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Breakthrough single Someone You Loved was 2019’s sound of spring (and summer, and autumn, and winter), a seven-week Number One and the biggest selling single in the UK that year. The following year it won Song of the Year at the Brit Awards (while Capaldi won Best New Artist), by which time it had also reached the top of the Billboard charts in the US, and been nominated for a Grammy.

And now? It’s the longest-running UK Top 10 single by a British artist ever – and, with 2.3 billion plays, it’s the fifth-most streamed song on Spotify of all time.

Lewis Capaldi

Lewis Capaldi was, finally, back home. And his head was spinning.

It was almost two years since the Scottish singer-songwriter had released his debut, an album whose blockbuster success had kept him on the road, round the world, constantly in that time. Divinely Uninspired to a Hellish Extent was a set of self-written songs that, out of nowhere – well, out of fiercely passionate word-of-mouth enthusiasm, viral streaming and wall-to-wall airplay – captivated the planet.

Breakthrough single Someone You Loved was 2019’s sound of spring (and summer, and autumn, and winter), a seven-week Number One and the biggest selling single in the UK that year. The following year it won Song of the Year at the Brit Awards (while Capaldi won Best New Artist), by which time it had also reached the top of the Billboard charts in the US, and been nominated for a Grammy.

And now? It’s the longest-running UK Top 10 single by a British artist ever – and, with 2.3 billion plays, it’s the fifth-most streamed song on Spotify of all time.

With that tailwind, little wonder, perhaps, that even before he’d released Divinely Inspired…, Capaldi was a record-breaker: he was the first artist to sell-out an arena tour prior to putting out his debut album. He sold all 100,000 tickets in 10 minutes, long before the album was the fastest – and biggest – selling of 2019, and was lodged at the top of the charts for 10 weeks. It would also go on to be the biggest selling album of 2020.

And, breathe.

Now, after all that, here was Capaldi, the afternoon before the opening two nights on his triumphant, victory-lap tour.

“I remember walking out into the middle of an empty arena with my mum and dad, thinking: oh fuck,” he recalls with a smile and a shake of his head. “It had become tangible, almost. I was now seeing the size of this. Whereas before we were always playing catch-up in terms of the tours we were playing.”

As he points out, even with their global festival run the previous summer of 2019, he and his band were playing slots “where the music had kind of surpassed our position on the bill. And we were playing 2000-capacity rooms when we could have been filling the 15,000 ones. Selling out all of these shows across the world was huge – all these people coming and they've bought tickets just to see me. And what if I'm shite? That just really played into my anxieties.”

Little did he know just how anxious things were about to get. Come March 2020, the world was starting to lock down as the pandemic took hold. The tour was abandoned and the world shut down.

That said, he was still working – he was promoting Before You Go, “only” a bonus track on his album that nonetheless was a Number One song on pop radio in America. If there were any doubts as to this brand new artist's international reach, a chart-topping hit beamed out from the pits of lockdown emphatically quashed them. It takes a special kind of song, and a special kind of talent, to do that. 

“We managed that from my mum and dad's house!” he cackles. “Which was wild. I was promoting it with Zoom interviews and home performances, but I'm so glad those are behind us because they were absolutely dreadful and I hated it. We did one that was ticketed, which now I look back at and I'm like: I can't believe we charged people for that, it was shite.”

Once a straight-talking joker, always a straight-talking joker.

Something else that stayed the same: he might have been one of the biggest artists in the world, the greatest British international success story since Ed Sheeran, but Lewis Capaldi was still a guy with a voice, a guitar, an idea.

As he puts it, for album two, the idea was simple but potent: “Let's go in and do the exact same thing.” That is, no bells, whistles, cowbells or starry featured vocalists; no ruinously expensive stays in distant studios; no guitars melted down into whizzy keyboards; and no songs about nonsense. Like it was on the first album, straight-up, full-force honesty – lyrical and musical – would be the order of the day. “I don't want to create a new sound for myself, or reinvent myself. The songs I want to write are emotional songs, about love or loss.

“So most of the new ones are about relationships again, because I'm not bored of making that music. I don't want to change and I'm loving the music that I'm making. Let's just hit that vein again.”

Presenting, then… well, we’ll come back to the title later. But presenting, for now, Forget Me, the first single from his eagerly anticipated second album, a set of songs that will catapult him into the stratosphere. It’s Capaldi – still only 25 – doing what he does best, mining the romantic hinterland for universal truths and instant, catchy relatability.

The lead track is a driving pop song written with “the TMS boys” and recalls the best of the trio’s previous collaborations, Someone You Loved and Before You Go. As a follow-up to those two international bangers, Forget Me is evidence of the consistency of Capaldi’s songwriting talent – and of the skyscraping, planet-sized ambition of an artist on the cusp of global superstardom.

“There was a thing Ed Sheeran said about coming back with something that's a bit different,” says this keen student of songwriting and of career-building artistry, “so people either love it or hate it – but they're interested to see what you come with next. So Ed came out with Sing as the first single from his second album, which was a Pharrell Williams co-write, and it was a completely different pace from the rest of the record. And then he hits you with Thinking Out Loud.

“When I looked at Adele's second record, Rolling in the Deep was a monster,” he continues, “but it also gave you a feeling of: I've not heard Adele do that before. So I thought: what's our version of that? And that’s Forget Me. It’s a line in the sand, something that says: we're back. And coming back after that time away,” he concludes, grinning “do you really want it to be a ballad?”

All that said… When Lewis Capaldi writes a ballad, the world takes notice. As much will be the case when said world hears Pointless. It was one of his earliest new compositions, written on the first day with producer Steve Mac. With Snow Patrol’s Johnny McDaid also on the session, the trio were working on one song (“which hasn’t made the cut”) when Capaldi’s collaborators mentioned a verse they’d previously begun writing with that man, Sheeran. They'd been unable to think of a chorus for it. Did Lewis want to have a look?

“Ed had that lyric, ‘I bring her coffee in the mornings, she brings me inner peace,’ " he recalls of the opening line. “And pretty much every other line of that opening was just banging.” Inspired, Capaldi got to work, writing a chorus and middle-eight. By the end of the day, Pointless was completed.

Soaring power-ballad Leave Me Slowly is a song that came at the other end of the writing period, its creative credentials speaking to the A-list stratosphere in which Capaldi now finds himself. It was begun in Sweden in December 2021 with Max Martin’s production team, with Martin and Capaldi finishing the song over Zoom.

Having been writing and across the pandemic, Capaldi had found a groove that suited him just fine. As he describes it, “most of the setup I did most of the album on is a wee interface, laptop, wee speakers, a Shure SM7B vocal microphone, and that's it. And singing on my own didn't feel as intense as doing the vocals in a big studio. It was quite a nice, relaxed feeling. I felt like I was sounding better because I was just chilled out in my own gaff.”

Moving piano anthem-in-waiting Wish You the Best proves both points: that Capaldi never sounds better than when he’s doing things on his own terms, nor writes better when he has faith in his own abilities. The song began during a writing trip to Los Angeles. The chorus came too, and "another verse but it wasn't up to much". It was only when he was back home, working under his own steam and in his own space, that Capaldi was able to nail the song. "It's something I've learned about myself: you can't expect other people to have the answers for your problems. You can't expect other people to do the work.”

Look out, too, for Haven't You Ever Been In Love Before?, a tear-stained, strings-flushed epic written about a relationship that began just before lockdown and finished in August 2020. As soon as Capaldi starts playing it live, there won’t be a dry eye in the house.

“We could have made it a straight-up ballad, no drums, and it might stream a bit better, blah blah blah,” he says, dismissively, that no-nonsense self-awareness once again out and proud. “But I do think we need that pace. Plus it's the second album – it should be a bit bigger, a bit glossier, sound a bit bigger. Actually, the live experience of the first album was a big thing moving into this record – [let’s make songs that move people in big rooms. Forget Me is another one like that,” he adds, highlighting another reason for that song being picked as his emphatic opening statement on the next phase of his career.

“A lot of this record was actually made with most of the same people who I worked with on the first one: TMS, Phil Plested, Nick Atkinson and Edd Holloway have done the bulk of the record. At least one of them's on almost every song.”

Say it again: Lewis Capaldi is, finally, back writing and singing the songs that speak from his heart. For all the craziness and intensity of the three years prior to that cut-short arena tour, after two years' enforced isolation, he’s bursting to share his music, his feelings, once again. If his first album made him an international star, with his second it’s nothing less than superstardom that beckons. And now, having put in the hard yards with the writing and recording, he’s ready to put in the miles all round the world.

“Oh, mate, that's the thing: I'm gonna do every single thing to help this record!” he exclaims enthusiastically. “I want to give these songs the best chance possible to reach people. I've spent so much time on them. And so many people have put so much work into it, not just me, but the label, the team, the guys I’ve worked with. I owe it to them, to the fans, and to all the people who helped us on the first one as well, to show up and do everything.

“I'm ready,” he concludes, champing at the bit to get back out there, “and so are the songs.”