This summer should have been spent grooving in festival dance tents to a soundtrack of banging floor-fillers crafted by SG Lewis. This year the producer’s Midas touch has graced everything from the shimmering disco of the Khalid and Victoria Monét collab ‘Experience’, the foot-stomping Robyn and Channel Tres featuring ‘Impact’, and dizzy Dua Lipa album track ‘Hallucinate’, which he also co-wrote.
Now the multi-talented British artist has announced his first studio album, ‘Times’, due out on February 19 2021. For the latest in NME’s In Conversation series we caught up with SG Lewis to discuss his long-awaited debut, his love of disco, writing for Dua Lipa and what it’s like to be in the studio with Nile Rodgers. Here are five things we learned.
He studied disco ahead of writing new album ‘Times’
In between projects SG Lewis likes to go into a “learning phase”, where he reads up on different musical genres and trends to “inspire new processes and new sounds, so I’m not just repeating myself.” Ahead of writing and recording his debut album ‘Times’, this learning phase saw him study disco.
“I spent a lot of time reading about the birth of disco in the ‘70s in New York with [nightclub] The Loft and David Mancuso; and that was from a hobbyist angle, it was just something I was curious about as it’s an amazing story.”
This initial fascination soon had an impact on the music he was making, with Lewis explaining: “I started to really grow my collection of disco records, and then I started to investigate into those musical processes, like how do they process the drums and what bass sounds they’re using… and that was just such a fun period of music to study, and then learn some techniques from.”
‘Feed The Fire’ was written the same day he wrote Dua Lipa’s ‘Hallucinate’ – with a little help from Jamiroquai
Alongside writing and producing his own music, SG Lewis has also had a hand in some banging pop songs, including Dua Lipa’s ‘Hallucinate’, taken from her latest album ‘Future Nostalgia’.
“I made the instrumental for ‘Feed The Fire’ by myself the day me and [songwriter] Sophie Cooke (aka Frances) wrote ‘Hallucinate’. It was in the same room, and when I was there by myself later, I started the instrumental.”
Once the first fragments of the song were written, ‘Feed The Fire’ then came together in pieces. The next step saw Lewis going to Jamiroquai keyboardist Matt Johnson’s house, where they worked on the song together. Then he met American singer Lucky Daye who lends his vocals to the tune. “It took about a year in total, from starting the beat to having the end product,” he explains.
Nile Rodgers could be on his new album
SG Lewis has previously joined Nile Rodgers in the studio, but when asked if the Chic legend could appear on the album, he remains coy. “That’s for me to know and for everyone else to find out,” he teases. “I’m going to say maybe.”
“It’s very surreal when you’re in a room with someone like that. He’s a legend, there’s no other way around it!” Lewis says of their time recording together. “He has such a powerful artistic identity that anything that he’s involved in immediately has his stamp… It’s up there with the top five best moments of my life, just watching Nile Rodgers rip guitar on something that I’d created.”
A drunken evening in the studio with Channel Tres resulted in Robyn’s appearance on ‘Impact’
After working on early instrumentals for house-infused single ‘Impact’ with Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs, Lewis then took the song to the studio in Los Angeles with Channel Tres, who was on tour with Robyn at the time. “I played him the ‘Impact’ instrumental and he was like ‘this is crazy’ so he jumped on it.”
Explaining the vibe in the studio, Lewis says: “We started drinking as we were working, so by the time we got to the chorus we were drunk, dancing around the room, and we were so into what Channel Tres had already done that we left the studio without a chorus being like: ‘Let’s go out!’”
Waking up the next day they realised the song was unfinished and decided they should send it to somebody to write the chorus. Top of their dream list of collaborators was Robyn. As Channel Tres had been supporting her, they managed to give her the tune. She loved it and smashed out the chorus, resulting in the sultry floor filler that is ‘Impact’.
Despite previous releases, Lewis considers ‘Times’ his debut album
Over the past few years Lewis has put out his ‘Dusk’, ‘Dark’ and ‘Dawn’ EPs, a trio of releases that he initially said could be put together to make his debut album. But it’s actually ‘Times’ that Lewis considers his first studio album proper.
“This is the first time I feel like I’ve made a traditional, full-length album,” he explains. But thinking of it as his debut did add some pressure, as “you only do your first album once”. Lewis explains that it feels “a lot more committed than EPs,” as “with EPs you’re giving people a taste of where your mind is… whereas with an album you need to commit to the vision!”