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Track-by-Track: Payson Lewis Picks Apart His New Record ‘Sorry To Keep You Up’

Long in the making, singer-songwriter Payson Lewis joins us today to discuss his new album ‘Sorry To Keep You Up.’

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Payson Lewis in 2024, photo by Sela Shilon
Payson Lewis in 2024, photo by Sela Shilon

Relatability is an underrated aspect of pop music, but in his songwriting, Payson Lewis takes it to heart. The singer-songwriter (whose single “In Your Heart” we premiered a few years back) released his latest album, Sorry To Keep You Up, earlier this month. The record is the most complete and forthcoming illustration of Lewis’ career up until now. It looks through the highs and lows of his time as an artist. As a working-class artist born and raised in Philadelphia, Lewis grew up surrounded by individuals with commendable work ethics. That quality resonated with him, and it shows in this album. You gotta keep hustling and plowing forward, no matter the impediments or obstacles. That’s what he’d like you to take away from Sorry To Keep You Up.

True to his working-class roots, Lewis worked hard on this record. He spent over four years writing and recording it, injecting it with a sense of nostalgia and optimism for the future. But he wants you to know that it wasn’t all him when writing these songs. He deservedly offers big credit to the people who contributed to the album. Over 30 songwriters, instrumentalists, arrangers, and engineers aided along the way. They helped inject it with all of the heart and working-class spirit Lewis envisioned it to have when he began to map out the album.

Lewis joins us today for a special Track-By-Track rundown of Sorry To Keep You Up. He explains the background, writing, and thought process behind each of these splendid songs.

1. “Blurrier”

“One of my goals in creating this album was to highlight my own varied and patchwork personality through a kaleidoscope of sonic expression. So I feel like this song really sets the tone for the whole album by immediately introducing that eclectic combination of instrumentation that becomes a theme throughout the record. I mean, who would expect Dobro and a four-part horn section on the same tune?”

2. “Out For Blood”

“‘Out For Blood’ was weirdly the easiest song to instantly nail the vibe and point of view of, but the hardest to get the final details exactly right on. I went back and forth with my producer and co-writer on vocal arrangements, synth lines, guitar hooks, and melodic choices like a million times.

“Honestly, we were banging our heads against the wall and wanted to kill each other at times. But we finally got it just right. In the end, it was worth it though, because this song is so freaking fun. Even after hearing it a thousand times, I can’t help by sing along and dance like every time I listen back.”

3. “Primal”

“I originally wrote this song with my buddy Austin Powell for his artist project, AP Childe, but when he was producing it, it just kind of fell apart. The song sat there for a minute, but I always just loved the hook and thought it could maybe work for me with my sound. So I tried it out, added in these drunken Amadeus strings like an out-of-control baroque fever dream, and absolutely loved it. Also, the tambourine drop at the end is lowkey one of my favourite little dumb moments on the record that just makes me laugh every time.”

Payson Lewis ‘Sorry To Keep You Up’ album artwork

Payson Lewis ‘Sorry To Keep You Up’ album artwork

4. “No Coming Back From This”

“One of the things that defines me as a musician when I play live is the highlight and emphasis I put on the band and just letting the music breathe and not be buried under constant vocals. So, I wanted my album to feel the same way.

“‘No Coming Back From This’ has the first of these real big instrumental moments on the album coming out of the last chorus. It’s this lush cascading string part that is just so big and open. I feel like it is the dramatic turn of the record that really feels like it’s saying, ‘Hold on, here we go.’”

5. “Haunted Like Me” (feat. Therese Curatolo)

“This was the last song we tracked in the studio with the band in our first block of days working on this album. It was just one of those kind of magical moments where everything just locks in really deep and the whole room just feels that special something. I remember sitting in the control chair on the fifth take, and it was just so perfect. I’m not embarrassed to say I teared up a little and knew we had it. In the final record, almost 100 percent of the track comes, without a single edit, from that take.”

6. “One Thing” (feat. LJ Benet)

“My guy LJ absolutely murdered this song. We laid down the vocals in my little closet vocal booth at my house. While LJ was in the booth, I just remember losing it with every single take. It was insane what he was giving vocally. From the second his vocals enter in the second verse, you can feel it. Honestly, after he was done, I felt I had to go back in and punch up my own vocals to get them on his level. Hope I came close.”

7. “Way Down”

“This is probably the most unhinged song I’ve ever written. I feel like everyone feels disillusioned and nihilistic from time to time, but it’s rare to have an absolute time capsule of that moment. But this is it. I felt really low, lost, and lame. So I wrote a song about it, and now I can enjoy my own misery whenever I’m feeling particularly masochistic. I recommend you give it a try. Lots of fun.”

8. “Don’t Send Me Away”

“My producer is a huge DAWES fan, and honestly, so am I. So when I floated the idea of covering one of their tunes, we both had a hard time picking one. So we decided to take some time off on our own to think about it.

“A few days later, we text each other at the exact same time being like, ‘I know which song we should do…’ It’s a good feeling knowing you and your producer are on the EXACT same page.”

9. “Slowly”

“On an album full of favourites, this one might just be my very top one. From the very first chord, I feel like this song just came together perfectly. I love the rubber bridge guitar that leads the way plus the really tasty processed Wurlitzer part throughout. It was another one of those magical moments in the studio when it was just absolutely right from the very first instant. Yeah, I just love this song so much.”

10. “Written In The Walls”

“Ok, while ‘Slowly’ might be my favorite song top to bottom, this song has my favourite individual moment on the record. Coming out of the last chorus there is an epic string line that was just so freaking beautiful we wanted to highlight it even more. So we laid down a guitar line right on top that makes it feel like an arena rock guitar solo… and it’s just so good. You know, if I do say so myself.”

11. “Sorry To Keep You Up”

“The moral of the story is in this last, titular, song. It brings the full narrative of the album to light and wraps us up with a satisfying and intimate conclusion. Again, highlighted with a really beautiful string arrangement, this one was tracked entirely live in studio to really capture the simple and raw nature of the emotion. At the end of the day, it’s simple, natural, and exposed, leaving nothing more to say.”

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