April 20, 2016
There isn’t a day that goes by where I don’t see in my Facebook Feed, The New York Times, New Yorker, or Deadline Hollywood another peer who has landed yet another job, award, opportunity. 97% are duly deserved, but what does that even mean for those of us who feel caught between what we were told or thought was our potential and what is our present day reality. Were we ambitious enough? Can we remain inspired, even when it isn’t necessarily validated or opportunities fizzle or never present themselves? How do we nurture our art when we’ve got bills to pay and neurosis to slay?
I spoke with singer/songwriter and composer Arthur Lewis about potential, success, baggage, inherited dreams and talent, and his career in music. Arthur Lewis is one of New York’s finest original musicians, which is why famed poet Sarah Kay or Pulitzer, Grammy, Tony, and MacArthur “Genius” winner Lin-Manuel Miranda are fans. Arthur A brilliant mind, beautiful singer, composer, pianist, Lewis helped found Freestyle Love Supreme, with Miranda, amongst others, and it spawned careers for Miranda, Tony winner James Monroe Inglehart, Hamilton co-star Daveed Diggs, Utkarsh Ambudkar, best known for The Mindy Project, Pitch Perfect and The Muppets, director Tommy Kail, beatboxer Shockwave and so many more.
Once you hear the ethereal voice and dulcet compositions from the indie soul singer, you’ll know why Lewis is beloved by his peers. Lewis performed live at Joe’s Pub during a live taping of Employee of the Month, and you’ll get to hear his intoxicating music, as well as our candid interview, which we recorded one-on-one. We discuss the challenges of finding your way and the sweet pay off of forging a new path.
Originally from Queens, Lewis graduated from Yale, and then returned to New York, where he spent over a decade playing piano, guitar, percussion, as well as composing, singing, directing, and engineering for fellow musicians, comedians, and theatrical performances. A musician’s musician, Lewis became a go-to player in musical collectives, including the Melting Pot Crew, This Is Not the Radio, and Freestyle Love Supreme, a hip hop improv group.
But it is as a solo artist where Arthur Lewis truly shines. His singular talent for seamlessly sifting between improvising on the fly, as a true jazz artist would, and integrating his original indie soul vocals and instrumental melodies are palpable in every song on his debut album, IF WE WERE. He is also the Lead Developer at Soundfly, which uses technology to create a new kind of music school.