Cardiff character: Phil Lewis

Musician Phil Lewis is singing in aid of Alzheimer’s

Phil Lewis believes Cardiff was the perfect environment to encourage his creativity

Many musicians do it for the money but this Cardiff local is singing for a cause close to his heart. Singer and songwriter Phil Lewis arrives early, casually dressed, adorned with a smile and the slight hint of a Movember moustache, in possession of a talent that rivals many others.

Phil’s single Dripping Away, released on 10 October, is being used to promote Alzheimer’s, of which Phil is sadly now an expert. His father died in January 2010 and it was shortly after that Phil began writing what would be his third album. Phil is making a positive experience out of a truly tragic event; all proceeds from Dripping Away, about his first-hand experience with Alzheimer’s, will go to Cardiff’s Alzheimer’s Society.

Singing for Alzheimer’s

Dripping Away earned Phil a semifinalist position in this year’s UK Songwriting Competition, beating 6,000 other applicants. He claims this was a  real validation of the song and an indication of what other people thought.

He modestly describes his hopes to make sufficient money to raise awareness. His passion for music and culture is clear when he speaks of events that could help Alzheimer’s patients; he wants to help Cardiff’s Alzheimer’s Society take patients to the Welsh National Opera. “Much in the same way that people who stutter don’t when they sing, people with memory problems caused by dementia remember melodies and words to songs. It’s a unique way of using music to help dementia patients,” he explains.

While Phil was hesitant to release a song on such a personal subject, he reflects positively on the experience. He says, “I’m talking about my dad and it’s leading me down a path where I’m able to share memories.” Alzheimer’s is a strange disease, he confides. “By the end, it was my family, not my Dad, who were suffering the most.”

Phil believes Cardiff’s Alzheimer’s Society is overshadowed by bigger charities that have more funding to promote themselves. Music does not only raise money, it raises awareness. “As well as paying 79p for a download, it might inspire people to get involved,” he says.

The Celtic spirit

The variety of activities Phil engages with exemplify his respect for culture and the arts. When he was younger he was interested in breakdancing. Now he is involved with his local church and possesses a love of travelling. He dabbles in film editing, creating videos for songs off his new album, as well as designing artwork to go with it, and is also a football enthusiast. He believes much of these talents have been nurtured by Cardiff’s culturally generous atmosphere.

“I’m very glad to be Welsh. There’s something about the Celtic spirit that bonds people together. The English scene doesn’t seem to have the natural kinship that is prevalent in Wales.”

Cardiff has been an arena of encouragement for Phil and he says he is incredibly grateful and overwhelmed by the support of local websites, magazines, and radio stations. The Copthorne Hotel, for example, provided a room for his single’s launch party. A chance meeting with a man in a studio resulted in a list of people for Phil to contact within the industry. This man later became the head of music in BBC Wales, and the boss of a record company to which Phil became signed.

Family roots

As the only musician in his family, he talks fondly of his father’s love of listening to, rather than performing, music. He describes his mother as a great cook who makes wonderful dishes and his eccentric brother as a “man about Bogies”, recently posting on Facebook his participation in an air guitar championship in the club.

He views all things in life within a positive framework. “Nobody has a perfect family. We’ve all got ups and downs;  it’s just the nature of them.” The greatest lesson he has learned is to always have a deep respect for people and he says his family have taught him both sides of the coin.

“Disrespect can be incredibly damaging on both a personal and cultural level. Respecting people has completely the opposite effect; it binds people together and creates strong, mutually respectful relationships.” Society, he says, has forgotten this over the years and events, such as the recent London riots, portray this lack of respect.

Future unknown

The next thing for Phil is album promotion. He believes this is his best album, a feat he claims as his greatest achievement to date; this is the closest he has come to recreating the sound in his head when he put pen to paper. He says he is waiting to see what 2012 will bring him in terms of opportunities.

“Music is a huge passion of mine; if I had the money to go into the studio tomorrow, I would,” he says. He pauses. “I’ll just have to wait and see what 2012 brings.”