October 19, 2023

Lew Apollo performs every other Wednesday at the Still Austin Distillery for our Blues & Bourbon events. A rising force in the world of neosoul-blues rock, Lew has a gift for captivating audiences with his soul-stirring melodies and poignant songwriting. Born and raised in Barnum, MN, Lew’s journey in music began with a deep connection to the rich musical heritage of his home state. Following the release of his debut EP “Jungle,” masterfully produced by BLK ODYSSY, Lew amassed an impressive 150,000 streams in less than two months. In the wake of his father’s tragic suicide in Fall 2022, Lew’s artistry took a profound turn. He found solace in pouring his emotions into his songwriting, using his music as a platform to normalize conversations about difficult topics such as isolation, entrapment, anxiety, temptation, and depression. Through his heartfelt lyrics and soulful voice, Lew Apollo aims to remind his audience that they’re not alone in their struggles

A man sitting in a wooden chair, holding a glass of whiskey.

1. What gets your motor running?

I find inspiration in almost everything. Discovering my own flashlight in this dark forest is incredibly motivating as I’m working towards a cause and a feeling that’s way bigger than me. For me—and for many others, I’m sure—music can truly heal and change your outlook or state of mind on a dime. So, when my mind travels to a dark place, it’s usually inspiring to work through that with a song.

2. Tell us about a work of art you feel is woefully misunderstood or underappreciated.

Man, so many artists are underappreciated. Being an all-around music fan, but especially a fan of older music, I’d say older artists are increasingly misunderstood as their music is made for a period of time and is static, while everyone is fixated on what’s next. [This is especially true of] non-pop genres like blues and folk. As a native guitar player obsessed with blues my whole life, I’d say many people don’t understand artists like Jimmie Vaughan. When first learning guitar, I used to think he wasn’t anything crazy, but as my knowledge grew on phrasing, tone, and all the idiosyncrasies that come with blues playing, he’s become one of my all-time favorites. It’s almost an acquired taste with some musicians, but once you begin to understand their process and mindset it’s so captivating and rewarding to be a fan of their music.

3. You’re from Minnesota, but you’ve become a fixture on the Austin blues scene. What are the differences in the musical traditions of Minnesota and Austin?

I grew up mostly on old folk music like Bob Dylan, Gordon Lightfoot, Neil Young—played by my Dad—and Prince, The Jackson 5, and Hall & Oates, played by my Mom. I didn’t know it at the time, but now I think it sums up Minnesota’s musical culture perfectly. There’s a really good blend of folk and bluegrass up north and a big funk and pop scene in the Minneapolis area. Austin, on the other hand, really appreciates blues and live music specifically, hence the nickname, “Live Music Capital of the World.” Minnesota appreciates live music too, but there aren’t bands on every corner every night.

4. You’ve said that your music has helped you find solace. How do you use songwriting and performing to heal?

This last year has been very hard for me, losing my father unexpectedly and asking the world so many questions. Music has been the magic that’s straightened the compass for me every time I feel lost. I know I’ll always have peace in music, so it’s a weighted blanket for me in dark times, if you will. Performing has become spiritual, really. When you play with incredibly talented musicians like the guys I play with, it allows you to forget about all your worries and insecurities and just feel. I’m blessed to be able to do that every night.

5. Your music combines elements of blues, rock and soul. How did you combine these elements to find your own unique sound?

Being a giant fan of music, no matter the genre, has allowed anything I’ve been digging in the moment to pop through the music and be a part of my voice. Working with BLK ODYSSY on my music has been an incredible experience as I’ve been introduced to new sounds I never thought I’d dive into just a few years ago. I don’t have any favoritism or preconceived notions with music, so I just want everything to coexist if it works musically. One of my favorite genres is blues rock. My Dad and I bonded over a band called Rival Sons when we first heard about them in 2009; they’re the epitome of that genre if you ask me, and my personal favorite band. The combination of blues, rock and soul has always struck a nerve within me. I just try to put a spin on my favorite sound: bands like Reignwolf, Queens of the Stone Age, Kaleo, and Band of Skulls.

6. Your debut album will be released next year. It seems like a big project! How do you tackle something like that, creatively?

I’m just trying to write all the time. Whether it be a beat, chord progression, lyric or vocal melody, I’m always working on something in my makeshift home studio. I think the most important thing when writing is to not panic-write and become frantic. I find myself stressed far too often about the things I have to get done. This works for task-oriented things but definitely not music—not for me, at least. It’s important that a song is genuine and comes from your soul, as cliché as that may sound. Sometimes it takes a month, and sometimes fifteen minutes to get one down. But you can’t rush the process; it happens when it happens. I would sure love if it was fifteen minutes every time, though.

7. How do you take your whiskey?

On the rocks.

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