Back in 2017, Singaporean singer-songwriter LEW was making waves with his debut album Lullacry. Now mid-way through his third year at the prestigious Berklee College of Music in the US, the 23-year-old is back with a new EP Red Flags, a five-track record full of lush, textured acoustic-pop songs. Young Post caught up with him to talk about the inspiration behind his latest release.
“I would describe it as coming from the same family tree,” says Lew, who studied at Sha Tin College before completing national service in Singapore. “My sound was already quite organic because I use acoustic instruments and live elements. And now I’m less afraid of sounding more pop.”
One noticeable shift is the number of collaborations on Red Flags, with four of the five songs being co-written with female singers, providing the songwriter with a slew of new experiences to learn from.
“At first it was hard, because you’re navigating between the ego of your own ideas and figuring out what’s best for the song, because the main priority is making sure the song sounds good,” he explains. “When you first start co-writing, you’re more defensive about your own ideas, but you realise that people aren’t there to say you suck. They’re just telling you how to refine your ideas, and get them to a place where they’re presentable.”
For example, he says fellow Berklee student Julia Gartha picked “melodies I wouldn’t normally come up with” on opener Serendipity, while singer Ariyel’s warmer tone forced LEW to be more concise with his lyrics on Somebody New to help highlight her vocal style – a process which he describes as: “taking the best parts of these writers and artists, and adding them to my toolkit.”
Detailing the various stages of a troubled relationship, Red Flags uncovers the themes of “doubt, destruction, suffering, loss and abandonment.” It’s not all downbeat, as LEW says, “hope is one of the only emotions that can survive these situations.” This focus is likely to continue to his second full-length album.
Having recently ended a relationship, he laughs, “Getting dumped is good emotional currency to spend on another album,” sharing his plan to record a 12-track album next year. “I’ve already started working on it, and have seven tracks written. The healthiest coping mechanism to pain is to create art.”
Despite missing Singapore, his twin sister in Hong Kong, and “good Asian food”, the musician is grateful to be studying at Berklee in Boston .
“It definitely lives up to expectations. The people in my community here are the most creative, passionate and kind people that I know. It’s such a good space to be in, because you feel like you can be yourself and be celebrated.
“Apart from helping me become a better musician, it’s the people that make Berklee such a cool place.”
Having gone from an unknown to more than 100,000 monthly listeners on Spotify in a few short years, LEW is quick to offer a powerful message to those who are wondering about the value of sharing their work.
“No matter what stage you are in your life, you have an identity and a perspective to share. And the world is waiting to hear it.”