Sitting in his Montreal hotel room, Australian singer-songwriter Dean Lewis is a bit husky. The previous night, he played “a big show” in Boston, which led to an impromptu post-concert singalong with fans outside the club.
Fans have had this rabid response to his honest, thought-provoking music. He’ll showcase his music — most notably his new single “Hurtless” — at the Marquee Theatre on Sunday, June 12.
“I think my songs are always very personal,” Lewis says via Zoom.
“I like to write very specific stories. I get right down to the scene I’m describing, like reaching for a hand or walking through a front door. A lot of people don’t like to do that. Their songwriting is more abstract or more metaphorical.”
“Hurtless” follows the road of honesty, as it is an emotional replay of a relationship’s end. It balances the despair of a breakup with a feeling of hope and a brighter future. For his music, Lewis is inspired by Bruce Springsteen, among other writers.
“Like ‘Dancing in the Dark’ by Bruce Springsteen, I love that he’s painting a picture through very specific things,” he says. “So, I try to tell stories and all my songs give raw, raw emotion.”
Writing songs like “Hurtless” takes Lewis on an emotional roller coaster. They’re cathartic while he’s creating them, and he’s admittedly “excited about life.” When he moves on, he falls victim to stress during the recording process.
“Then I think it was good to get my emotions out,” he says. “I write every morning in my notebook. I find that really helpful, but this is how I express stuff. It’s hard to let them go, but once I let them go, I never listen to them again at least for a year.
“There’s a real power in doing something and focusing on it so much and putting absolutely everything into it, and then listening to it 1,000 times and making it the best you can, then letting it go. It becomes dead to you.”
Three days ago, Lewis wrapped up his latest album, which journeys even further into his psyche. The new music, which has yet to be scheduled for release, is the perfect continuation of 2019’s “A Place We Knew.”
“I write music for me, to be honest,” he says.
“I want to get it out. I’m bad at so many styles of music. I’ve tried different things. I’m good at this one little thing. I’m going to keep going down that lane and seeing how far I can push it. This album is more ‘me,’ I think. I’m defining my little thing, and I’m really proud of it.”
The COVID-19 pandemic afforded Lewis the time to look back and see what worked from “A Place We Knew.”
“I thought, ‘Well, how can I implement some of that?’” he recalls. “I think it’s an evolution of what I do, and if people like what I do, I think they’re going to like this.”
Lewis admits he was a little hesitant to share his music. The 34-year-old inked his record deal in his mid-20s. He says there are two kinds of people: those who think they’re great and artists who are unsure.
“(The latter) needs a big team of people to tell them, ‘You’re good at this, man,’” he adds.
“My friend passed a demo on to someone who is now my manager. As soon as I felt the first rumbling of attention and decided to dive into it. I read books, and I read enough about people who were successful. They knew that when the opportunity came, they never felt ready, but you just do it.”
Before his major label showcase, he sat for 10 minutes in his car, nervous because he couldn’t play piano that well and was average on guitar.
“I never really played in front of people, apart from open mic nights,” he says. “I knew that I had to say yes.”
Lewis thinks about the previous night in Boston. Although it was uber successful, he had to tell himself he could do it.
“We’re all waiting to be ready, unless you’re one of those delusional ultra-confident, narcissistic people,” he says. “They can bluff their way through anything. But ‘normal’ people just have to say, ‘Yes. Let’s just do it.’”
The shows have worked out in his favor — much to his surprise. Lewis has been smiling because of the turnout.
“I didn’t know we’d have this many people turning out at the shows, because I haven’t had a lot of heat in America for a couple of years,” Lewis says.
“But there are so many people singing all the songs. There’s lots of energy. I play a couple of songs on piano and then I bring everyone in. It’s just a great vibe. It’s just amazing.”
Dean Lewis w/Forest Blakk
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Sunday, June 12
WHERE: Marquee Theatre, 730 N. Mill Avenue, Tempe
COST: Tickets start at $27.50