Lewis & Leigh started with no real plan in mind. What began as a casual songwriting session through a mutual Nashville friend has become three EPs in eighteen months.
Before Lewis & Leigh, Al Lewis and Alva Leigh had both been doing the solo artist thing for a while, but suddenly the prospect of joining forces appealed to them. They sat down to talk about how it all started.
Alva: I grew up in Mississippi. I learned to sing and harmonise in church. I was raised on what we’re calling ‘Americana’ these days… this melting pot of roots music. But I never felt like I could write this type of music myself.
Al: I have always been a big fan of Americana, alt-country artists like Gillian Welch, Whiskeytown, Wilco, but being Welsh, I never really thought I could write this type of music with any kind of authenticity. When I met Alva, I was working on a Welsh-language album and looking to co-write songs for what I thought would be my next English album, but something wasn’t clicking for me.
Alva: When I moved to London in 2012, I was writing on my own a lot, but I felt a little lost musically. Before when I was living in Nashville – the songwriting capital of the world – I had never really written with other people before Al, but I was determined to try it. The first song we wrote was ‘What Is There To Do.’
Al: Yeah and we didn’t know if that one was a fluke! So we decided to see if we could write another one. And then came ‘All Night Drive.’
Alva: Four or five songs in, Al texted me one night – very 21st century – to ask if I’d like to release the songs together, as a duo. It had never occurred to me to do that – I figured they’d all be for his album – but I obviously said yes. It felt natural to say yes because we were just getting started. I felt like there were more songs in us waiting to be written. I still feel that way.
Al: So we released our first EP, Night Drives in October of last year and started to play gigs. I think our first gig was opening for John Fullbright which was pretty surreal.
Alva: We got a nice reaction which was encouraging. I got to tell my mom Happy Birthday live on Radio 2. We kept writing songs but they were different to the ones we had written at first… they were a bit darker and more moody.
Al: I feel like “Rubble” was a real turning point for us in our writing. We started drawing connections to Wales and Mississippi and found that they had more in common than we thought. Again, it showed us that there are a lot of songs left in us waiting to be written.
Alva: Friends back home say it’s funny that I came all the way to England to play Americana music. But I think you can find roots of Americana music on this side of the pond too. Songs that reflect your life aren’t bound to one place or one style, and I think it’s great to see it taking off in the UK.
Lewis & Leigh flew the flag for the UK at Americana Fest in Nashville, and they were nominated for Best UK Artist and Best UK Song (“Rubble”) at the UK’s inaugural Americana Awards. They are running a Pledge Music campaign to support their debut album. It’s exciting times and it seems like they’re just getting started.