“It’s awfy high up here,” says Lewis Capaldi as he looks forward to returning to Edinburgh
WHEN Lewis Capaldi gets excited, he swears, and right now the 22-year-old from West Lothian has every reason to be more excited than he has ever been before, after all, for the last four weeks he has been sitting at No 1 in the Official UK Top 40 with the song Someone You Loved.
“It’s awfy high up here...” he laughs, when asked about remaining top of the pile for the best part of a month, before adding, “It’s been good man, a mad few weeks to say the least, and very hard to comprehend.
“I feel it’s happening to someone else and I’m just watching, but it’s f****n’ class.”
To say Capaldi’s rise to fame has been meteoric might seem an understatement. But is it?
He may only have released his debut EP, Bloom, 18 months ago but by then he had already been performing since the age of 11, writing his own material from when he was just 12.
Uploading recordings of himself singing in his bedroom, Capaldi was ‘discovered’ after releasing his first track, Bruises, in March 2017.
With almost 28 million plays on Spotify, it saw him become the fastest ever unsigned artist to reach 25 million plays.
The singles Lost On You, Fade, Rush, Tough and Grace followed before Someone You Loved took him to pole position.
Was that always the plan?
“I never set out to have a No 1 single, not at all man,” he insists. “For me, it has just been mental to watch it [his career] pick up steam and keep getting a bit more mad and a bit more mad...
“From the start of this year it just kicked up a gear and has been so incredible to watch.
“At this point I feel like I’m just sitting, waiting for someone to tap me on the shoulder and go, ‘Right you, that’s f****n’ plenty. Enough. Back up the road. You’ve had your fun. It’s over’.”
Despite his fame and chart success, Capaldi remains grounded. His down to Earth approach highlighted when he turned up to play a couple of impromptu gigs in the Capital over Saint Patrick’s weekend.
Explaining how they came about, he recalls, “Any chance I get to come home, I’m going to do it, even if it’s just for a few hours because it’s always good to get back.
“So we went to get into The Three Sisters, but the queue was too big, so instead we went to a nearby pub.
“One of the people who worked there was like, ‘Would you play a song?’
“I was like, ‘I don’t really know’. I don’t want to be that guy that just shows up, sings and goes ‘look at me, I can play guitar’.
“But she goes, ‘We’ll give you free entry to The Three Sisters...’
“I was like ‘F****n’ yes! That’ll do. Here we go.’
“It was lovely, they were dead nice to us and looked after us.”
Keeping his gigs intimate, whether in a small bar or a massive arena is important to Capaldi, who likes to keep the banter flowing between songs.
“That’s what all the chat in between songs is about,” he explains.
“For anyone who has not seen me live, I talk a load of shite in between the songs; absolute nonsense. That’s what keeps it intimate.
“So as the venues get bigger, if you can still have this very disarming chat, talking as if you were just chatting with somebody in the pub, that’s what keeps the intimate feel and that is what it’s all about.
“I want to talk to people on a very human level, it lets me say, ‘I am aware that this is a very f****n’ weird situation; that all of you have paid to come and see me and you’re all aware it’s a f****n’ weird situation too.
“Let’s talk about that and have a bit of a laugh’.”
It’s an approach the singer has honed since performing as a kid, when his talent was nurtured by the staff of the music department at St Kentigern’s Academy, Blackburn.
“In terms of the school’s music staff as a whole, they were very supportive,” he says. “There was me and another couple of guys in my class, one of them plays bass for me now, the other plays guitar for the band Youngblud, the best thing about that music department was that they just let us get on with it.
“We had free reign to use the facilities once we had done our classes. That really helped.”
Warming to his topic he continues, “We also had the studio for free periods, which gave us time to explore our musical interests a bit more.
“It was f****n’ good and that’s why I think music in schools is so important.”
While attending St Kent’s, as locals know the school, Capaldi could also be found playing pubs in the area.
“I played a lot of pubs and some were a bit rougher than others but once you got on, it was the same reception everywhere,” he recalls.
“At 11 and 12 years old people were like, ‘There’s a wee guy just trying to do something he loves doing.’ It was always a nice reception.
“Then when I got to 14 and 15 and started to get a bit shite, that was different reception,” he laughs, adding after a moments thought, “...but being in the pubs was a bit of a weird vibe for an 11-year-old even though people generally want you to be good at that age.”
Those early venues included The Lounge in Bathgate and The Grange in Fauldhouse.
“I never thought it was unusual, playing pubs at that age. I was just the wee guy who was shite at football but did gigs.
“I thought everybody was doing it and it wasn’t until I went to college that I realised all the people in my class, who were studying to be musicians, had never actually played live.”
Capaldi’s first gig in Edinburgh was at The GRV, now The Mash House, he also played Electric Circus and Cab Vol a few times too.
“I lived right in the middle of Edinburgh and Glasgow, so I had the opportunity to go to both,” he reflects.
“I found that in Edinburgh the crowd was always f****n’ great, there were lots of venues when I played around the city.
“The Electric Circus was a f****n’ amazing venue that I loved playing, but that shut down.
“I think it’s closures that have got Edinburgh a bit of a bad rap, but there is still an exciting scene in in the city and some unbelievably good bands like Indigo Velvet.”
Capaldi returns to the Capital on 17 May to play an intimate set at Assai Records, Grindlay Street, to mark the release of his debut album, Divinely Uninspired To A Hellish Extent.
He’s back to headline two Summer Sessions at Princes Street Gardens on 13 and 14 August, and again on 5 December when he will play the Usher Hall.
“Playing Assai on the day the album comes out will be in stark contrast to the next two gigs in Princes Street Gardens,” he observes, adding, “I’m buzzin’.”
Admitting he still gets nervous before performing, he says, “For a long time I didn’t get nervous before a gig, but now the stakes are a bit higher and I think ‘Oh f**k!’
“I had gigged so much from the age of 11 to 20 that I got to a stage where I actually got less nervous the bigger the gig. But you need those butterflies, they make you feel alive.”
As for the future, Capaldi is typically candid when asked where he sees himself in five years time.
“Retired with loads of f****n’ money in the bank,” he jokes, adding, “I just hope I go on playing music. It doesn’t matter how big the shows are, as long as I’m making a living playing music. That’s all that matters to me.
“All this stuff is beyond anything I could have imagined, so the fact is, while it is here I’ll enjoy it while it lasts, but if it only goes on another year, I’ll be alright.
“I’ll still be playing gigs and I’ll be fine.”
Lewis Capaldi’s debut album Divinely Uninspired to a Hellish Extent is released on 17 May