By his own admission, Sam Lewis has a great gig.
Boarding a ferryboat from Vancouver Island in British Columbia during a soon-to-be-concluded Canadian tour, his enthusiasm for the setting in which he found himself was clearly obvious.
“It’s incredible,” the former Knoxville resident, now Nashville transplant and well-regarded singer-songwriter said while gazing at the scenery that surrounded him. “I’m really fortunate to be here right now. It’s 75 degrees, a nice change from all the heat down South. I think I’m working, but it feels more like a vacation. I’m somehow making money while I’m doing nothing. It’s pretty cool.”
Lewis’ current tour is part of a series of extended jaunts he’s undertaken recently. During the first quarter of this year alone, he played 28 shows in the United Kingdom. After spending a month in Canada, he’ll have two weeks at home and then kick off the popular “Songs by the Brook” concert series that again takes place in Alcoa’s Springbrook Park, before flying to Europe later this year for another three-week stay. As a result, he only has 20 dates scheduled in the U.S. this year, a similar number to the total American shows he played in 2018.
In addition, he noted that his calendar already is filling up for next year, given that the four-month stretch from January to April is reserved for another European run.
“It’s kind of how it’s going now, and I’m totally into it,” Lewis said. “I’m really lucky, and just to be doing any of this is pretty awesome. A lot of days I wonder whose life I’m living right now.”
In addition to all the travel, he’s also been composing and recording new material, part of a planned follow-up to his last album “Loversity,” which, he suggests, didn’t have the shelf life he had hoped for.
“It’s OK,” he said. “I said the things I wanted to say, but lately I’ve been writing more and more and more. I’ve been kind of driven. I’ll be making a record soon. It will be more acoustic driven. I end up making these really produced records and then touring them by myself, and it’s just weird. I don’t like it. I think it’s misrepresenting both the show and the record. But ultimately it’s just music. I have quite a bit of new stuff here and I’m navigating on how to record it.”
He paused for a moment, distracted by the sight of a bald eagle flying overhead.
“I’ve been working with different guys, trying to come up with a combination of electric and acoustic music,” he continued. “I’m going to have a little of a different alignment.”
For his upcoming appearance in Springbrook Park, he’ll be accompanied by Daniel Kimbro, who will be substituting his usual stand-up bass for a nylon string guitar, as well as percussionist Robert Richards.
Lewis said his next project will entail new material that will provide a bridge between the approach he took on “Loversity” and a new direction he hopes to evolve into next year. The first hint will be unveiled in September, with more music to come in the months after. He noted that he has 15 songs that he’s considering for an upcoming release.
“It’s been a pretty amazing adventure since I left my daytime job almost six years ago now,” he reflected, referencing the fact that before he opted to go with music full time, he was working at a Walmart in Nashville. His eponymous debut album was released in 2012, followed by “Waiting on You” in 2015. “Loversity,” a series of songs revolving around the intricacies of interpersonal relationships and released in 2018 after a three-year hiatus, brought added public awareness and landed him a spot on Rolling Stone’s “10 New Artists to Watch” list as well.
In the meantime, Lewis said he’s pleased with the reaction he’s received overseas, especially in Britain, where he performs in churches, chapels, small performing arts centers and intimate listening rooms where the size of the audiences average 100 to 150 people each time.
“They’re very engaged, very civilized, but they can be quite reserved at times,” he said of the crowds. “The English are the most attentive, but unengaged, individuals I’ve ever performed for. They don’t really give a lot away. They don’t whoop and holler. They’re very reserved. But it’s cool to show up somewhere and find some people singing along or requesting certain songs. It’s like, how the hell do you know these songs? It can be weird.”
Lewis said that now he’s looking forward to the next phase of his career, which he described as “a nice little bridge between where I’ve been and where I’m going” — music he said he needs to make “in order to move on.”
Asked to elaborate, Lewis simply said the process is cathartic.
“I just write what I know and I write what I live,” he said. “My writing is very therapeutic. After ‘Loversity,’ I realized that I had a lot of things I needed to say, and I didn’t realize I could say them that way. I revealed a lot more of me than I had ever shared. A lot of the newer songs are directed at my inner 5-year-old child. I think of them as songs of innocence.
“I’m saying things a lot more simpler than before, and in a way that’s a lot more direct. Something really became unlocked within me. Apparently it’s necessary, because I’m really enjoying them and they keep coming. So I have to wrangle them all and decide which ones to share. And that’s the hardest part.”