Edinburgh-born and now Glasgow-based, Lewis McLaughlin was inspired to take up songwriting by singer-songwriters like John Martyn and Villagers. Lewis has previously toured across Europe, keeping things in the family as he accompanied his father’s folk music project, and formed a duo with his brother. Since going solo, Lewis has been recording with Frightened Rabbits’ Andy Monaghan, who also acts as his label boss having recently released Lewis’ debut solo album, Feel The Ground You Walk Upon, via his Monohands Records imprint.
Feel The Ground You Walk Upon opens with the fittingly titled Overture, in Lewis’ case not a grand orchestral flourish but instead with delightfully subtle textures of saxophone, guitars and layered vocals that lay bare a tale of clinging onto something that’s fading away, “I don’t know ‘bout glory, I don’t know ‘bout fate, do you still want to know me? Don’t tell me it’s too late”. It’s a perfect scene-setter for an album that is perfectly subtle throughout, Lewis adorning his richly hewn vocals with an often minimal, yet surprisingly eclectic array of genres, whether it’s the acapella Summer, that sounds like a landlocked sea shanty, or the breezy guitar chords of Whole, that touches on the togetherness that can be found in the darkest moments, “if for some reason you don’t feel, like any love you feel is real, one day you’ll see, that you aren’t on your own”. Elsewhere the recent single Wolf in the Woods is a folktronic delight, nodding to King Creosote’s fabulous collaboration with Jon Hopkins, while Go With The Flow is a subtle masterpiece, all retro drum-machine tick and fluttering guitar lines as Lewis comes to terms with ageing and apathy, “I don’t know how to go with the flow, how to let it go when my bones don’t grow like they used to”. As the record closes on Moonshine, a classically Scottish folk duet with Beth Malcolm, it has the instant feeling of reconnecting with an old friend, Feel The Ground You Walk Upon is a record you can imagine going back to time and time again, taking a different turn at every fork and finding something new to discover around every corner, a gentle triumph just waiting for the world to fall in love with it.
FTR: For those who don’t know who is Lewis McLaughlin?
I am a songwriter and musician from Edinburgh, currently based in Glasgow. Coming from a family of folk musicians, I have played music from an early age with my parents and brother, around Scotland and beyond. I’ve been focusing on my solo project more recently, and am currently based in Glasgow. I have just brought out my debut album with Andy Monaghan’s (Frightened Rabbit) new indie label Monohands Records. My music is a blend of Indie, Folk, Pop and Rock with strong influences from the likes of Bon Iver and Sylvan Esso.
FTR: What can you remember about your first show?
My first proper show infront of an audience was a wholesome one. My family did a night at Partick folk club in Glasgow, then run by the Scots singer Mick West. Mick is one of my dad’s best pals, they’ve played music together for years, and I’ve always thought of him as an extra uncle. I was in P7, so was about 11 or 12? Can’t even remember what we played, probably just whatever we were working on at school at the time, but alas it was a busy night I think and I had a ball. Now I think about I’m not sure if I got paid for it, but I have my parents to thank for everything so I won’t complain. My first gig singing my own songs wasn’t quite as wholesome. Think it was in a pub in Leith, I didn’t tell anyone I was playing because I was so self conscious, and my set consisted of mainly Bruce Springsteen songs.
FTR: Why do you make music? Why not another art form?
When I was younger I wanted to be an author. I guess that dream came true in the fact that I write words for a living. Music comes so naturally to me, and it has been an enormous part of my life so much so it’s hard to imagine a life without it. My music took me to two music schools when I was in high school, it took me to Glasgow to try and make a name for myself. It landed me with Andy and is now becoming my full time job. I use music to relax, to bring myself out of a mood, to concentrate, to console and keep me company when I’m sad. That’s just few of the many things music does for me. It’s too much of a good fit to do anything else. I don’t think I could avoid making music if I tried!
FTR: What can people expect from the Lewis McLaughlin live show?
I do lots of shows solo, as taking a band out and about can be tricky. But I always put the same amount of effort into each and every show. You never know who is watching. When I play solo, expect lots of quiet moments, alongside me battering the hell out of the guitar. On the lucky occasions I take the band out with me, we are an engine of rhythmic Indie Folk! With fiddle and electric guitar swooping above the beating drums and bass, alongside vocoders, synths, intricate piano and acoustic guitar sounds. With my voice crooning over it all. Quite the soundscape! I’m very lucky to play with such amazing musicians behind me.
FTR: What’s next for Lewis McLaughlin?
I have bizarrely and excitingly made it to the final of the Glastonbury Emerging Talent Competition, so me and the band will be heading to Somerset to perform at the live final at the end of the month. The whole thing feels very surreal, Glastonbury seems like something I would maybe possibly one day manage to find a way to play at, but I have a good chance this early in my career which is incredible! Apart form that, I’ll be at as many music festivals in Scotland as I possibly can this summer, and just playing as much as possible. Hopefully get out of Scotland a bit more too. Album two is already getting written, so much more fun and games to come.
They Listen To…
Bon Iver – 22 (OVER S∞∞N)
This might be an obvious choice for some, but I still think this is one of the most beautiful tracks ever made. Everything about it, the production is so interesting, the melody is perfection, the sax parts, his voice! It still gets me every time. Any time I’m going through a rough patch, this song finds it’s way to my ears. ‘It might be over soon’
Villagers – Courage (Live at RAK)
Connor O’Brian A.K.A Villagers is probably one of my biggest inspirations. I found this live album when I was 14 or so, and quickly became obsessed. I still am to be honest. The stories he takes you on through each song are so immersive, and you just get lost in the world of his inner thoughts. The chords are brilliant too, they sound so normal considering they’re weird as anything!
Sharon Van Etten – Love More
Sharon Van Etten is a favourite of mine. She’s such a good songwriter and throughout her albums has shown such depth and variety as an artist, which is very admirable and inspiring. I think this is the track that made me fall in love with her music. It’s so simple, and her lyrics are stunning on it. She’s just the coolest human and I can’t wait to go rock out to her music in the Barrowlands in Glasgow on her upcoming tour.
Anais Mitchell – Ships
This is the last track on Anais Mitchell’s album ‘Young Man in America’. The whole album is brilliant, she paints such a clear picture in her perfectly crafted lyrics. I think to truly appreciate this song, you have to first listen to the album. It’s an epic finish musically to the album. But, as with all songs on albums, holds so much more weight when put into context of the rest of the album.
Young Fathers – Only God Knows
This one’s a bit different to my other choices. I tend to stick to Indie/Folky songwriters in my music listening, but every now and then there’s a track that sticks out in a different genre. This is such a banger, great for when you’re walking about. I think anyone that comes out of Leith and makes such an amazing expression of themselves will instantly make me love them. I just love the words and how much passion has been put into this tune.