Introducing: Roman Lewis

Across The Margin focuses its spotlight on a young, up and coming singer-songwriter from the United Kingdom, Roman Lewis…

There’s something different about UK singer, songwriter and guitarist Roman Lewis that’s hard to articulate. It isn’t his mop of curly but not too curly, medium long brown hair. Nor is it his effortless style that belies his eighteen years. He’s a tall, fair skinned, fluent in French speaking Brit with manners that would make any parent proud. Lewis possesses a gift for songwriting that feels like he’s one part Johnny Cash, one part Lindsey Buckingham, and one part poet Alan Ginsberg — with a sprinkle of Beck on top. Yet Lewis’ musical stylings are one hundred percent his own. Perhaps that’s due to the fact that the genre his music exists within is so impossible to define. Throw it into the indie rock box for purposes of categorization, but Lewis’ music is genre bending from one song to the next. Some of his songs are spoken word, some pop, some are teen hormonal-fueled sonnets, but the fact remains — the eighteen your old musician can write, and oh my, can he sing.

Imbued with an arsenal of skills — from electronics, to acoustic guitar prowess, to his stunning voice, Lewis displays restraint in constructing his music, while leaning purposefully into his work.He reaches far out places by somehow understanding that it’s okay to journey to the unexplored, and take your time getting there. Like the aforementioned Lindsey Buckingham (lead guitarist and one of the vocalists of Fleetwood Mac), Lewis knows how to make a guitar sing and cause seemingly straightforward lyrics to dance. Like Johnny Cash, Lewis tells stories from the viewpoint of a storyteller with a guitar — one replete with self-deprecating humor.

There’s decades worth of emotion to be found in Lewis’ music.. His voice —  rich, warm and always in control — glides gently over and around the melody of his latest single “Something to Care About,” off of his debut album Heartbreak (For Now). The song deliberately builds towards the chorus where he nimbly scales an octave or two. What is remarkable is that Lewis’ lyrics are universally introspective yet they persist as personal, as if he is singing about emotions that all of us feel but can’t always articulate. “Something to Care About” is not a breakup song, rather it keys in on what happens when we try to fool ourselves into thinking that we could have made someone care about us more than they were capable of doing, singing, “Did I do something wrong? / Now I can’t stop thinking back to when you said /  “When you say my name, I don’t feel the same.” Out of context these lines aren’t remarkable, but consider that the person singing the song is, “Lying in a field, gazing skyward.” I cannot help thinking that we’ve all done that sort of thing and these lyrics muse about how Lewis burnt his lover out, that she wasn’t something he cared about but maybe if he had done things differently, the relationship would have worked. At the end of the song, he deftly swaps from owning that he didn’t care about her bygone lover and that wasn’t fair to the epiphany that he needs something to care about. What gets to me is that “Something to Care About” is less an apology than the recognition of empathy, that it is possible to understand what your former lover is feeling even if you can’t feel the same way. 

Like Beck, no two of Lewis’ songs are stylistically similar. “Midnight in Paris” tethers spoken words and finds Lewis singing in both English and French. This heartbreaker makes me question if it is possible for an artist to be born with the souls of past artists subsisting within. It compels me to ponder how a person who hasn’t even lived two decades speak on love in such a wise way, and know “these things so well?” 

Maybe Lewis’ most deceptively teenaged and possibly complex song both musically and lyrically is “Ways.” The entire song, not unlike a Ginsberg poem, requires attention to every word. “There are four ways to look at life / Love, loss, addiction, strife / The first two no I don’t mind / But the last two ain’t hard to find.” The song recounts a ketamine fueled night in a club where a girl showed “me shit that my mama wouldn’t like.” There’s  spoken word, Spanish guitar, and an incredible ear-worm of a chorus to be found within. 

Lewis tours with his mom, Laura Lewis, who expertly walks the line between parenting her middle child and being his tour manager. Seeing the two of them interact at Club Elsewhere in Brooklyn while he was touring with the band Blossoms, it was easy to understand why Roman is so grounded. It’s clear that Ms. Lewis supports her son but doesn’t interfere with his artistry. She raised an artist whose lyrics and music are simultaneously sophisticated enough to speak to an audience more than double his age and entice a Gen-Z audience. 

The talent pool of top-notch musicians heading into the next decade is enormous. We’re practically drowning in a sea of alluring music already and it is hard to keep up. So many emerging artists deserve recognition, established artists should be celebrated, and pioneers like Johnny Cash and David Bowie never forgotten. But what makes Roman Lewis stand out is his ability to rock a live show and create the perfect music to listen to when you need “Something to Care About.”

The album Something to Care About is available via Bright Antenna and will appear on Roman’s second EP due for release in early 2020. His first EP Heartbreak (For Now) dropped in January 2019.

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