A graduate of a News Decoder partner school, Pip Lewis is juggling her studies with her passion for music — and winning accolades along the way.
Students are forever encouraged to “follow their passion” as they contemplate what to study, where to go to university and what careers to consider.
Pip Lewis, who graduated from News Decoder partner school La Jolla Country Day School (LJCDS) last year, is one of those doing precisely what she likes to do — making music — and, despite daunting obstacles, racking up success after success.
A single, “People Like You,” on her debut album has been nominated for a San Diego Music Award as best acoustic/folk song. The same song was a finalist in the international category of Song Academy’s Young Songwriter competition earlier this year.
Her music has aired on the BBC and on 91X radio in San Diego, and she’s performed at the House of Blues, Queen Bee’s and the Roxy in the southern California city.
Lewis was born in the UK and moved to San Diego with her family when she entered 7th grade. In her final year at LJCDS, she stood out in News Decoder’s global community, first during a webinar on the Guantánamo Bay detention camp and then with an article on how protest music helped her understand complex issues such as gun violence, racism and mental health issues.
For Pip Lewis, music is the best way to express herself.
I asked Lewis, who is finishing a “gap year” between high school and university, why music has assumed such importance in her life.
“I think a lot of people expect a more profound answer than this, but it just came about because I like it,” she said over Zoom. “I kept doing it because I love it, and it’s one of the few things that I’m good at. I just really enjoy it, and I find that that’s kind of the best way to express myself.”
Why has music been so effective in opening her eyes to social injustice?
“Music makes statements no matter what, and I would argue that a lot of music makes political statements, whether it’s based on politics or not,” Lewis said, speaking from her family’s UK digs in Hampshire, south of London, where she is spending the summer before returning to California to attend a community college and to continue making music.
She cited her song “I Fell Asleep Thinking of Her,” which she said is based on Greek mythology and is about two women — one mortal, one a god — who fall in love with each other. “It’s making a political statement, in the fact that it’s two gay women,” she said. “It’s not intended to be a political song, but by nature people can make it political.”
‘This album put me through hell.’
Asked to name musicians who have influenced her, Lewis cited Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Big Mama Thornton, Maggie Rogers, Phoebe Bridgers, Otis Redding, Sam Cooke and Justin Vernon. And, tipping her hat to her parents’ tastes, she named the group Madness and Billy Joel.
As someone who bridges two countries and appreciates diverse musical styles, Lewis calls herself a fan of both digital albums and vinyl LPs, and actually had 25 vinyl versions of her album cut. “I just love the way it sounds.”
But making the album was anything but easy for the 18-year-old red-head, who recorded all of the music in her bedroom, before and during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This album put me through hell,” she said. “A lot of people expect the album-making process to be this kind of dream scenario, and it really, really wasn’t. There were so many days where I would just kind of sit at my computer and cry over this, and just not like things weren’t working.”
But she also cried with joy when she felt the LP in her hands.
I asked Lewis if she had tips for high school students interested in recording music, as she has done.
“I would say observe the world around you, because a lot of my album is just based on my observations on the world,” she said.
“I was looking at humans and how they interact with the world and how they interact with each other. And I was looking at nature, and you put it together. It makes ‘Human Nature.'”
(Nelson Graves is the founder of News Decoder.)