Why Lewis Capaldi changed the lyrics written by Ed Sheeran

The singer is one of the best-selling new artists of the past decade

How do you follow up on one of the biggest albums of the last decade?

That was the dilemma Lewis Capaldi faced last year. Her debut album, Divinely Uninspired To A Hellish Extent, was the UK’s bestseller for two consecutive years, earning her two Brit Awards and a number one single in the US.

The world was his oyster. He could have chosen any recording studio in the Western Hemisphere, made an album on the sunny coast of Malibu, or laid down vocals in the hallowed halls of Abbey Road.

Instead, he did it in Alan’s house… but who is Alan?

“Alan is a man from Glasgow who I haven’t spoken to since,” says Capaldi.

“He was renting an AirBnB and we all went down to his living room one weekend, wrote a few songs, and they’re all on the record.”

There were practical and psychological reasons for keeping the sessions low-key, the singer says.

“In an expensive studio, I’m like, ‘Oh, here we go,’ and my anxiety starts to mount. It’s hard not to feel like there’s an hour on the clock where you can see where all the money is going.

“But also, what’s the point of going to those fancy studios when the first record went pretty well without all that stuff? I just wanted everything to be cool.”

This philosophy if not broken is found in the album itself. If you’re one of the many who cried in Capaldi’s early days, you’re going to need a brand new box of tissues.

Lewis Capaldi

Capaldi learned his craft in the pubs and clubs of Scotland

Capaldi has been making music on his own terms since the age of 11, playing covers of Oasis and The Killers in pubs in Edinburgh and Glasgow.

Back then it was just him and his guitar, hiding in the bathroom and then jumping out to play before anyone noticed he was underage. If he could sneak into an Original before he was discovered, all the better.

He possessed a voice like Joe Cocker’s – bruised and bold, with a barely contained sense of emotional urgency. Before long, the public was begging him to play longer. And when he self-released a single, Bruises, in 2016, it became the fastest song by an unsigned artist to reach 25 million plays on Spotify.

In 2018 he had a major label deal and Someone You Loved topped the charts for seven weeks, selling 4.2 million copies in the UK alone.

But fame had its setbacks. The singer recently told his fans that he was diagnosed with Tourette’s Syndrome, a neurological condition that causes involuntary muscle movements. He had always had symptoms, but they were exacerbated by being put in the spotlight.

An episode of Tourette descends during our interview. Capaldi’s shoulders begin to twitch and he looks increasingly uncomfortable – but he decides to push on.

Would you like to take a break?

No, but can I get up?

Sure. Does that help?

Yeah, it’s a lot easier… It’s weird, sometimes when I concentrate to speak, it gets crazy.

When did you have the diagnosis?

Seven or eight months ago.

It’s very recent.

Yeah, that’s really new. I’m still trying to figure out how to temper it. I got some medical cannabis, which you can get in the UK apparently – although I got it from a guy around the corner. And I have Sertraline [an anti-depressant] for my anxiety in general.

Is Tourette’s linked to anxiety?

That’s the beauty of it. I always thought it was an anxiety-provoking thing, but the woman said it happens when you’re stressed, anxious, excited, happy – any kind of intense emotion.

When I saw you in concert this summer, it didn’t seem to affect you that much. Does singing remove the symptoms?

Yes, it helps if you focus on something else. Like, it would probably be worse right now if we weren’t doing an interview. I should probably go lie down. It’s an exhausting thing, because you can’t plan for it.

How important was it for you to tell people?

I never wanted to announce it, I just said it on Instagram Live, but I like talking about it because it takes the sting out of it.

It’s the worst thing, when I’m on flights, people tell me: “Are you okay with flying?” And I’m like, “Cheeky bastard, of course I can fly.” So it’s nice to be able to say “No, it’s just my Tourette”.

You said you didn’t want people to think you were on drugs.

Yes, exactly, because I’ve had that before. I had a hard time getting into nightclubs because people were like, “What’s he doing?” And you’re like, “Nothing. It’s just who I am!”

Short gray presentation line

Short gray presentation line

Lewis Capaldi

Lewis Capaldi says his new album is “12 songs people will ingest”

Being just who he is is a big part of Capaldi’s appeal.

He’s brilliantly, happily unfiltered, telling fans he checks into hotels as ‘Anita Jobby’ and revealing his Tinder profile reads “I have a dog and I’m good at fighting.”

The more serious the occasion, the more he will act. On the 2020 Grammys red carpet, he told a bewildered Ryan Seacrest that being nominated was like “eating a whole chicken parmesan” and feeling like a “bloated fat boy watching Game of Thrones.”

He wears this disregard for convention in the promotion of his new album which he says is nothing more than “12 songs that people will ingest”.

Even the video for the lead single, Forget Me, is a giant parody – with Capaldi recreating the Wham’s Club Tropicana video shot for shot.

“It’s one of those things like, ‘Me in Speedos, it’s hilarious,'” he says. “And then having to do it… Oh my God, that was awful.”

The video flew slightly under the radar in the UK, where Capaldi’s big comeback was scheduled for Friday September 9 – just hours after the Queen’s death.

“Imagine planning this outing for months and then the biggest thing that could happen happens?” he says. “It pulled the rug out from under us – but you can’t blame people for grieving.”

Lewis Capaldi and George Michael

Forget Me video painstakingly recreates every shot of Wham’s Club Tropicana

One of the undoubted highlights of his upcoming album is a song called Pointless. An outright love song, it’s a departure for the star, courtesy of co-writer Ed Sheeran, who “brought out the sweet in me.”

Capaldi says he was initially skeptical of collaborating with pop’s most ubiquitous hitmaker simply because “every British artist who has a number one record seems to have Ed on it”.

“It’s proof that he is good, but I was wary of it,” he explains. “My ego was like, ‘I don’t want people to think Ed wrote my song’.

“I actually mentioned this to him and he offered to take a pseudonym – but in the end he helped write it, so there should be no doubt.”

You won’t win any prizes for guessing that Pointless is a great emotional piano ballad, with Capaldi praising his lover’s healing touch.

I bring him coffee in the morning,” he sings. “She brings me inner peace.”

But the star insisted on cutting out one of Sheeran’s original lyrics, which read: “She gives me more than anything, I’ll give her my last name.”

“I was like, ‘Ed, it’s 2022. Nobody’s got to take anybody’s second name. I’m not singing that!’

“I don’t even think,” he adds, “Ed’s own wife has his last name.”

Although the album won’t be released until 2023, Capaldi is letting the BBC hear some of his favorite cuts. Wish You The Best is a farewell to a former girlfriend, while Haven’t You Ever Been In Love Before shows the star’s ability to stir up moods.

They could all be hit singles, which begs the question: is Alan’s main piece destined to become a Glasgow landmark?

“We’ll see what the record does,” Capaldi says.

“If it sells, maybe there’s a blue plaque. If it goes up, he’ll sell the house.”

Lewis Capaldi’s new album, Broken By Desire To Be Heavenly Sent, will be released on May 19, 2023.

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