Thompson has made a name for himself in the industry writing and producing hit songs for artists such as Joel Corry [‘Sorry’, ‘Bed’, ‘Out Out’], Little Mix [‘Kiss My’ (Uh Oh)’], and Becky Hill [‘Remember’], but now, he’s stepping out from behind the curtain to release his own tracks.
“Hi, how are you doing? I’m Lewis. Nice to meet you” Lewis beamed on the other side of our Zoom call. The successful producer is currently sitting in a room at Decoy Recording Studios on a week-long songwriting camp. Considering how long he has been in the industry, I suppose the most important question first and foremost was to ask why he felt now was the right time to go it alone. “I’ve done artist stuff before but I’ve just not been ready. Like with anything in life, you have to throw yourself in at the deep end, feel like you’re blagging it and somehow you’ll find a way of making it work”. He explains. ‘I’m sure there have been times where you are like ‘Oh my god, I’m so out of my depth’ but you find a way of making it work.”
“I just love the process of making records, it’s the best feeling. That’s why I don’t go out clubbing and why I don’t drink anymore. I love making records so much, it’s so fun. A lot of people have asked me if I get annoyed or upset when I’ve produced a record and it has someone else’s name on but I don’t feel like that, it still feels like my record only this time it does feel slightly better.”
Speaking of how his new track ‘Enchanté’ came about, Lewis described it as a deep-house, French-speaking, club record. “The song was written with three people I really like. A guy called Simon Britton, James Essien, and a singer I have known for about five years called Clementine Douglas. I grew up listening to house music so I had two quite key influences from different places, one being France and the others being Chicago and Detroit.
I grew up listening to the old Chicago house records and got into techno which started in Detroit. I had also been a massive fan of Daft Punk and the French house movement.”
“I had these chords that I really liked which had an inner city, Chicago house sort of vibe and we then started speaking French over them to which I was like ‘This is kind of bonkers’–because we were mixing two cultures together–that’s sort of how the song came about. I like that it’s this amalgamation of cultures and key musical influences.”
Before these new solo releases, he hadn’t always been a faceless name in the industry. Lewis is probably best known for being one-half of the electronic duo Just Kiddin’. I asked him how he feels to now be creating and releasing music for himself. “I feel better about it, it feels like I’ve fallen in love with records a little bit more. It feels good. To me, the main thing that makes me feel confident and makes me want to smash it is that there are so many people around me who want me to win. I’m not unconfident but I’m not an arrogantly confident person–I’m kind of in the middle–so when there are people making you feel like you can do this, telling me ‘You’ve got to make it happen’, I feel like I want to do it for everyone else as well. I guess maybe a lot of people have seen me as the guy behind the scenes so they want me to step out and be my own entity. Also, because I’ve been doing it for so long I feel like I’ve earned my stripes as a writer and producer so people want to help me.”
Going back to the beginning, Lewis comes from a rather musical family, his uncle was a songwriter and was in a band which meant he always knew songwriting could be a viable career option. “I grew up knowing that it can actually be a job but I think that’s where the education system might be failing younger people a little bit. We’re teaching people how to read music but I don’t think that’s something that any of the people I work with day in, day out–who are actually working on music use. None of us can read music on this songwriting camp I’m on right now and not many of us are Grade 8 on the piano or anything like that but we are all songwriters and probably more successful than a session musician may be. These are real, amazing jobs so we should be educating people about them.” Jobs in the music industry are often seen as unrealistic but Lewis has proven that if you want something enough, you can make it happen.
Speaking of musical influences growing up, he explained how he grew up listening to 70s and 80s disco as his parents loved it. “It’s kind of embedded in me, my parents would be playing it every Saturday morning while drinking their coffee”.
The moment he switched from listening to the likes of Jimi Hendrix and The Cure was when he was introduced to Daft Punk. This led him to find his passion for electronic music, he recalls.
Another moment that changed things for him was during University. He was speaking to the owner of a club who said they needed a DJ and despite having no previous experience Lewis told him he could do it. The next morning he bought 50 blank CDs, burnt off all of his favourite tracks, and quickly worked out how to DJ. “It’s the best lie I’ve ever made”, Lewis said of his brazen response to the club owner. I wondered if he sees that moment as being instrumental in his journey and if he thinks he would have found his passion had it not been for that untruth. “It’s hard to say, music has always been an itch I have wanted to scratch, I’ve always played music and always loved it but I guess the process of DJing live to people and connecting with them was what really sparked my curiosity. It made me want to make my own music. It was a massive turning point, life is kind of crazy when you think one little decision sparked all of this.”
Lewis’s previous release ‘Take Me Back’ was created with iconic French DJ and producer, David Guetta. I had to ask how the pair met. “It’s a pretty mad story. I’ve written songs for a lot of other people and produced songs for others so I’ve worked with Joel Corry a lot. We did a record called ‘Bed’ together with David [Guetta] but I never spoke to him. I don’t think he fully knew what I did on that song. There were actually a few emails I saw where he was like ‘Who is this guy? Who is the random guy working on my song?.’ We didn’t like each other at first which is funny. After that song which was a big success, I wrote a song with Karen Poole and Becky Hill called ‘Remember’. I had the chords and a bit of production and then he heard it. I remember waking up one day and seeing an email from him and he was like ‘I really like the song’ so I’m like ‘Oh, okay, we’re friends now’ [laughs]. He said he was coming to London in a couple of weeks and asked if I wanted to meet up so I met him at Kings Cross Station and we went for dinner. We spoke about everything, cleared all the issues and after that got on like a house on fire. We worked together in the studio quite a lot, went out to Ibiza, I went to his house for dinner and we speak quite regularly now.”
When Lewis created the track ‘Take Me Back’ he thought he should send it to Guetta. “As soon as I did that he FaceTimed me and then the record happened. I really respect him, he’s been doing it for so long and is so passionate. He’s got such an energy about him and he’s hard to dislike. I feel lucky to work with him”.
Despite having a lot of experience himself, it must be nice to have someone who has been in the industry as a solo artist for a long time who can give advice “Yeah, I’ve got David [Guetta] and Joel [Corry]. Joel is one of my best friends so I speak to him every day, he’s an amazing person. I’ve got two amazing people to help me.”
I wondered if there were any artists Lewis would love to see remix a track of his. “I think with ‘Enchanté’ I would have loved someone like Cassius or Daft Punk to have remixed it because of the French influence. Also someone on the other side like Frankie Knuckles. Obviously, it’s not possible, but that would have been cool if we could have had one influence from America and one from France to kind of take it back to its roots.”
Moving on to talk about production software, I asked him if he had stuck with Ableton as his main DAW after coming across it very early on in his musical journey. “It’s Ableton all the way, I’ve never learnt anything else. I just love that programme, if you cut me open I’ll bleed Ableton. I work with a lot of different producers who all use Logic so we speak different languages but always find a way of translating it.” Despite having not yet used the Live feature for DJs that Ableton offers, he would love to get to that point in the future. “I would love to be playing live stuff out, that’s something that is subconsciously sitting there and bubbling away.”
Being in the industry as long as he has, Lewis has accumulated a vast knowledge of the art of production. I asked what his advice would be to somebody beginning their creative journey in electronic music. “It’s very easy to go ‘Oh my god there are 1,000 plug-ins out there and 1,000 different ways of doing something. I’m gonna learn them all’ but decision paralysis is definitely a big thing, so don’t do that! Pick five different VSTs and software’s and study them really well. Don’t get caught up in the whole ‘Oh my god there are so many different options out there’ because that can stifle you. The biggest thing I would say to do if you want to get better at music production and generally making music, is to pick your favourite songs and work out what the hell is going on. Learn the chords, listen to the melody, work out where it’s going, and re-create the drums. I’ve got some songs where I have literally got the old record to learn how to remake it all, I’ve reverse-engineered the track and done it all myself. Make stuff you find inspiring.”
With our interview drawing to a close, Lewis was having to get back to his fellow songwriters and producers so I asked what was next for the hitmaker. “In January I’ve got a record coming out with Paul Woolford and MNEK on Ministry Of Sound which I’m really excited about, I hope people will love it. I think they probably will, I love it. After that I’ve just got so many good records, I’m so excited. I don’t think I’ve ever been in a better spot in my life.”