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By Samantha Hissong

Not long ago, Lewis Capaldi was just an average guy, gigging in Scottish pubs, having a pint and a laugh. And then everything changed—except for the laughs; he’s still got a wicked sense of humor that he’s now known for. This year, his critically acclaimed debut album, Divinely Uninspired to a Hellish Extent, became the fastest-selling U.K. debut of 2019. And breakout single “Someone You Loved” spent a nearly unprecedented seven weeks at #1 in the U.K. With the help of Steve Barnett’s Capitol, the dynamic balladeer’s becoming a household name in the U.S. Ed Sheeran, who even gifted Capaldi a tracksuit as part of a running joke, recently brought him out as an opener. Capaldi’s formed a tight friendship with Niall Horan. And earlier this summer, he found himself lunching with Elton John, who’s referred to him as “the next British superstar.”

How does such a hilarious human write such heart-wrenching songs?
[Laughs] I don’t know. Just seething pain underneath all the time? Laughing through the pain? No, I always say no one is one way all the time. I’m very rarely a sad person and very rarely a serious person, so it’s good to have the music to do that. This is my outlet for that sort of stuff, and then I just stick to pube jokes and toilet humor. It’s honestly one of those things that I haven’t really thought about until recently. I just thought I was making some songs. So maybe, for album two, what I’ll do is go and make all happy songs.

Your life has changed drastically in a relatively short amount of time. How do you feel amid the whirlwind?
It’s fucking mental. You can’t take it too seriously, because it’s next-level crazy. The only way I can try and make sense of it is by having a laugh with it and taking it for what it is.

That’s a very nice thing to say; that I was “lunching with Elton.” We were having a conversation, and at one point, I was showing him music on an iPad, and he’d show me songs. And maybe every 10 minutes, I’d look up and think, “Holy fuck, I’m talking to Elton John.” There’d be this realization over and over again. Mental.

This August, you said you had some of the best nights of your life in Edinburgh with thousands of people belting back your lyrics two nights in a row. What was going through your head?
At the time, especially on the first night, I was thinking, “I really have to go to the bathroom; I really have to pee.” Actually, when I hit one of the higher notes—and I’m not afraid to tell you this, ’cause we’ve known each other quite some time now—I peed myself a little bit. I swear to God. Not like a full pee, but a little trickle for sure. I thought, “Oh, fuck.” I’m trying to stay hydrated, you see. It’s good for you, good for your skin. It’s not conducive to singing in front of thousands of people, though, because you will piss yourself.

But when people sing the songs, it’s crazy and bizarre. It’s a wall of love from people. When 6,000 people are singing your song, that’s the closest I’ve come to thinking I’ve made it. And I don’t even fully think that. In retrospect, when I watch the clips on my Instagram, it feels very weird to know that it’s me on stage—that it’s my song. It almost feels like the last two years have been happening to someone else, and I’m just watching. But it’s incredible.

What has been the most surreal moment thus far?
Noel Gallagher said I was shite and that my music was terrible. For me, that’s a moment. Like, “What the fuck?!” I was buzzing. I was so excited! Fuckin’ hell! Noel Gallagher thinks I’m shit! It’s hilarious. I say that to people and they kind of roll their eyes a bit, but, genuinely, I grew up obsessed with Oasis. He always slags people off, but this time, it was me.

Also, we did Glastonbury—shortly after that happened, actually—and walking out to that many people was amazing. My manager said that they reckon there were about 60,000 people watching my set, which is fucking mental. I never ever expected to get to a point where I was playing shows outside of Scotland—let alone Glastonbury, on the second-biggest stage there.

Did you ever expect this chart-topping, record-breaking success?
Uh, no. I didn’t have a fucking clue. And I never saw myself as someone who was big, even when I signed a record deal. I never saw myself as someone who’d have singles in the Top 40 or whatever.

I don’t think it’ll ever happen again my career; I’m not worried about that. It’s so fucking weird, but you get on with it. People ask if I knew “Someone You Loved” was going to be a hit when I wrote it, and I’m always shocked; I didn’t have a fucking clue. I don’t know what I’m doing—I’m guessing at all of this, and it’s been an interesting few years. It could’ve just as easily not gone my way. I was in the right place at the right time—I got lucky—so I’m just gonna go with it.

In the music world, Grammy consideration is perhaps the surrealest of the surreal. What do the Grammys mean to you? Did you watch them growing up?
Of course, I watched them. I feel like any music fan growing up watches the Grammys. It’s the music industry saying, “We hear you, we rate you and we think you’re good.” And for me, that’s a big part of it. It’s nice to know that people in the music industry think I could be around for a long time. It’s a seal of approval.