As the full line-up for the annual Glastonbury Festival was released this week, it came as no surprise that Lewis Capaldi had bagged himself an hour-long Saturday afternoon slot on the Other Stage, the second biggest stage the festival hosts.
Sandwiched between the Smith’s Johnny Marr and Maggie Rogers, Capaldi’s first appearance at Worthy Farm is set to be unlike many other artists inaugural performance: most would find themselves playing to a few hundred at the BBC introducing stage or the acoustic stage, trying to break the scene.
The Bathgate singer/songwriter has not only broken the scene by now, but has become the scene. A prolific and almost instantaneous rise to pop stardom in recent months has turned the easy-going, all too relatable 22-year-old into a household name.
Posting a photo announcing he would be playing the festival in his trademark eccentric sunglasses and using the self-deprecating-yet-jokey tone he has come to be loved for, he wrote: “I’M PLAYING GLASTONBURY! Saturday at 4pm on the Other Stage if you want to see me bottle it and end my career”.
Dominating social media feeds with his comedic piece to cameras about life as a young artist, convincingly showing the viewer that he’s a regular bloke rather than an A-list celebrity, it’s hard to remember a time when Capaldi’s face and songs weren’t everywhere.
His rise to the top happened astoundingly quickly; less than two years ago, the singer was gigging at small, intimate venues such as Edinburgh’s Sneaky Pete’s and Fallow cafe in Manchester. Fast forward to earlier this month, when his 2019 UK tour, stopping at the Wembley SSE Arena, Glasgow’s SSE Hydro and the Manchester o2 Apollo alongside a number of other venues, sold out in under ten minutes.
Capaldi is also cleaning up in the charts and sales of his recently released debut record, Divinely Uninspired to a Hellish Extent. ‘Someone you Loved’ spent seven weeks at number one, other releases ‘Grace’ and ‘Hold Me While you Wait’ also made it in the top ten.
Compared with other young Scottish solo-artists debut albums of the past; Paolo Nutini’s ‘These Streets’, which entered the charts at number three and Gerry Cinnamon, who’s 2017 album Erratic Cinematic climbed no higher than 20th, Lewis Capaldi’s first LP has outshone even their success, entering the album charts right at the top.
What sets him apart from artists like Nutini and Cinnamon is his cleverly-crafted self-promotion and image. The songs are part of something bigger Capaldi has created; part vlogger, part artist, part relatable personality; a 21st century pop-star who has captured the imagination and attention of millennials and mums alike. So much so, nearly half a million followers on twitter and 2.2 million on instagram now watch his every move and await more videos.
This success hasn’t been without critics, however. Some have questioned the authenticity and artistic value in Lewis Capaldi’s music, with occasional accusations of mediocrity and blandness coming from critics, of which Capaldi has very few, who argue his success in music is riding on the success of his social media presence.
A recent NME article, which described his sudden rise as ‘the moment pop finally ate itself’, pointed out the endless self-promotion and publicity stunts Capaldi can often be seen to indulge in.
Affirming readers that Lewis is a ‘good dude’ and ‘a right laugh’, the article isn’t shy to slam his recent releases, brandishing his songs as “passable if you’re looking for something bland to walk down the aisle to”. However, with a sellout tour and Glastonbury on the horizon, these opinions seem to lie in the minority.
Some ponder on how thought-through his social media strategy is, questioning if this rise to popularity was meticulously planned, or if this is simply a likeable, 22 year old lad hitting record on his phone and saying whatever comes into his head. Capaldi denies there is any strategy whatsoever to his social media, saying “I post s**t and I talk to people online – that’s all I do”. He said he began to post silly videos because “there is a lot of negativity on social media”.
Music marketing agency, Burstimo, said of his social media presence: “You simply can’t buy that level of attention and engagement, this only comes with nurturing an audience and providing so much value on a consistent basis that when you do ask your audience to do something, they’re willing to cooperate”.
Capaldi is pushing all the right buttons and making all the right moves, whether it is strategic or not the slightest big thought through, continuing to outsell far more experienced artists. As he prepares for his first Glastonbury performance next month, many will suspect that he will already have his sights set on Pyramid Stage.
Lewis Capaldi's Best Moments
A few days before playing Radio 1’s Big Weekend, Lewis made a surprise appearance at a branch of Greggs in Middlesbrough, serving shocked fans and passers-by. Video footage emerged online of the singer, dressed in a Greggs uniform and sporting yet another pair of colourful sunglasses, serving customers in the packed out bakery.
The 22-year-old finished off his stint by performing a self written song titled ‘I love Greggs’ outside the shop.
Ahead of the release of his debut album, a large billboard appeared on the London Underground picturing Lewis with a towel on his head, and of course coloured sunglasses, next to the quote “The Scottish Beyonce on a London Underground billboard. Finally famous. - Lewis Capaldi”.
Lewis was nominated for the critics’ choice award at the BRITS. During his live red carpet interview, Capaldi proceeded to tell a story about an unfortunate accident he had prior to a show in Sweden.
Glasgow’s iconic Duke of Wellington Statue, and the traffic cone upon his head, has become a symbol of the city in recent years, so much so that Glasgow City Council ruled that the traffic cone could remain as a permanent addition to the statue in 2011. Earlier this month, Capaldi’s face appeared on the statue, after a fan reportedly climbed up and stuck it on. Reacting to the photo on Twitter, he wrote “someone’s put ma face on the Duke of Wellington statue. Glasgow a f*****g love ya”.
Celebrating his number one album which sold 89,506 in its first week on the shelves, Lewis appeared in a video for the Official Charts to receive his award and thank the fans for their continued support. At first, his tone is sincere and all is calm: “It makes me just so proud to have made this good album”.