Out of the Darkness
In the beginning, the very beginning, there was infinitude. It was everywhere, boundless, rolling, roiling and, perhaps most of all, dark. Unyielding, unending, silent and pensive, the darkness simply was.
Now, that which came next depends on one’s particular cosmology, ideology, or even theology. For Paul Lewis, front man, lead singer, and guitarist extraordinaire for Paul Lewis & Romeo Rage, it was Sky’s Rust. It was his first album in approximately 10 years.
And, it was an embracement of the very path he trod to regain such creativity, amidst circumstances that were anything but ideal.
“It ended up being a whole new sound, a whole new thing; something I hadn’t done,” Lewis recalled about his work on this influential, and latest, musical outlet. “So I wanted to go ahead and make a project out of it and create a name [for it]… I wanted to get out there a little bit more and I always wanted to kind of explore this darker edge that I have.”
Lewis does just that on this eight-track affair where he displays a penchant for shifting and sifting through styles, voices, tonality, and timbre—and that’s just when he’s behind the mic. We’re talking about tunes named “Black”, “Ghost Town”, and “Slip Away”, here. This music is far from pop. It’s a reflection, perhaps, of some of the starker realities of the current unfolding of a decade that has proven to be unlike most others.
“I can sing everything: any genre,” Lewis admitted. “I’m soulful. I can sing hard. I can sing show tunes. I can go all over the gamut. But, I had never sung like this before on this record. The way I did things on this record was different from any other record that I’ve done.”
That difference, like most of the tunes that were written for this release, is directly attributed to the still ongoing public health crisis that has (check the first paragraph above) crossed international borders and continental ones, to say nothing of the domestic variety. For Lewis, who was set to go on tour in March of 2020, the next score of months or so was perhaps emotionally jarring, yet creatively bracing.
“I felt like it was a constant thing where I’m just walking down this path and everything kept opening up for me,” Lewis acknowledged. “I’m not saying it was a positive thing. Covid was not fun. There was nothing happy about that. There was nothing positive about that except the fact that it put me on a different path which actually made me overtly, and intellectually, and emotionally, creative again. Out of this darkness we did create some cool stuff. I was able to do all this creativity and it was awesome in spite of the negativity and the darkness.”
To that end, what Sky’s Rust actually ended up doing for Lewis was bringing his countenance and pursuits back to that of a musical artist—the type that releases albums, tours, and sells himself. Although it had been the better part of a decade since he had last become habituated to that particular artistic trajectory, he had maintained his status as a musician via scoring films. And, writing songs for them. And, producing other artists. And, even acting in a film or two, as well as being featured extensively in documentaries.
As Lewis himself indicated, the difference between such ambitions—which involve every bit of, if not perhaps more so, musicality than recording music as an artist does for his own release—and that of releasing new material under his own name and brand, is likely nominal.
However, there is one clear exception, which renders the recordings under one’s own name and released under one’s own brand perhaps more significant than those for films or even for other artists is.
That exception is they tell a story. A dramatic, pronounced one, that is revelatory of the state of being of the artist around the time the material is usually released—or shortly thereafter.
“I’m an artist at heart, always have been,” Lewis revealed. “I’ve known since I was a little kid; it was something that was innate in me. Anyone who’s followed me or been a fan, or even a friend, can see my path just by looking at the art and the music and the stuff I’ve created. You can literally see the path and I’ve always been honest. And, not all of that is pretty. That’s the way it is, unfortunately or fortunately. It’s not always going to be pretty. But it will always be real and, if that’s what you want from an artist and that’s what you want from a songwriter or a musician, then I’m definitely that guy.”