Last weekend we disposed of our hangover by chatting to the lovely Al Lewis, new to the national music scene, but someone we have already mentioned this week due to his infallible talent.
We had to ask what it was like growing up in North Wales, and he said: ‘it’s certainly a million miles away from London where I live now. I remember that big thing where I was able to go down to Cardiff and have a McDonalds, that’s how isolated we were up there.’ The town that he grew up in, Pwllheli, and the area are known for being bilingual, and he told us that: ‘as a kid I didn’t really know anything other than bilingualism, to me it was just normal and natural. It was only when I got a bit older and went down to Cardiff or Chester for the day that you’d realise that not everyone speaks both languages.’ He went on to say that: ‘for places like Pwllheli, Welsh is the main language in the street… It’s a funny thing really, apart from Scottish people who live up in the islands, there isn’t really an example of that within the UK’, which is quite true.
As followers of the Gods of Eurovision, we had to ask about Cân i Gymru, the process by which the Welsh would select their representative if they were a separate nation. Al explained that: ‘it’s a microcosm of the Eurovision and the craziness that involves with the voting – if you have someone, like me, from North Wales you get the local, North-Wales community voting for me, and an artist from the South would get all the votes coming from there.’ The importance of it was evident to him as it allowed him his first experiences on TV and introduced him to the national music scene.
‘I think it [Welsh musical talent] is being taken more seriously, and maybe we should believe in ourselves a lot more?’, Al told us, before referencing obvious skills in terms of the Stereophonics, Manic Street Preachers and the legendary Catatonia, whose lead singer, Cerys Matthews, invited him on stage during her show in Bangor. About her direct role in his development, he said: ‘I’ve felt really honoured to think that she would take the time to help me at this stage in my career… Sometimes you feel like, “am I going in the right direction?”, and it’s great to get something like that, that validates what you’re doing – it’s really nice.’
Parallels could be drawn between the gay community and Welsh community as both are trying to make themselves known as equal on the national and international stage. As Al explained: ‘the stigma is slowly fading away and I don’t think it matters, in terms of my impression of people anyway, people just want to know whether you’re any good or not, and then the fact that you are Welsh or English or Gay or Straight doesn’t matter – it’s whether your talent merits being noticed and talked about, and I think that’s a really nice thing.’ That and the hotness, so we had to ask whether he would mind having a few gay boys following him around: ‘I’m being remixed by my friend who is gay…. So yeah, it’s exactly what I was hoping for – to introduce me to the gay market because it’s a big scene and I wouldn’t want to dismiss it.’
So there is a single, an album, a tour, and then…? He replied: ‘hopefully it will all roll on from here – I think of it as very much a long-game’, Al explained, ‘to be honest, after the tour I hope that we will start thinking about booking the next tour in 2013, although the album comes out digitally next week the CD physically comes out in January… and then moving on to bigger and better things.’ The London gigs take place on 27 October at The Wilmington Arms in Clerkenwell.
After leaving him to his Sunday, and letting us get back to bed, we hung up on Al Lewis after a bit of a giggle, and the beginnings of a new crush.