My Inspiration: Ty Lewis – Not Just Black & White | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Solo artist Ty Lewis follows up his previous releases Used To Be and Focus with his third offering Not Just Black & White, a smooth, folky number with notes of R’n’B and a soulful, melodic vocal reflecting on the strains of lockdown.

Here, Ty asks us what it is that inspired this latest track…

I wrote Not Just Black & White back in November 2020, just before the release of my debut single, Used To Be. It all kind of came from these three chords that I was playing, which ended up being the foundation of NJBW. The story of the track is quite dynamic – the idea was something that feels relevant to today, which is the feeling of distance in a relationship. Some lyrics like “I’ve been locked up”, “I’ve been finding it so hard to be alone” relate to the pandemic, with the struggles of lockdown and the strains it brings upon a relationship, but there’s also the underlying idea of anxiety within a long distance relationship. It’s almost like an apology to your other half, for not being your best self in your relationship, but acknowledging the fact that the distance can be hard to work around. The verses feel like the admittance of your feelings and problems, realising you need to talk through the situation before it takes a turn for the worse. The chorus develops into the conversation; “we both know we’re meant to be, but all this distance in between is hard” is the almost the feeling of right person wrong time, with the mutual feeling that you’re right for each other, but the distance (pandemic or not) is putting a lot of strain on your relationship.

In terms of the writing process, most of the lyrics came to me quite quickly, with the first verse and chorus written in about 20 minutes, but the second verse was a bit more of a challenge. I originally had a second verse written, but it just didn’t feel right, it felt too distant from the story of the song. I sat on the track for awhile, not really knowing where to go – I always had “It’s 3am…” as the opening line of verse 2,  and I learned in the process that in folklore, 3:00am is classed as the “Devil’s Hour”, which fits well with the idea of verse 2 – the anxiety that can come with distance within a relationship. But one night, I’m pretty sure I was scrolling through TikTok (which is pretty much part of my nightly routine at this point) when an idea hit me, and verse 2 was born. Fun fact: the line “got all of these memories replaying (x3)” is the same vocal line actually being replayed. 

NBJW was produced at Blank Studios in Newcastle, engineered by John Martindale. The track was very much a collaboration between myself, John and Luke Elgie, an assistant producer at Blank and an amazing guitar & bass player. We built the track from just an acoustic demo, all the way to the track it is today. I love how there’s such a contrast between the first verse & chorus, and the rest of the song. Mark Johnson was the amazing drummer that really brought the track together. The whole song takes quite a lot of inspiration from Justin Timberlake & Chris Stapleton’s ’Say Something’, with the acoustic feel, but also some elements of rock and soul music intertwined in there. Another inspiration is Shawn Mendes’ Illuminate album, filled with a blend of pop and rock, with acoustic guitars but also some more rocky electric guitars (which you’ll hear on ’Not Just Black & White’). My debut track ‘Used To Be’ was very much a piano ballad, so it was great to experiment with more instruments on this track, especially real drums – it makes such a difference to a track compared to those that are programmed. Overall, I’ve got to say I’m extremely proud of ’Not Just Black & White’ – I won’t say which parts are my favourite, you’ll have to listen yourself to see…

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