Lewis Capaldi - The Needless Struggle of a Successful Music Artist

Dive into the life of Lewis Capaldi and his struggle to write another hit album, and how he could have overcome that struggle by learning narrative songwriting.

April 17, 2023   |   0   |   Transcript of Episode 052

Lewis Capaldi - The Needless Struggle of a Successful Music Artist

Dive into the life of Lewis Capaldi and his struggle to write another hit album, and how he could have overcome that struggle by learning narrative songwriting.

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Click here to download the PDF version of the transcript.

Episode Overview:

  1. Lewis Capaldi - The Rise and Fall of a music artist
  2. Lewis Capaldi - Origin Story
  3. The Importance of Storytelling in Songwriting:
  4. The ART of writing lyrics
  5. What is Narrative Songwriting?

Lewis Capaldi - The Needless Struggle of a Successful Music Artist

Transcript of Episode 052

[00:00:00] I've recently watched the Netflix documentary on Lewis Capaldi: "Lewis Capaldi: How I'm Feeling Now", and I have to say, it was both inspiring and heart-wrenching.

And I wanna talk about Lewis Capaldi’s struggle in today’s episode. Especially, when it came to the pressure of writing an encore to his debut album, "Divinely Uninspired To A Hellish Extent." And how he could have overcome that terrible inner voice saying “I’m shite at writing lyrics” or the imposter syndrome that came with it.

So if you’re curious to find out how writing lyrics can become an easier process without all the overwhelm, then keep listening.


Lewis Capaldi

[00:01:20] So I've recently watched the Netflix documentary on Lewis Capaldi: "Lewis Capaldi: How I'm Feeling Now," and I have to say, it was both inspiring and heart-wrenching.

Now for anyone who hasn’t heard of this Scottish guy. 

Here’s what you need to know:

Lewis Capaldi is a singer-songwriter who first gained widespread attention in 2016 with his debut single, "Bruises." The song went up on Spotify, earning millions of streams and catapulting Capaldi into the limelight. Even though he was an unsigned artist!

Capaldi's success continued to grow as he released more music, including his breakthrough hit "Someone You Loved." The song, which he wrote about the passing of his grandmother, became a worldwide sensation, topping charts in numerous countries and earning critical acclaim.

In addition to his commercial success, Capaldi has also won multiple awards.

So in a nutshell, Capaldi's rise to fame was remarkable and well-deserved, but it came at a cost.

In the wake of one of the most successful albums of the past decade, how does one proceed? This was the challenge that confronted Lewis Capaldi. Following the release of his debut album, "Divinely Uninspired To A Hellish Extent", which had topped the UK charts for two consecutive years, earned him two Brit Awards, and yielded a US number-one single, the stakes were high for Capaldi's next move.

As I watched the documentary, I couldn't help but feel empathetic toward Capaldi's struggles with mental health and writer's block. It was clear that the pressure of the music industry took a toll on him, and his struggle to come up with new lyrics was a real fight that was about to crush him.

I mean, he had sold his debut album millions of times. He had risen to stardom, but so had the expectations on him. He could have said: "Well, I had a good run," or he would take on the pressure of writing another album - now that everyone was counting on him, expecting nothing less than extraordinary songs from him.

But he could not do it.

In his attempt to write the songs for his second album, he wrote over 50 songs. As he played the songs to his manager, they did not find one song they thought had the potential for a hit single. Devastating.

Capaldi had worked and sweated his ass off, but he had failed.

He was overwhelmed with anxiety, and you could literally see him suffering. His entire body was twitching, not knowing how to deal with the internal pressure boiling inside him.

He thought he was an imposter. He doubted himself. He thought he was bad at writing lyrics and did not have what it took (I mean, who hasn't had those thoughts before), but there was proof that he had that potential. He just couldn't find it anymore.

And I wished I could have been there with him.

You know. Sometimes, looking in from the outside, you can see so much clearer than the person who's in it, in a mess trying not to drown. Have you made a similar experience when a friend or family member was struggling and not seeing clear anymore, while you were able to grasp the bigger picture?

That's what I felt like when I heard him say:

"I'm just not good at writing lyrics."

He is. We all know that.

But when you are exposed to the pressure of not only writing an album, but also to the expectation of magically creating another worldwide hit-song, then we can be crushed.

And that's what happened to Capaldi.

Just think about it.

He wrote songs since childhood. He had enough time to write songs like "Bruises" or "Someone you Loved". No one was expecting a worldwide hit single from him. And that freed his creative process.

But with his sudden success, his life completely changed.


Lewis Capaldi - Origin Story

[00:05:02] Lewis Capaldi has been forging his own path in the music industry since the tender age of 11, serenading pub-goers in Edinburgh and Glasgow with covers of Oasis and The Killers. With only his guitar and a fierce determination, he would often hide in the bathroom before jumping out to perform, hoping to avoid detection as an underage performer. If he could squeeze in one of his own original tracks before he was caught, it was a bonus.

Capaldi's vocals were reminiscent of the legendary Joe Cocker - powerful, emotive, and with a raw sense of urgency. It wasn't long before audiences were clamoring for more of his music. In 2016, he released the single Bruises independently, and it quickly became the fastest song by an unsigned artist to reach 25 million plays on Spotify.

By 2018, he had signed a major label deal, and his smash hit Someone You Loved dominated the charts for seven weeks straight, selling an impressive 4.2 million copies in the UK alone. Capaldi's unwavering commitment to his craft and his distinctive sound have cemented his place as one of the most exciting voices in the industry today.

And soon it was time for a second album.

He had to write a new album - in a certain time frame. Just think about writing one great song: You have to juggle the lyrics, the melody, the music production, and worst of all, in songwriting there's no clear way how to start writing a song. Some say write the music first, others start with the lyrics.

The entire project just became more and more overwhelming the more tasks fell on his shoulder, so he didn't know where to begin anymore. He started what came easiest to him: the music. But in the meantime, the internal pressure grew: "I gotta write the lyrics. I gotta come up with emotional touching lyrics. I can't. I can't. I can't."

And I don't want that to happen to you.

Perhaps you are at a point in your career where you just wish you could have 10% of Capaldi's success, but still. At one point, you will face the same pressure and expectations.

And if you're like him, someone who wants to write emotional songs that have an impact on people, you must know how to do it. You need to know what makes it possible to write a song that will speak to millions of people and emotionally touch them so they might cry.

And it's not about writing hundreds of songs hoping to get better in the process. There's a better way to write emotional lyrics that resonate with people.

And one word is the answer to this tremendously huge question.

It's: "Storytelling."


The Importance of Storytelling in Songwriting:

[00:07:48] Storytelling has been a fundamental part of human communication for thousands of years, and its importance in songwriting cannot be overstated. In fact, songs that tell a compelling story can save lives, inspire change, and make a lasting impact on society.

For example, Bob Dylan's "The Times They Are a-Changin'" became an anthem for the civil rights movement in the 1960s, inspiring people to stand up against injustice and fight for equality. Bruce Springsteen's "Born in the USA" shed light on the struggles of veterans returning home from the Vietnam War and raised awareness of the need for better support systems for those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

Storytelling in songwriting is not just important for addressing social issues; it can also have a profound impact on individuals. Many people turn to music as a source of comfort and healing during difficult times in their lives. Songs that tell personal stories of struggle, triumph, and resilience can offer hope and solace to those going through similar experiences.

For example, Kesha's "Praying" is a powerful anthem about surviving abuse and finding strength in the face of adversity. The song has touched the lives of countless survivors of abuse and inspired them to speak out and seek help.

Storytelling in songwriting is a powerful and transformative tool that can save lives and inspire change. By using narrative songwriting to tell meaningful stories, songwriters have the ability to connect with their listeners on a deep and emotional level, and make a lasting impact on the world.

So back to Lewis.

Lewis Capaldi struggled with writing lyrics because he had no reliable process. He didn't know where or how to start, and how to transform his big emotions into words that other people could relate to.

He had done it before, yes, but think about it. He had written songs since he was 11. And when his debut album came out in 2019, he was 22. He had 11 years to write those 12 amazing songs.

So when it came to writing a second album, he didn't have 11 years and the possibility to play in pubs to see what new original songs people liked. So not only was a time frame set on his entire creative process, but his known possibilities of checking how his songs resonated with the crowd were also gone.

So it was just him, and all eyes were set on him.

It's no surprise his anxiety grew, and he had to take time off to deal with his mental health. He just didn't know how to satisfy those expectations, and it was crushing him. And it wasn't possible to quit, either. Too many people were counting on him.

There's a better way to write emotional lyrics without the struggle or feeling overwhelmed.

To avoid this pressure cooker and feeling like an imposter who just had a stream of luck, we must look at the lyric writing process as a craft that can be taught and learned.

And by that, I don't mean we swipe the dusk of the books on lyrical structure and melodies, rhyming, rhythm, and all that comes with it. Those are the technicalities of writing lyrics. We have to know those things about a lyrics' structure and form. But no one will ever say: "What a nice rhyme scheme. That rhyme really saved my life."

So I think we can agree there's more to writing lyrics, right?

And that's what I call the ART of writing lyrics.


The ART of writing lyrics

[00:11:14] The ART is all about expressing what matters to you so that other people get it, feel it, and can take something meaningful away from it.

The ART is all about the content of what your lyrics are actually about.

It's about communicating from one human to another with something worth sharing.

And it can be hard to figure out what you could write about.

And it's even harder to ponder how to make others resonate with the lyrics so that they can make the song their own.

That's why we have to look at the ART of writing lyrics differently. There's no poetic mystery about sitting down to suffer, hoping to churn out something great.

As with everything in life, there are patterns to the things that resonate with people.

And in songwriting - if you want to write emotional, heart-felt lyrics that people cry to or sing along to because your words mean the world to them - we can't treat storytelling as a separate aspect.

Emotional songwriting is storytelling.

Narrative Songwriting is the key to unlocking your true potential as a songwriter.


What is Narrative Songwriting?

[00:12:16] Narrative songwriting is not just a genre of music, but a powerful tool for songwriters to connect with their listeners on a deep and emotional level. While it may be associated with certain music genres like folk, country, and rock music, the key to writing emotional lyrics is through a narrative.

Narrative songwriting can't be considered a separate aspect when writing lyrics; rather, storytelling is the foundation for impactful, meaningful, captivating, compelling, and engaging lyrics. By weaving a story into your lyrics and music, you can create a memorable experience that resonates with your audience long after the song is over.

Narrative songwriting allows you to share your experiences, emotions, and ideas with your listeners in a way that is relatable and accessible. Whether you're telling a personal story or a fictional tale, a narrative arc provides structure and purpose to your lyrics, and allows you to connect with your audience on a deeper level.

Through narrative songwriting, you can create songs that inspire, challenge, and uplift your listeners. The power of storytelling in music cannot be underestimated, and by mastering the art of narrative songwriting, you can create songs that touch the hearts and minds of people around the world.

Narrative Songwriting is not about telling one complete story (even though you could - like My Chemical Romance proved with their song "Welcome to the Black Parade"). But when it comes to writing songs that people connect with, sometimes it's enough to tell an episode that seems like a scene from a movie.

When looking at songs, there are certain elements that we have to include -- or the song wouldn't make any sense.

The most essential elements are:

  • A character
  • who faces a problem
  • and there's something at stake if the character does not act

People don't want to hear about the perfect thing because that's not often not real. People face problems in real life. And when we want people to listen to our songs, we have to enter the conversation that is already going on in their head. We have to make them feel understood and they will listen.

So ultimately, we tell them a story.

And if you want to write that hit song (or a song that means something), it's time to think about the ART of writing lyrics. And the ART is narrative songwriting.

There's a story to be found in every song that made it to the top and lasted. Just listen to your favorite songs and you will see there's something happening in those lyrics.

And what happens in the lyrics, that's done through narrative songwriting.

So if you want to write powerful lyrics, there's only one way to do it: Learning about the art of writing lyrics which is Narrative Songwriting.

And you won’t ever feel like you just don’t have what it takes to write great lyrics. 

You can.

You just need to put in the effort and learn the ART.

So if you are ready to dig in, I’ve got just the thing for you.

I have prepared a step-by-step roadmap for you that will guide you from idea to the finished version of your lyrics.

This checklist helps you:

  • find and validate your song idea so you know people want to hear about this in a song
  • discover the essential elements to include in the lyrics so you know what you can put inside your lyrics' verses and chorus
  • express what matters to you so that other people feel it
  • how to include a meaningful takeaway that moves people
  • how to write lyrics so you can actually finish them without facing all the overwhelm

To get the "21 steps to a written Lyric" roadmap, go to lyricmastery.com/21steps or check out the shownotes of this episode. 

Alright, guys, that’s it for this episode.

If you enjoyed this episode and would like to hear more, you can subscribe to my podcast on your favorite podcast platform. Search for Lyric Mastery and hit the subscribe button to get new episodes delivered to your feed.

Thanks again for listening, and I'll see you next time on the Lyric Mastery Podcast!


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© Stories in Songs, Melanie Naumann

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