SM: It has already been an amazing year for you. Not only were you nominated for an Oscar but you performed both there and at the Baftas. How does it feel being back in these spaces?
CEW: I definitely had a new mindset coming back into it all. I’ve been looking at the world and what’s happened to a lot of people this year, all the suffering … It made me think about what’s important in the music industry. I tried to figure out how I could find meaning or purpose in something that sometimes feels a bit superficial, remembering why I made music in the first place. When I was younger, I had so many crazy thoughts and so much anxiety. I had to put my energy into something that I could focus on instead of feeling all my pain. Music can be so soothing and medicinal. It can soundtrack certain moments in people’s lives. That’s what I want to do, that’s what I’ve always wanted to do, with my music. But if I’m going to do that, I have to make sure everything I write now in the next year has real meaning to it and never compromise my integrity to please people. I’m grateful for the times we’ve been through in the past year for helping me stand firm in that.
SM: Your song Hear My Voice is the soundtrack to The Trial of the Chicago 7, which earned you the Oscar nomination. How did that collaboration come about
CEW: Daniel Pemberton, who had just started working on the score for the film, contacted me last year. I didn’t really know much about him or how legitimate it was at the time because I had never really done anything with films before, but I thought why not? I always say yes to something unless I absolutely hate the idea because you ever know where these things will lead. In this case, it led to an Oscar nomination. I haven’t really felt the full effects of what it is like to be an Oscar-nominated writer yet. I’m still living in my flat down the alleyway in Kensal Rise. I’m not out in Hollywood getting my teeth whitened yet.
SM: You’ve achieved so much since winning the Rising Star Award at the Brits. What has been the highlight for you so far?
CEW: Many things feel superficial looking back but I really did feel proud to sing on Jools Holland for the first time, which was now a really long time ago, back in 2019. Being in this position overall is just a highlight for me. It’s still quite surreal to think that I had an idea of something that I wanted to do, pursued it and now it has become my actual reality.
SM: What’s the most surprising thing you’ve experienced in your career so far?
CEW: I think I was just naive in a way when I first got into the industry. I always heard that it was going to be tricky and all the usual things people tell you about the music industry but, as each year passed, I learnt so much and realised how naive I had been the year prior. You can’t underestimate how cutthroat this space really is. You make bonds with people because it is a professional job but so much of it is also a personal relationships kind of job. So you make friends with a lot of people but then it’s tough when things don’t go to plan and those people then aren’t there because they’re not actually your real people. That’s a tough reality. I remember my manager saying to me very clearly once, “It’s a business relationship and don’t forget that.” I’ve now learnt that in some tough ways so I’m not going to forget it.