SG Lewis — Hit Producer for Dua Lipa and Elton John — Says His New Album Is a 'Selfish' Venture

SG Lewis — Who's Made Hits with Dua Lipa and Elton John — Says His New Album Is a 'Selfish' Venture
SG Lewis — Who's Made Hits with Dua Lipa and Elton John — Says His New Album Is a 'Selfish' Venture

Lauretta Suter SG Lewis

SG Lewis has produced music for superstars like Khalid, Dua Lipa, Elton John and many others. But with his brand-new, second full-length album, AudioLust & HigherLove, out Friday, the British musician made a record entirely for himself.

After releasing his debut album times in early 2021, the 28-year-old performer (born Samuel George Lewis) planned to take a break — but pandemic lockdowns left him isolated and "bored" with nothing to do, so he started crafting its follow-up just "two weeks" later.

"I think that, as a result, more of me is inserted into the music," Lewis tells PEOPLE. "I now know myself as an artist and a singer way better, and so — not that I don't care — but whatever happens to the album, happens to it now. I'm like, 'Well, I've got what I wanted out of it.' It was selfish in that regard."

Making music in solitude isn't exactly new for Lewis. Long before he became a go-to producer for some of the biggest names in pop, he grew up playing in bands and learning to produce from his parents' attic in Reading, England. As a teenager, he was preparing to study mechanical engineering in college before a tutor advised him to take his artistry more seriously, which led him to work toward a music degree at the Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts.

SG Lewis — Who's Made Hits with Dua Lipa and Elton John — Says His New Album Is a 'Selfish' Venture
SG Lewis — Who's Made Hits with Dua Lipa and Elton John — Says His New Album Is a 'Selfish' Venture

Lauretta Suter SG Lewis

"My parents were like, 'Well, if you're going to do it, you have to go and get a degree,'" recalls Lewis. "I was doing pretty badly because I just started making music in my bedroom instead of going to lectures."

He soon uploaded original work to YouTube, landed his first DJ residency at Chibuku nightclub and was discovered by PMR Records, where he's still signed today in collaboration with Virgin EMI in the U.K. and Astralwerks in the U.S.

"I signed my record deal before I really had a clue what I was doing or what I wanted to be as an artist," he says, noting that he looked up to artists across genres from DJ Ben Klock to songwriters like Bon Iver. "I worshiped at the church of James Blake for most of my university life. He was the first artist that showed me that you don't have to be categorized [into a specific genre.]"

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Leading up to the release of times, Lewis became known as a master collaborator, having found success alongside G-Eazy with "No Less," Clairo with "Better" and Dua Lipa with "Hallucinate" — which became his first-ever radio hit. "It was a song that came together in Dua's vision at a time where she was on her way to something larger than us all," he says. "She's an artist that's in full control of her voice and vision, and it definitely set a standard for me with producing pop artists."

times featured collaborations with Robyn, Channel Tres, Lucky Daye, Nile Rodgers and more. But to Lewis' surprise, "Chemicals," a solo song featuring his own vocals, became the album's biggest hit. "What that said to me was, it's not about having the best voice or singing the best, it's about the song and delivering the emotion," he says. "I was like, 'I have to explore this. I have to see how far this goes.'"

Living with a fresh perspective in pandemic-forced isolation, Lewis started working on AudioLust & HigherLove. Largely relying on his own musical and vocal abilities, he found himself reflecting on his experiences with romance, which soon led him to construct the album's overarching narrative arc.

"I started to notice this pattern of these two different versions of love and romance, where one was very lust-driven, addictive and toxic, and the other was a more fulfilled, actualized version of love," he says. "So, I started to build sonic worlds for those two places."

Over its 15 tracks, the album is split into both types of romance, with songs like "Infatuation" illustrating an immediate rush of lustful attraction and others like "Something About Your Love" embodying deep, intense romantic feelings. While crafting the album's second half, Lewis entered a relationship with social media manager Natalie Engel and began falling into the type of love he was writing about.

"It's like life reflecting art slightly, and it was ironic. For me, I haven't found myself in this situation, and it's been a really wonderful teaching thing where you learn a lot about yourself," the musician says of his relationship. "I think that if I was to make the album again, I would know more about it now than I did [at the time]. So, it's been really rewarding."

Once the album's concept was constructed and pandemic restrictions were eased, Lewis decided to welcome some major collaborators into the studio. After scheduling a session with Swedish singer-songwriter Tove Lo, he randomly met her husband, New Zealand creative Charlie Twaddle, a week beforehand at a Phoebe Bridgers concert.

"There was pressure because me and Charlie had become fast friends," recalls Lewis. "By the time me and Tove met, it was this preconceived notion of, 'God, if this goes badly, it's going to be awkward.'"

Luckily, it was anything but awkward. In addition to getting along as friends, Lewis and Lo created two massive bangers — "Call On Me" and "Pineapple Slice," the latter of which appears on her album Dirt Femme — that've received massive love from their respective LGBTQ+ fanbases.

"It was funny because when we made 'Call On Me,' we posted a photo in the studio, and gay Twitter was like, 'The horniest banger is about to be made ever,'" he says. "The reason 'Pineapple Slice' got made was because we were like, 'Well, we better give them what they want.'"

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Lewis also brought Ty Dolla $ign and Lucky Daye into the mix, which resulted in "Vibe Like This" — a song that almost disappeared during an all-too-fun studio session. "Everyone's smoking, and I'm a massive lightweight, so all of a sudden I'm really high off the secondhand fumes," he details. "Everyone's on their feet dancing, and life always has a way of humbling me — I turn around to give Ty a high five, drag the headphone cable and pull the laptop off the table. So, I very nearly destroyed the laptop and the song, but luckily, someone managed to catch it."

Now that AudioLust & HigherLove is out in the world, Lewis' next step is to perform its songs for fans in-person. He's been introducing the project on tour since fall 2022, and this year, he'll take his shows to new heights with a European leg and a major performance at Coachella.

Along the way, he'll begin working on the next project, which he's "already thinking" about. In fact, he's scouting a potential collaboration with Charli XCX — possibly unaware of exactly how hungry both artists' fans are for that creative pairing: "I'm manifesting it this year."