By ROB DUGUAY
Originally from New Hampshire and now based in Boston, Veronica Lewis exudes a vintage kind of rock. Her way of writing songs on piano makes her a true blast from the past and she’s only in her 20s. With a style that echoes rock n’ roll’s original golden age of the late ‘50s, Lewis has a rhythmic approach that’s going to make people dance. In fact, a lot of folks have been dancing to her music ever since her debut album, You Ain’t Unlucky, that came out back in February. On December 4 at Chan’s on 267 Main Street in Woonsocket, people will get to see what the acclaim is all about when Lewis takes the stage at 8pm.
We had a talk ahead of the show about making her debut album, what made her want to play the piano, dealing with a lot of positive feedback and plans for 2022.
Rob Duguay: How would you describe the experience of making You Ain’t Unlucky?
Veronica Lewis: I made the album really during the whole pandemic. Before the quarantine started back in the fall and winter of 2019, I was recording all of the instrumental parts with my band. By the beginning of 2020 all of the piano, drums and saxophones were tracked and by the end of February I was just starting to begin the recording process for the final vocal tracks. Of course, the next month is when the world went into lockdown so I ended up recording all of the vocals basically at home from my cabin up in New Hampshire. I set up my microphone on top of our old wood stove so it was very DIY to say the least but I’m really grateful that I had the opportunity to work on it during the pandemic because it gave me the chance to be able to use the time and really enjoy the process of making and finishing up the album.
RD: I’ve heard similar stories about albums that were made during the pandemic where they were done and had the finishing touches already put on them. Then COVID-19 provided more free time to tinker with it and focus more on it to improve it rather than rushing for a release date. I can totally see how that was beneficial for you, now since the album’s release it’s risen high on various charts. This includes the #2 spot on the Billboard Top US Blues Albums, #1 on the ITunes Top 40 Blues Album Chart and various #1 spots on the Roots Music Report. How are you taking this amount of acclaim? It must be hard to stay grounded when you’re getting this amount of positive attention, especially for an independent artist like yourself..
VL: During the past year and a half with the pandemic it was a really crazy time and it was tough to get through it. What really kept me excited and motivated was through the release of the album people have really supported it and loved it. Through that encouragement, it got me through this really weird time in the world. The biggest thing that I’m always feeling every day is a complete overflowing feeling of gratitude and appreciation for all the support I’ve received. It really has been incredible and I didn’t know what to expect when I was releasing the album, to be honest with you.
I didn’t know if anyone was going to hear it, but it was something that I wanted to release to be a stakeholder in my career so far and in my musical journey. With everybody listening to it and loving it, it’s been the biggest motivation and exciting thing. I’ve never felt more inspired to keep writing, keep releasing and keep pushing forward. It’s been crazy.
RD: I can totally imagine. It’s awesome how you’ve been able to harness this positive energy and make it drive you. What inspired you to start playing piano in the first place? Do you come from a musical family and you were encouraged to play at a young age? What gravitated you to the instrument and start playing songs?
VL: I do come from a family of music appreciators. One of the biggest in my family was my grandfather, he actually lost his sight when he was 15 years old so the way we really connected was through music. Even when I was five and six years old, something he always instilled in me was to find music that I enjoyed. He never necessarily told me what to listen to or who to listen to, he just wanted me to find things that I liked while supporting my path for musical discovery. What I gravitated toward the most was blues and early rock & roll, roots music, early country, and New Orleans music because it was the most fun for me to listen to.
I had heard all these great piano players and when I was five my family rescued this old 100 year old piano. I saw it sitting there and I loved listening to it so I figured it would be more fun if I tried to play it while coming up with something on my own. It was a very natural journey for me to find this kind of music along with my own voice and style of writing.
RD: That’s a great story about your path to where you are now. What do you think you’ve learned the most as a musician since going pro at the age of 17?
VL: I’ve been performing since I was 12 years old so I’ve had some time and some experience but there’s still a lot more that I have to learn. I think the biggest thing is the importance of staying true to the music and always focusing on that, especially now since I’ve released my first album. It can be easy to sometimes feel overwhelmed by expectations that even you put on yourself for what you want to do next. What I’ve been trying to focus on is just keeping it about the music and understanding what I want to write about and what I want to create while kind of putting myself in a little bubble. I want to keep it really natural and not influenced by anything else.
RD: You don’t want to have your artistic vision disrupted and skewed.
VL: Yeah, something I didn’t realize that I even had to be aware of, and it took some reflection, was how easily I could fall into something that I ultimately want to avoid doing.
RD: 2022 is going to be here before we know it, so what are your plans for next year? Do you plan on focusing on performing live for the time being? Do you plan on recording your next album?
VL: I’m in the middle of my first big tour right now and hopefully if the world continues to go back to normal I plan on touring more all around the country. I’ve been writing a lot ever since quarantine and I’ve had the chance to write a lot of new stuff so I’m working on the preliminary recordings which hopefully I’ll be releasing the finished product of next year.