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In conversation with Freddie Lewis

After the release of incredibly well-received debut album Lilac Underpass Mixtape, Epigram speaks to songwriter, performer and poet Freddie Lewis about everything from bookshops in Toronto to trans empowerment.

By Emma Pope, Co-Deputy Music Editor

After the release of incredibly well-received debut album Lilac Underpass Mixtape, Epigram speaks to songwriter, performer and poet Freddie Lewis about everything from bookshops in Toronto to trans empowerment.

A relatively new face in the music industry, with debut album Lilac Underpass Mixtape released in October 2021, Freddie Lewis' music explores themes of growth, love, and longing. A self-proclaimed 'lyrics nerd', Freddie graduated with a degree in song-writing from BIMM and has written his way through the past few years. His seven-track album which alone could soften even the coldest of hearts is accompanied by an equally moving poetry book, giving listeners and readers a touching insight into the life of Freddie Lewis.

Freddie speaks of the famous "post-gig/album depression" and mentions that it is something he is yet to experience. With the release of his debut album came a small, weird moment of culmination, followed by what Freddie would describe as a very normal day – gym in the morning, meeting up with some friends, all very standard. Forgetting that the album he had been working on for 10 months would suddenly be released "oop gone" into the ether, where thousands of other people could access it, Freddie did have to emotionally prepare himself for the overwhelming reception of Lilac Underpass Mixtape. When 'Growing Pains' first was released, lots of trans+ people reached out to speak about the personal importance of the song, and the same has happened for the album and poetry book. In fact, most of Freddie's message requests on Instagram are paragraphs about how much his art has impacted a person's life.

After several cancelled pandemic gigs, one of Freddie's first gigs since becoming a solo artist was performing at Countryfile live, where he performed to a very different crowd to his normal audience – namely, "a lot of white dads".  Speaking about the gig, Freddie describes it as a refreshing reminder of the quality of his song writing. When playing to an audience who aren’t already big fans, it makes you notice when a song or lyric particularly attracts attention or sparks emotion. During Freddie's gig at Crofter's Rights back in December, however, the connection with the audience was intense, with emotions running riot, and the whole audience – consisting of many of Freddie’s fans as well as his friends and family – were in floods. After a gorgeous warm up from some of Freddie's incredibly talented friends, Nory-J, Charlie T Smith and Jodie Mellor, the atmosphere in the intimate room of Crofter's Rights was perfect, as if it was a group of everyone's best mates (not just Freddie's).

This year, Freddie is planning to release more collaborative stuff with friends, and the dream of collaborating with his best pals is coming into reality imminently. When asked who he would want to collaborate with apart from his friends, Freddie mentions someone who was top in his Spotify wrapped for 2021, (along with Taylor Swift, Orla Gartland, and Easy Life) Arlo Parks. Describing Arlo Parks as "more of a lyrics nerd than me, an exceptional lyricist", Freddie wants to be challenged to push himself further lyrically, rather than always being the authority in the room, which he finds when collaborating with someone who contributes more of the theory and melodic knowledge. Looking and listening to a huge variety of genres, there isn’t a genre which doesn’t have something in it that Freddie thinks is amazing. When starting out songwriting, Freddie listened to one unique genre of music and wrote the very same niche genre. Following on from his degree, during which he had to push boundaries, writing anything from pop-punk to metal, Freddie has changed the way he writes. Often sticking to a routine of guitar, phone notes open, sitting down and creating, Freddie sometimes changes it up and can spend hours drinking coffee and writing a song from start to finish, when he is overcome by the need to "I must!", waking up to the idea of "a song!". Writing all in one go has produced most of his best work, but he emphasises the importance of training yourself to write well, in the same way an athlete would train to run a race. The quote (which may be from Picasso or could be from Pinterest– neither Freddie nor I could find out) "divine inspiration does exist, but it must find you working" sums up the way Freddie creates his music, with layers of songs that sit below each track from the album, all important in the making of the final one.

@freddielewiss the outro from growing pains is my 1 year on t poem - it has a very very special place in my heart 🏳️‍⚧️ #songwriter #poet #transartist #trans #fypシ ♬ original sound - Freddie Lewis

Going from playing at a small Winchester pub to the cosy room of Crofter's Rights, Freddie's musical ambitions are not the obvious ones you might expect. His dream would be to perform an acoustic set at Gay's the Word in London, an independent LGBT bookshop which, though not a classic music venue, does hold a large variety of events and readings. Another place which would be a perfect Freddie Lewis venue is Glad Day Bookshop, about which he wrote the song 'A Bookshop in Toronto'. This event may not be materialising soon though, as currently their relationship is "very one sided", with Freddie tagging them in many an Instagram post, but Glad Day continuing to only run its busy bookshop.

What we can expect from Freddie in future, along with hopes of new music, is a continuation of his interesting take on activism. Having done talks for LGBTQ+ people online, as well as hosting a trans+ poetry club, Freddie has come on a journey with activism. When he first started doing it, Freddie was very angry. "It came from a place of rage, and it caused a lot of rage". Now, however, Freddie aims to empower trans+ people through being himself; "I found that when I'm not trying to be an activist, when I'm just being myself, and being very open about being a happy and proud, trans person, I seem to have more impact than when I'm talking about the injustices that trans people face". Freddie mentions the idea of possibility models, highlighting the importance "for people to see there is a possibility to be just the trans guy who is a musician who writes his little songs and his little poems and has a good time".

Freddie is wonderfully open about being a happy and proud, trans person, and spreads this joy in many ways. With over 17 thousand followers on Tiktok, Freddie reached a new audience when using the platform as a journal during the lockdowns, a bit like a grounding tool. Nowadays, Freddie writes more poetry outside of Tiktok, as he found the format to be a little restrictive, but his videos and poems are scattered around 'for you pages' everywhere.

With the promise of new music on the way, and a gig coming up soon (The Grace, London on 4th March), I'm very excited to see what's in store for the "musician who writes his little songs and his little poems and has a good time".

Featured image: Beth Butcher Photography

Has Freddie Lewis appeared on your fyp?