SG Lewis Interview: Playing Coachella, Creative Vision, Pre-set Rituals + More
The first thing Sam does when he sees me is hug me. He has a warm energy to him and since like attracts like, it makes sense why the crowd he drew at Coachella was so beautiful and chill. I had the opportunity to sit down with SG Lewis before his set to ask him a few questions.
You’re playing later today. How long have you been preparing for this performance?
Honestly, mentally since three years ago. Since I was here. We did a load of rehearsals about three weeks ago to run through the set, [and] add some new songs. We’ve been touring so much recently which acted as preparation as well. Honestly, since I found out I was playing I’ve been mentally preparing for it. Just excited in general.
When did you find out?
On tour in America. We were on the tour bus. I was really hoping we’d get on the lineup this year. When we found out we were in the middle of nowhere, driving through the desert. It was 3am and had just played a show. My manager texted me and we were all going crazy on the bus.
How fitting that you were driving through the desert and now you’re playing in the desert.
Yeah, I spend all my life in deserts just driving around.
Sounds like a good life!
It’s a good life. I’m having a good time.
Can you give us the low down about what you have in store for the fans today?
We play the music live. There’s five people on stage. It’s electronic music we create in a live environment which is something I’m really proud of. I have a special guest that I’m not going to reveal just yet. The set moves through the three parts of this concept album that I’ve done. Dusk, Dark, and Dawn are the three parts of this concept record and the show itself moves through the three different phases as well. So, I’ll take you on a journey for the 45 minutes, hopefully.
Can you talk about your creative vision behind Dusk, Dark, and Dawn?
Yeah absolutely! For a while I started to make an album where it was a producer focused album and if I am singing on some of the tracks, the production has always been the focus. Before I had a concept or central vein, it just felt like I was making an album for the sake of it so I spent a bit of time thinking about the album I wanted to make. And I had this idea to make an album that followed the trajectory of a night out. Because I feel like nightlife and club culture has been such a huge part of many of my favourite experiences. It’s so easy to dismiss nightlife and going out as this sort of shallow thing.
That’s really cool! Do you know when Dawn is going to be released?
I’m finishing it up this week. It could be two weeks time, could be four weeks. But it’s really imminent, so very soon.
As you were saying, you’re moving through a night out. What was the creative vision behind Dawn?
The end of the night, the sun is rising, made it back, and cooling off after the energy of the night out. I just remember when I was at University of Liverpool we’d go back and we’d always have a playlist of songs that brought us down from the evening and maybe drifted us off into sleep. So Dawn represents that lowering in the energy.
Do you have any pre-set rituals that you do?
We, me and the band, have this one thing that we’ve done since the first show where we all put our hands in the middle and say, “One, two, three! Super psyched, super ready!” [Laughs] It’s like some High School Musical shit. But for some reason it’s every single show. If we don’t do it then we have a terrible show.
You’ve collaborated with some impressive names like AlunaGeorge, Col3trane, and Gallant. What do you look for in a collaborator?
I’m a fan of music before anything else. 99% of the time, all of the time, the thing I look for in a collaboration is being a fan of someone’s music. Then on top of that, seeing something in their music that I feel like I could add to. If I see something like, “Oh, that would be so cool if that person did this kind of track,” I’m fortunate enough to be in a position to make that happen. There’s people that I’m a fan of that I might not necessarily feel that way. I might see something and be like, “That’s perfect in its immediate form.” Not that those other artists aren’t, but it’s just seeing something and knowing something I have can add to that. Or a collision of those two worlds could create something new and amazing. Always a fan first and foremost.
Is that how your track with G-Eazy came about?
Ah! That’s actually a slightly different story, so there we go, it was 99% of the time. With G-Eazy, I was aware of his music and heard some stuff. But he found me on Twitter and followed me. He hit me up and said, “Hey, I love your track ‘No Less’”, which we’d already released, and told me the story of how that song had personally connected to his life. And he said, “Look, I’d love to flip it and try a version” and I’m a collaborator myself so I was like, “Yeah, I’d love to hear what you’d do with it.” I was a fan of what I’d heard so sent him the track and when he sent it back, he really understood the lyrics of the song and had done what we just discussed. He added something to the track that wasn’t done before. That was really cool and a really unexpected collaboration but I think it turned out really great and it put the song in a different space. Something that’s been out for quite a while and it was kind of cool to have new life breathed into that.
In terms of music creation, do you have a favourite genre that you like yourself like to stick to? Because with G-Eazy it’s a little more urban but with AlunaGeorge it’s more house/pop.
Creation wise, I jump all over the place in terms of genres. Sometimes I’m like, “Is it detrimental? Should I be doing one thing?” But it’s like different moods. You might wake up one day and feel sad and you might wake up one day and be happy. For me, I might wake up one day and feel like making 80’s synth pop or I want to make disco. There’s no reason now that you shouldn’t make the music you feel like making. I kind of go with what I feel like making at the time.
Out of your tracks, do you had a favourite production?
Ooh! I’m not meant to say yes but I’m super proud of ‘Aura’. I love ‘Aura’. Usually by the time I’ve released something, I’ve mixed it and can’t stand hearing it anymore, but for some reason I still really love ‘Aura’. On a production level, maybe ‘Blue’ off Dawn. Just because I’m singing on it, I vocal produced it, I produced it, I wrote it, so I just feel really proud of everything in it. It does some crazy production stuff in the second half where it shifts down into this different universe. I’m super proud of that as a production too.
Do you have a creative process that you go through?
It usually involves a lot of coffee and it always starts with chords. 99% of the time it’s sitting down at the piano and finding something that makes me feel something before anything else is added. If the melody, the chords, can stir something in you before there’s the drums, the sounds, then that’s always the trigger point.
So you’re looking for the emotion?
Yeah, absolutely. It’s emotion over sonics, any day. It’s finding something on the piano or even singing along and it might trigger a thought like, “Oh that’d be great,” and then it’s take that from the piano into beatworld and build it from there.
After our interview, Sam was whisked away for press photos before his set. I went to his show and found myself saying to my friends, “Wow, this performance is so good,” a fair few times. He looked like he was having the best time while on stage. He was wearing the biggest smile during his performance, as if he knew Mojave reached its capacity while he was playing. SG Lewis is an incredible, multi-talented, and passionate individual that I hope to be able to catch up with and see perform again in the future.
SG Lewis most recent release is 'Throwaway' together with Clario