Australian singer/songwriter Dean Lewis opens up about his hit song “How Do I Say Goodbye,” the creation of his latest album ‘The Hardest Love,’ and the hiatus that gave him a new boost of inspiration.
Stream: “How Do I Say Goodbye” – Dean Lewis
The pressure is huge. I didn’t think I realized at the time when ‘Be Alright’ was out how much pressure I was under to follow it up with something great. I think I felt the effects of that a lot more this year. For the last four years, I’ve been sprinting so hard to beat that or to create something great.
Dean Lewis has been known for his deeply vulnerable and relatable songs since the beginning of his career.
With tracks like “Waves” and “Be Alright,” Lewis has built not only a fanbase but a community of people who feel understood. His gut-wrenching and powerful storytelling has captivated hearts, and now he’s coming back with a bang.
Lewis was thrown into the limelight from very early on. A lot of pressure comes along with the spotlight Lewis had in his early career. Going forward, he wanted to get everything right when releasing whatever he was going to release next and live up to the hype he had already created. Although it took longer than he expected, he accomplished that and more with the release of his song “How Do I Say Goodbye.”
“I think the mistake I made was taking too long with things and I’m trying to fix that now,” Lewis said. “You can’t take that long to put out music now. You have to keep going. I’m so thankful that ‘How Do I Say Goodbye’ sort of brought it all back because just before ‘How Do I Say Goodbye’ everything was dropping. The songs weren’t really connecting. I was actually going, ‘Oh, did I miss my moment? Is it all over? Are my fans still here?’”
His fans were still here and eager to hear what Lewis had next for them. After the release of “How Do I Say Goodbye,” his shows started selling out again and everything came back. “It was a really weird time to see and a good lesson of, ‘No, you gotta keep rolling man,’” he said. “Now that it’s back, I’m like, ‘You can’t stop, you can’t stop.’”
So how do I say goodbye
To someone who’s been with me for my whole damn life
You gave me my name and the colour of your eyes
I see your face when I look at mine
So how do I, how do I, how do I say goodbye?
Lewis wrote “How Do I Say Goodbye” for his father who was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer. He was able to play the song for his father, who is now healthy again. Released on September 2, 2022, “How Do I Say Goodbye” has surpassed 73k uses on TikTok, over 200 million streams on Spotify and went platinum.
“I didn’t think I realized at the time when ‘Be Alright’ was out how much pressure I was under to follow it up with something great,” he said. “I think I felt the effects of that a lot more this year. For the last four years, I’ve been sprinting so hard to beat that or to create something great.”
Not long after the release of “How Do I Say Goodbye,” Lewis released his latest album The Hardest Love on November 4, 2022. He said the album reflects the time during his hiatus and everything he’s been through. The album tells stories of heartbreak, friends, almost losing his father and reflects a time of figuring out who he is as a person and artist.
The Hardest Love is a refreshing reminder that life is full of pivotal moments that make us who we are.
He puts the hardest things a person can go through in such beautifully articulated lyrics. He takes a heartbreak and writes, “‘Cause we are drowning above the water in a movie drained of colour/ Luckless lovers with a past that’s just a string of small disasters,” in his song “Small Disasters.” He takes the idea of finding oneself and writes, “Why do these birds fly into the breeze?/ Why do the open arms of someone who loves me make me wanna leave?/ Why is it so hard to see what I could be?/ Why can’t I open up my heart and fill the emptiness inside of me,” in “Into The Breeze.” The Hardest Love is the epitome of comfort, making you feel like you are seen.
Looking forward with his music, Lewis is excited to enter a new direction. He can’t say much about the new music he’s been teasing on social media, but he wants people to know he’s going in a happier direction than “How Do I Say Goodbye.” He also just announced his US tour. You can catch him live within the next couple of months in Europe, the UK, Canada and the US.
When talking about what he hopes his fans take away from his music, he said, “Hopefully, they find something that they can connect with that makes them feel less alone or can make them feel like they have a voice in stuff.”
You can listen to “How Do I Say Goodbye” and The Hardest Love anywhere you listen to your music now! Be on the lookout for Lewis’ upcoming music, releasing in the near future.
‘The Hardest Love’ – Dean Lewis
A CONVERSATION WITH DEAN LEWIS
Atwood Magazine: I want to know mostly about the new music you've been teasing on social media. In one post, you even said you're excited to take this new direction because “How Do I Say Goodbye” has been making your fans cry for six months. What are you most excited about for fans to see in this upcoming chapter?
Dean Lewis: It’s a weird time, because we have this one song we’re gonna put out. Then, I’ve written this other song that’s a duet vibe. I’m not gonna say anything about it, because they’ll kill me. Now we’re talking about, “Do we switch? Because it’s incredible.” I like the song. I’m pretty harsh on my songs, but it’s really exciting. So, it’s like I’m going in one direction. And then, well we just did this thing. Do we swap to this one? It’s very stressful in the best possible way. Basically, I’ve written so many songs. I’m so proud of them. I write all these songs, and then it almost occurs when you have a song that does really well, it slows everything down for a long period of time. Which is incredible, because you want to have one song that does well. It’s the goal. But it just kind of extends things. What it means is that I’ve had all this time to just keep writing stuff. I’ve got so many songs I want to put out, and I’m really excited about their coming. It’s very exciting.
“How Do I Say Goodbye” is such a beautiful song. The videos of your fans’ reaction, your dad's reaction and the story as a whole has created such a community. How has the outpour of love been from that song?
Dean Lewis: It’s been incredible. A life changing moment. Straightaway, if you go to the YouTube comments, or at my shows, people tell me their stories. When I put out my song “Be Alright” four years ago, people would come up to me and they would say, “I got cheated on as well.” They just tell you these stories about seeing a message on a phone, without even really knowing me. That was the only time I’d ever noticed that people will just come up and tell you their stories. Only with that song. That was the only one that was a hit. And then with “How Do I Say Goodbye,” right away, immediately, people just come up. They would tell me in the comments and at shows about someone they’d lost, their mother, their friend, their dog. They just tell you their stories straight away. It happened so straight away that I knew it was special because that doesn’t happen unless people really deeply connect to something. So that was really a big indicator that the song, right away, was going to connect on a bigger scale. But it’s just been incredible. It’s blowing my mind. It’s been just the best. The best thing. Also, very sad. Hearing all these sad stories, it’s brutal but it’s good that people have an outlet.
I saw you created the album The Hardest Love around different cities in all parts of the world. How was the creation process for that?
Dean Lewis: It was great. I did stop in Nashville, LA and Australia. It was good. It was kind of during COVID. I got an Airbnb in Malibu and recorded a song. It was really cool, because I just had this huge song and finished touring. Then COVID hit and, for me, it was like, “Oh, cool. I get a break.” It’s awful. But it was also like, “Okay, at least I can actually have some time to write music, right?” I need to do this anyway. Then it extended out for two years. It was a weird time because I didn’t really want to put out music if I couldn’t tour it, because it’s sort of half the job and half what you do. But it was great to have time to sit and write heaps of stuff. I think the mistake I made was taking too long with things and I’m trying to fix that now. You can’t take that long to put out music now. You have to keep going. I’m so thankful that “How Do I Say Goodbye” sort of brought it all back because just before “How Do I Say Goodbye” everything was dropping. The songs weren’t really connecting. I was actually going, “Oh, did I miss my moment? Is it all over? Are my fans still here?” I did this American tour after that, and the shows were, for the first time in my life, 70/80% full. I’m like, “What the hell’s going on?” Then, “How Do I Say Goodbye” came out and everything sold out again and everything’s back. It was a really weird time to see and a good lesson of, “No, you gotta keep rolling man.” Now that it’s back, I’m like, “You can’t stop, you can’t stop.”
You have such relatable and hard-hitting songs that people can't get enough of and love. Is it harder to be vulnerable when creating music, knowing so many people are listening to it? Or is it sort of like therapy knowing you have this community of people who understand?
Dean Lewis: I remember when I had this song called “Chemicals” that I wrote on my own. It was the first lyrics I thought of. Whatever came out, I was like, I’ll write this down. Didn’t even think about it that much. Then you see some people, and they have a tattoo of the lyrics. You realize, “Oh my God, this means so much to people.” That adds more pressure, but there is something magical sometimes about just letting it flow down. What is your instinct? That doesn’t mean it’s worse or better. But I think it does change. The pressure is huge. I didn’t think I realized at the time when “Be Alright” was out how much pressure I was under to follow it up with something great. I think I felt the effects of that a lot more this year. For the last four years, I’ve been sprinting so hard to beat that or to create something great. If you want to stay at that level, I think a lot of artists feel this way when you have a moment, it requires consistency for me. For some other artists, I swear they’re just part of the culture or something. But for me, I need to have a song. If I don’t have a song, everything drops off. To stay at that level, you have to constantly be going and there’s no real downtime. Something that I’ve been trying to think of now, is how important rest is. Even if it’s just for a day. I don’t do this, but I’m going to start. But I just started thinking about it, I was like, “Alright, if I take a day off or I don’t think about music, then I could spend the next six days obsessing about it. I’ll have more energy to do it.” But there is a lot of pressure, and you got to be careful because you can burn yourself out.
What is something you hope your fans take away from your upcoming and even past music? If you could tell them anything, what would you want them to know?
Dean Lewis: I just want them to connect with it. Hopefully, they find something that they can connect with that makes them feel less alone or can make them feel like they have a voice in stuff. I think the songs that have connected really well, especially “How Do I Say Goodbye,” I feel like a lot of people can’t express that feeling. A lot of people push the feeling back. They numb themselves. Especially when you’re going through something so deep, whether it’s a breakup or losing someone, sometimes it’s nice to have someone else say the thing that you’re thinking or you’re feeling but you don’t know how to express. You can let out an emotion. At my shows, everyone’s crying now when I play “How Do I Say Goodbye.” But it’s like a positive cry, a processing cry. So, I think it’s good to give them a voice.
How has it been seeing your fans? With COVID we all craved that human connection. So how is it going back to live shows and seeing them react to your music?
Dean Lewis: It’s the best. For some reason, I’m so anxious for shows now. I’ve got to learn how to calm down because it was so long without it. It’s been incredible. The fact that shows are selling out, I didn’t know if that was going to happen. But seeing everyone, there’s people lining up for six hours, and then after the show there’s people out the back, they’re just so happy. I think I’ve been able to appreciate it more now because, three or two and a half years of no shows going, “Is this going to happen again?” then you see them, and there’s also this new fan base from TikTok.
What I found so interesting is you sort of start seeing the same fans. But there’s all these new fans that have come in and only know five or three of my songs, which is cool, and they come to the shows. It’s been really cool to see a lot of new fans from TikTok, a young generation coming in. Then having my fans that have been there as well. It’s just been so good. I’m so excited to come to Canada and tour. It’s gonna be great.
A lot of people push the feeling back; they numb themselves. At my shows, everyone’s crying now when I play ‘How Do I Say Goodbye.’ But it’s like a positive cry – a processing cry. I think it’s good to give them a voice.
That was what I was gonna touch upon next. How excited are you to tell your US fans about the tour? How excited are you to be on tour in the US?
Dean Lewis: I’m so excited. The last tour I had within the US was the one that we did after COVID, where it was kind of like a bit touch and go. We were like, “Yeah, let’s do this tour,” but where do we sit? Where do I sit in the world? Do people still know who I am? It was an incredible tour. It was the first one I had done. But now everything’s back, and the songs are all over US radio. I think today, it’s number five on Hot AC radio in America. The fact that the song has been so big, I feel like all the shows are going to sell out quite quickly. I just have a feeling, sometimes you get that feeling about it. It’s just really exciting. In Europe, the shows are so big now. We’re doing these arenas in Denmark. We’re doing these huge shows in Cologne. Coming to America, I’m doing theaters again. Which are my favorite places to play anyway, because they’re a bit smaller and you can see people a lot more. So, I’m really excited to come back. I hope people come. I have a really good feeling about it, though. I’m just so excited to come back. I love America. I love getting on the bus and driving all around. I can’t wait. We’re all really excited.
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© Kent Tarver
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