will need to worry about his success fading anytime soon. He said he is really proud of the album and no matter how it goes, he is perfectly happy with the product.
He also shared that he doesn’t aim to have any clear or deep underlying messages with the album’s songs other than to simply tell his story. Like most songwriters, writing is an outlet to express his feelings and get out some of his emotions, something he shies away from in real life.