Lewis Capaldi: I don't have a clue about writing a hit, or about Instagram
Lewis Capaldi has had an extraordinary year. With his debut album just out and a Belsonic appearance next month, the Scottish singer-songwriter talks about his disbelief over his enormous success so far, his social media persona and silly sunglasses
LEWIS Capaldi swears as much as the Gallagher brothers, loves to drink Buckfast on a night out, and he has the voice of an angel. He's also inexplicably modest for someone as talented as he is.
The 22-year-old Scottish singer-songwriter, whose triumphs over the past couple of years have given him a career he could never dream of, is a delight to talk to. But he's still a bit bewildered by it all.
"I'm completely surprised about it," he declares. "For lack of any better phrase, I don't have a f***ing clue what's going on."
There is much to talk to him about, from his rise to fame and his accolades, which include a Brit Critics' Choice Award nomination, a place on BBC Music's Sound of 2018 list and his seven weeks at number one for his single Someone You Loved.
There is also his penchant for discussing his toilet habits and mocking himself on Instagram.
Capaldi is almost as famous for his social media shenanigans as he is for his heavenly voice and charismatic, emotional ballads, but he says the two seemingly at-odds facets of his persona were not planned to be that way.
"I don't really pay much mind to what I put on social media, as you can probably f***ing tell," he jokes. "I just act like a tit and film it for a laugh, but the music side of things I put thought into.
"Maybe people like me because of a combination of the two, but I never set out to be anything in particular. I don't have a f***ing clue how to write a song that does well, or how to do anything on Instagram.
"I don't know the first thing about social media strategy – people keep asking me, and I'm like, 'What the f***? I've been talking about my pubes for months...' I don't understand how this is a thing."
Capaldi has 1.8 million Instagram followers and 405,000 on Twitter, and they have become accustomed to his hilarious self-filmed videos in which he mocks himself, often in a pair of bizarre sunglasses or a not-so-fetching shell suit.
Having been named "the funniest musician on social media" by a number of outlets, one of his most popular moments saw him complaining about blocking his toilet in a fancy American hotel, in the absence of a plunger or toilet brush. The sunglasses in particular are a common trope of Capaldi's. So much so, his fans are now gifting him with more shades than he can deal with.
"Whenever we go on tour I've got a suitcase full of ridiculous sunglasses," he says. "But I'm getting into it. I love it now and it means the world to me."
Away from social media, Capaldi is, above all else, an extremely talented singer-songwriter and guitarist whose album is one of the most hotly-anticipated of 2019.
Earlier this year he announced a huge arena tour, headlining venues such as the SSE Hydro in Glasgow and London's Wembley Arena – he's also got two Belfast and three Dublin dates lined up, as well as a gig in Cork – and selling out in minutes. It was reported to be the first time anybody has planned a tour in such large venues before their debut album had even been released.
"I mean, I was quite content when we were doing our tour at the end of last year," Capaldi says. "We were doing gigs in 2,000 capacity rooms and I was like, 'This is incredible, this is as big as I'm ever going to get and that's absolutely fine'.
"I've always been quite laid-back. When I first got my manager, I said all I want to do is play King Tut's, which is a place in Glasgow for 500 people – that's a goal. And then I did it, and now it's gone beyond anything that I could have ever hoped for."
He laughs: "So all of this is a complete f***ing surprise."
He says he was "sh***ing it" when he announced the arena tour weeks before his debut album, Divinely Uninspired To A Hellish Extent, was scheduled to drop.
"I've got a lot of faith in all the people around me that are actual professionals, as opposed to me who's a bit of an impostor, but the people around me were saying, 'Look, this is the right move'. And I was like, 'OK cool, I'll give it a go'. So we did it, and now it's sold out.
"Even now I'm still nervous. It already went from small pubs to a few thousand capacity rooms, very quickly, and now it's going from that to 14,000 people."
It's a long way from half a lifetime ago for Capaldi who, at the age of 11, started performing in pubs.
"I started playing the guitar when I was nine, because my older brother, who is six years older than me, he was doing it," he explains.
"I started writing songs from that age too, and when I turned 11 I wanted to play gigs. My older brother, he was in a band, and he got me into pubs. Obviously I was 11 so I wasn't allowed to be in a pub, so I'd have to go and hide in the bathroom before I played, and I'd always leave immediately after.
"I did that, kicking around throughout Scotland from then until the age of 19 or 20."
Capaldi was in and out of bands throughout that time, but was better off as a solo artist, recording songs on his phone and uploading them to his SoundCloud account.
"My manager now, he found me online through that. He was just scouring SoundCloud and just happened to find one of my scratchy f***ing demos and emailed me out of the blue... and here we are!" he adds, still stupefied.
With the album just out, and the arena tour ready to go throughout this year and into 2020, talk turns to the future, which Capaldi admittedly hasn't thought much about.
He's still keen to just have a night out drinking Buckfast Tonic Wine and lager with his friends in his native Scotland when he can, "like any normal 22-year-old", he says, and he's banked a "four-day bender" to celebrate the success of his number one single Someone You Loved later this year.
But when asked about his big goals, he ponders for a moment.
"I'd maybe like to have a top five album, that'd be nice," he says. "And get to that level in different territories too. The UK is leading the pack at the moment, which is great, but I'd love to, way down the line, have that somewhere outside of the UK.
"I'd like to see what we can do in America, and if I could do a collaboration with someone at some point, maybe after the album's out."
He adds, with a laugh: "It's good to have goals, but I dunno, f***ing hell. I'm not a very ambitious person."
:: Lewis Capaldi performs at Belsonic in Ormeau Park, Belfast, on June 25 with The Killers and in The Ulster Hall on November 22 (ticketmaster.ie); Divinely Uninspired To A Hellish Extent is out now.