the R&B star with a timeless voice who steals the scene

Tyler Lewis is one of those people who feels most inspired at home. But when home isn’t an option, an equally cosy environment will do. The songwriter’s recording studio in Ealing, where we chat on a bright summer’s day, embodies this perfectly. Dimly lit and decorated in shades of purple, the studio is full of personal touches that Lewis has added over the past year. “The lamp, the flowers, the candle… it’s all very me,” she beams, gesturing around the room.

Much of the rising star’s forthcoming debut EP, Wait ‘Til She Gets Her Heart Broken, was recorded in this “celebration”-scented sanctuary. The warmth and intimacy of the studio reflects the EP’s vibe; it’s a beautiful blend of old and new, where Gen Z’s diary-like songwriting collides with a mature R&B and soul sensibility. There are subtle nods to Lewis’ musical favorites like Luther Vandross and Brian McKnight, as well as instrumentals inspired by the energy of Aaliyah or Janet Jackson.

On the surface, Lewis sounds wiser than her 23 years, her voice full of raw power and her delivery brilliantly commanding. But listen a little closer and the EP reveals a distinctly youthful perspective as she sings about romantic naivety, navigating the painful complexities of unrequited crushes and preferring the comfort of home to partying (“Eating and watching Gilmore Girls“ is her idea of ​​a nice, relaxing time).

The project seems to have been long-awaited for Lewis, who grew up not far from this studio in Hayes, West London. Lewis first attracted attention with a series of covers she shared on social media while at school. These videos caught the attention of a BBC Talent scout, what led to her appearance at Little Mix: The Search – a 2020 British girl group singing competition. Lewis’ audition performance of Mariah Carey’s “Circles” moved Perrie Edwards to tears and captivated new fans – including famous artist and producer MNEK, who has supported her ever since (Lewis is the first artist to release on his label MUZO BY UZO).

In the days before our studio meeting, she performed to support Little Mix’s Leigh-Anne at a sold-out concert at London’s Lafayette; Lewis has previously opened for artists such as Kiana Ledé and sung at the R&B showcase event Mahalia Presents. Her first “real” live performance was at the famous Ronnie Scott’s in 2022 – which, she recalls, was particularly nerve-wracking. She’s still nervous today, but enjoys the excitement she feels on stage. Now that she can perform her own music, that excitement has increased tenfold. Even in conversation, her excitement is palpable.

Here, Lewis reflects on the sounds and stories that shaped the new EP and shares her hopes for the future.

NME: When did you discover your voice?

“I always sang at home, but one day I came home from primary school and told my mum there was a talent competition. I thought it was fun, but I was even more excited to see other people perform. My mum said, ‘Why don’t you sing?’ We rehearsed together and I sang Mariah Carey’s ‘Hero’. I won the competition, which was a huge thing at the time. That’s when I realised how much fun it was. When you sing at school you become known as ‘the singer’ and when I got to secondary school I just carried on doing it. When there were auditions for the musical I went along – even if I was sitting at the back. I was just excited to perform.”

Speaking of competitions, how did you feel at Little Mix: The Search? How was this experience for you?

“I was working (at the time) as a receptionist in a hotel and had just finished volunteering on a farm. (Little Mix: The Search) felt like a once in a lifetime thing. It was my first experience with anything music related and that’s when I realized how competitive it was. When I finished it, I had experienced so much.”

Photo credit: Massimiliano Giorgeschi

There’s a song on your debut EP called “Never Been in Love” that sounds so honest. What was it like writing something like that – and now sharing it?

“When it came to writing about love, I had no experience whatsoever. At school, everyone around me had relationships and I just never did that kind of thing. So I thought I could technically write about it and base it on a character in a movie I love or something, but then I’d sing it and have no story. There’d be nothing to connect it to. Writing ‘Never Been in Love’ was like writing a diary. It felt pretty easy, especially with the room full of people I work with; they let me be myself. I think that’s why I wrote the EP a little later, with the right people, because I felt comfortable enough to talk about everything.”

What inspired you sonically when creating this project?

“With (my song) ‘Eventually,’ I said, ‘I want something raw that I can really sing to.’ When I hear Jazmine Sullivan, I’m like, ‘Oh my God, she’s just To sing‘ and it feels so raw – I think that was an inspiration for this song. And when I listen to Brandy, I love how soft she sounds sometimes; I think that’s true on ‘Downtime.’ (Elsewhere), on a song like ‘So Amazing’ by Luther Vandross, when it gets to the part where there’s a little bassline change, every time – no matter how many times I’ve heard it – I wait for it. That’s what I tried to do in all the songs. Those are the parts that stick with you.”

In “Downtime” you sing about wanting to leave a party you never intended to go to. What was the worst party you’ve ever been to?

“This was when I was in college. It was the phase where everyone just wanted to be crazy. I remember sitting on a chair in the corner of the room and watching everyone and thinking, ‘This could never be myself. I just pet the cat and chill in the corner while eating…”

Photo credit: Massimiliano Giorgeschi

Why should people remember your music?

“I just want it to be timeless. Even 10 years from now, people will say, ‘Oh my God, that song you wrote 10 years ago is so great, I still listen to it.’ Nowadays, it’s easy to listen to 30 seconds of a song and be done with it or put it behind you when the next song comes along. But I want (my songs) to be classics that people will take off every playlist as they get older.”

Could that be part of the reason you focused on this more classic – yet contemporary – R&B sound that many already consider timeless?

“100 percent. I feel like TikTok itself is a huge thing and everyone has a goal to go viral. But even when I was doing covers, I saw for myself how quickly the support came, but then it went away; the ups and the (downs). Once you get back to where you started, you’re like, ‘This is terrible.’ With my music, I just want to be that consistent.”

Tyler Lewis’ EP “Wait ‘Til She Gets Her Heart Broken” will be released on July 31 via MUZO BY UZO