Pepper Lewis is on her way to becoming the frontwoman of music. Armed with a bubbly personality and outfits to match, Lewis, underneath the colorful exterior, is a reflective and proudly imperfect soul. Her new single, “Same Stuff,” is an intimate look at the artist’s struggle with mental health. Her new EP, She Told Me to Sing My Heart Out, which was announced alongside the single’s drop, is a harrowing portrayal of Lewis grappling with the death of her mother and the grief that followed.
Beyond the Stage got the chance to chat with Lewis about her new song, her influences and lessons she’s learned throughout her still early career.
BTS: Who or what got you into music and how old were you?
Lewis: My mom was a huge Bruce Springsteen fan. He set the standard for excellent storytelling. When I was six, I took my mom’s Springsteen box set and would go down into my basement and watch him perform over and over again. I remember thinking I wanted to love what I’d do “when I grow up,” like how he did. He puts in 100% for every show and it doesn’t even look like he’s trying, because he’s having so much fun.
I also remember my parents took me to a Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus concert, and all the other kids were jumping up and down, screaming their little heads off, and I remember just observing her and how she was performing and engaging with the audience. Hannah/Miley taught me so much about stage presence and perception. That was kind of the starting point for my interest in being an artist.
BTS: When did you decide you wanted to pursue music as a career?
Lewis: I was twelve when I sat down with my dad and told him this is what I wanted to be a singer until I’m really old. He explained to me what the 10,000-hour rule is and that if I was serious about this, I was going to have to put in the 10,000 hours to be a master at my craft. He then asked me if I still wanted to put in the 10,000 hours, and pursue a career in music. I’m still working on my hours to this day.
BTS: Who are your musical inspirations?
Lewis: Candi Staton, Amy Winehouse, Bruce Springsteen, and Remi Wolf.
BTS: Right now, what song or album has got you hooked?
Lewis: I cannot stop listening to “Virtual Reality” by Renforshort.
BTS: Your father taught you to make meaning out of suffering. What was his reaction when you told him you wanted to move to Los Angeles?
Lewis: He has always known that music is how I operate, that I had come to a certain point in my career that required me to “just do it,” and I’m an incredibly hard worker. It made sense for me. I’m sure he was nervous, but he treated me and my music like I was an athlete training for the Olympics. His support means so much to me. He has no idea.
BTS: Have you noticed any differences between the two cities? Do you have a favorite?
Lewis: Ugh, yes. People in Los Angeles walk painstakingly slow. Walking in New York is a “mode of transportation,” as Fran Lebowitz says. I miss the subway, I miss people watching, and I miss my friends. I’m a New Yawkuh through and through, baybee!
BTS: You have a very distinct aesthetic. How did you develop it?
Lewis: Oh, why thank ya! I think my aesthetic is a combination of what I observed from my mom and grandma’s fashion senses, and what I wanted to be when I was growing up. I pull from old comic books, cartoons, and pictures from Studio 54.
BTS: You’ve written music for shows like Catfish, Vanderpump Rules and The Real Housewives. How did you get these gigs? What were the experiences like?
Lewis: I’m a songwriter as well as a singer. When I moved to LA I started out as a songwriter for other pop artists and film/tv. I wanted to work on my craft and learn more about what makes a great song, and then apply it to my solo project. My manager told me that there was a guy looking for someone to do the background bumper music for my favorite shows on Bravo, and I think I screamed when I found out I got those gigs. My aunt screamed too when I told her.
BTS: You describe yourself as an avid songwriter, do you have a creative process?
Lewis: A songwriting tip that changed my writing, came from an interview with Bonnie McKee. She said, “everything is a lyric.” Like, everything. When you’re walking down the street, when you’re in the grocery store, etc. All you have to do is look. After I learned that, I started profusely observing my surroundings and experiences, and my writing became so much more authentic and reminiscent of a pop-up book.
BTS: What’s the hardest part of creating music/writing songs?
Lewis: The hardest part about writing songs is figuring out what the message is that you are trying to send. Sometimes that message will be clearer to you than the audience, and sometimes the message will be clearer to the audience than you.
BTS: You recently released a song “Planetarium” can you tell us a bit about the piece, how did it come to you, what inspired it?
Lewis: I wrote “Planetarium” because I was heavily crushing on a guy that was very different from me. I really, really wanted to let my guard down, but my track record with dating didn’t let me do that. I couldn’t trust him, or myself, enough to go with the flow.
BTS: You have a new song coming out on October 22nd called “Same Stuff”. Can you tell us anything about it?
Lewis: I’m so excited for “Same Stuff”! I wrote it about what it feels like when I’m not taking care of my mental health, and how my point of view changes. It’s more of a reminder to me to take my medicine and take a breath.
BTS: What are your future aspirations for your career?
Lewis: I’m going to tour anywhere anyone will let me and sing and connect with like-minded people. I’m not the only person who has gone through the hardships I’ve faced, so I hope the audience feels validated and comforted. That would help me heal as well.
BTS: What advice would you give to yourself when you first started your career?
Lewis: I would say, “hi little pepper, write like an animal, be nice to everyone, and try and find peace in patience. It’s really hard, but we’ve been through harder stuff.”
Listen to “Same Stuff” on Spotify.
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