How Lewis Capaldi became a Gamechanger

Lewis Capaldi
Lewis Capaldi. (Picture: Aaron Parsons/Rolling Stone UK)

“I really apologise,” came the frank admission from Lewis Capaldi as he stood on Glastonbury’s Pyramid Stage this summer, looking out at one of the weekend’s biggest crowds.

“You’ve all come out, and my voice is really packing in. We’re gonna play two more songs if that’s cool, even if I can’t hit all the notes.”

In front of thousands of fans, Lewis Capaldi bravely showed the reality of what it’s like to be overwhelmed by an episode of Tourette’s syndrome, a neurological condition which causes a person to make involuntary sounds and movements called tics.

For the way he’s shone a light on the condition and used his global platform to show how he lives with Tourette’s on a daily basis, we could think of no better person than Lewis Capaldi to win The Gamechanger Award at the first-ever Rolling Stone UK Awards, in collaboration with Rémy Martin, that was held at the Camden Roundhouse last week.

Lewis Capaldi
Lewis Capaldi

The singer, who was diagnosed with the condition last year, also showed that Tourette’s sufferers aren’t alone either. As he fought his way through ‘Someone You Loved’, the song that shot him to global fame, he was joined by the entire crowd, who sang the track back to him at earth-shattering volume. They had Capaldi’s back throughout the performance and even sung for him during the moments when he was simply unable to do so.

Another person who has Capaldi’s back is Bryony Munro, a 24-year-old dance teacher from Scotland who was first diagnosed with Tourette’s in 2021. Prior to her diagnosis, she spent years experiencing tics and often faced torment from people who failed to understand her condition and, in some cases, even accused her of faking it.

She says that Capaldi’s performance — as well as his frank discussion of the condition in the Netflix documentary How I’m Feeling Now — will revolutionise the way that Tourette’s is regarded in the UK.

“Tourette’s doesn’t have to hold me back and Lewis is showing that,” Bryony tells Rolling Stone UK. “I think it normalises it a bit, and it just kind of shows everyone that it’s not just specific people that have tics. Lewis shows us that it can literally happen to anyone at any time but that it doesn’t stop us living our lives. He’s shown the reality of it and not just this whole stereotype of it being this person who swears all the time, because that isn’t always true.”

Recalling the moment she watched Capaldi’s Glastonbury performance for the first time, Bryony says, “It was almost like an out-of-body experience. I had no words, and I was just in shock at the way he was able to handle it and have the support of that crowd.”

Bryony also says that Capaldi’s post-Glastonbury decision to take a break to focus on his mental health and well-being could also have a monumental impact on the day-to-day existence of others who also live with Tourette’s.

“There was definitely a lack of education beforehand, and if you had Tourette’s and said to your employer that you needed a break, there’s every chance they wouldn’t understand. Lewis has given us a real kind of visibility and I guess that will lead to understanding in daily jobs too.”

Accepting the award on Lewis’ behalf, Capital FM DJ and his close friend, Roman Kemp, said it would change the way that the music industry treated mental health.

“We put these people on this stage, put them in front of thousands, in front of stadiums and we expect them to come off stage and be okay because they’re getting paid loads of money so who cares?,” said Roman.

“But every now and again someone, like Lewis, will come around and say you know what there’s a point where I do need to step back really regroup, see my friends, see my family, focus on who i am and take proper time out. “I implore artists to do it and I implore labels to allow artists to do it, to not put that much pressure on them and that is why Lewis Capaldi is a game changer. He is one of those artists that stood up and said that.”

When Lewis announced his hiatus, he said that it would ultimately allow him to “keep doing everything I love for a long time to come”.

Rest assured, we’ll be there when he chooses to make that return, raising a well-deserved glass to Lewis Capaldi, our magnificent gamechanger. Until then, we’ll keep his Buckfast on ice.