The last time we spoke to Dean Lewis in 2019, the Australian singer-songwriter had just released his debut studio album A Place We Knew with several hit singles, going on to win Album of the Year, Best Male Artist, and Song of the Year (for “7 Minutes“) at the 2019 ARIA Awards. If anything, Dean proved he was one to watch, and that the hard work he put into his art would only go on to send him to greater heights still.
Two years later, and the world has been struck by a global pandemic, but we’ve been proven right. Despite the lack of concerts and tours, Dean has kept at it, with his newest single, ‘Falling Up’, a powerful track that warns of the shortcomings of fame and success, and the pressure to keep up the momentum he’s already been blessed with. The lyrics cut deep: “They said things were growing/So why do I feel like nothing at all is left?”, particularly in a time when everything seems to have come to a standstill in the pandemic. “I’m alone in my bedroom and the walls are caving in”; it’s hard not to draw a comparison to our experiences in lockdown and isolation.
“Falling Up is really about this thought that I’ll be happy once I get this ‘thing’, like if I have a big hit,” says Dean, over Zoom. “But then I get there, and I realise that I was never present for the journey, just sprinting towards the finish line and unsure what I was really trying to get to.”
“I guess you could say it’s almost a terrible coincidence that it was written pre-COVID but finds some kind of resonance now. I got a lot of messages from people saying how much it meant to them, and it feels good that I’m singing about something people have managed to connect to.”
‘Falling Up’ also marks the lead single from his forthcoming second album, something Dean says is in the works, but is still in the process of completing. “The label doesn’t want to release too much during this time, especially when we can’t tour,” he says. “Plus, even though I’m a sound engineer, I’ve had to learn to work with people overseas and record remotely, and it’s been weird to work outside of a studio; I’ve had to learn a lot more skills in this time. I’ve recorded maybe about 15 songs so far, and we’re going to record four more. I think these are some of the best songs I’ve ever written!”
“Sometimes there’s a lot of pressure. It’s so rare so find an Australian song that does well internationally, so when ‘Be Alright’ did so well, there’s always this expectation of what’s next?” he adds. “I guess successful songs, that all boils down to some good timing and some luck, but for me, I’m just focusing on writing the absolute best song I can every time.”
But how does he write ‘the absolute best song’ then? “I think I’ve developed a signature sound, and I’d say it’s best to dive into that, especially when you’re doing something that makes you stand out from the crowd,” says Dean. “When I write, I write for myself first, and for my listeners second. Some people say you should write more songs with general topics to get bigger and appeal to more people. But I think that it’s when you get personal, when I write from my own experience, that’s when it works and connects with people.”
As for how he’s been coping as a musician on the rise in isolation, Dean has this to say: “People do like my old stuff, but I want to put out new stuff, just that COVID has made releases more difficult. And I want to be able to go out there and play to people, because otherwise, it doesn’t feel real and it’s so hard to connect with your audience when it’s not in person.”
“My career path has been like a sliding door. I was still a sound engineer when suddenly I got the record deal, and in the midst of that, we’ve gone into the pandemic, and you see everyone around struggling,” he adds. “But when things open up again and get better, I do believe that we’ll learn to appreciate things so much more.”