Ewan Mainwood’s debut EP ‘Broken’ set in motion a first wave of discovery for a young singer-songwriter with world-facing potential. It set him on a path that has already seen him support Ed Sheeran and Maisie Peters, earn praise from Declan J Donovan, and hit festivals including Latitude, Barn On The Farm and The Great Escape. While the EP was powered by timeless elements - relatable emotions, towering melodies and a warm pop appeal - its songs were inspired by his immensely personal experience of being in a relationship with someone suffering with mental health challenges, especially its lead single ‘No One Saving Me’.
“I was flooded with comments from people who have been or are in that situation, some of them were asking for advice or just looking for it from that song.” He pauses, as if awestruck by the impact that his songs are already making. “That means everything to me.”
Despite his evident talent, Ewan is otherwise a regular 23-year-old who has struck a healthy balance between being able to consider what he music means to both himself and others, but also without taking himself too seriously. So when thoughts turned to writing his upcoming second EP, he knew he wanted to mix its moods up a little. “I had been writing sad songs for so long and I was getting bored of it,” he laughs. “I was pretty much just waiting to fall in love again.”
He had already posed questions about the nature of new love with his debut EP’s closing song ‘Do You Ever Think About Me’, singing, “I think of when and where we’ll meet? And how you’ll fall in love with me. Will it take some time or happen overnight? Will I recognise you instantly?” Sure enough, that new love stepped into his life and ignited a fresh burst of inspiration.
“I’m a person who likes writing from personal experience, so it was good to finally be able to write about something happy,” he notes. “Somehow my life has just fallen together in a way that links up through the music, and paints a story of where I am in this present moment. Most of my songs are about heightened emotions. People don’t want to listen to songs saying, everything is basically alright!”
Just as his lyrics are becoming more diverse, so too is his music. Partly inspired by his first summer festival season, his new songs have taken on a brighter, bolder anthemic edge as personified by the new EP’s dynamic lead single ‘Waiting For You’. “When you go to a festival it’s great to see a band interacting with the crowd, but I’d never get to do that just playing ballads. But now with this song I can.”
Ewan also discovered while meeting fans at those festivals that people had become enamoured with his reflective, piano-focused songwriting. So while another new song, ‘I Found You’, shimmers with a similar energy to ‘Waiting For You’, other new tracks including ‘Everyone Hurts’ and ‘Leave You Lonely’ infuse his balladry with modern alt-pop production flourishes. “I love the intense, upbeat songs. But people aren’t always in the headspace for them to want to dance, sometimes they just need to be sad.”
The new EP features Ewan’s co-writes with some top tier collaborators, including Jonny Coffer (Bastille, Rag ‘n’ Bone Man), Edd Holloway (Lewis Capaldi, Dean Lewis), Mike Needle (Niall Horan, Tom Grennan) and Carey Willetts (Dermot Kennedy, Freya Ridings). While he values their experience and the “counselling session” atmosphere of a writing session, his strongest creative connection comes from his work with the EP’s producer RISC. The duo met in Leeds as Ewan finished his university studies. Both had just come out of relationships which had put their music on the backburner. But together worked their emotions into a body of songs including the debut EP’s title track, which was the first song they wrote together.
Soon after the release of ‘Broken’, Ewan received an invite to open for Ed Sheeran at the Alexandra Palace Theatre. What was a super intimate underplay show for Ed was the biggest moment of Ewan’s career to date - especially as he only had a day’s notice to prepare. “To have your childhood inspiration come in ten minutes before you go on stage is really intense. But he’s really funny, so grounded and I got a lot of energy from him. He’s a big influence and I respect him massively. It’s great that he gives up-and-coming artists a platform, because he doesn’t need to.”
While Ed was a big influence on a young Ewan, he was far from his only inspiration. He grew up in north London listening to his parents’ record collection (The Beatles, Oasis and The Smiths), adding Sam Fender, James Bay, Lewis Capaldi and Frank Ocean as the years went by. He also recalls savouring being the centre of attention at school by jumping on the piano and playing whatever songs his friends requested. But despite that interest in other artists, making his own music was a bigger thrill. He remembers improvising melodies on his late grandfather’s piano during childhood, and would also fill endless notepads with page-after-page of lyrics.
But now the future looks brighter than he could’ve ever predicted back then. As well as the release of his second EP, the coming months will also see Ewan stepping up his live show, beginning with a headline set at his local venue Omeara and then a major UK tour as guest to DYLAN. He’s definitely ambitious, but his eye is on the prize of a longer-term goal. “I want to build a career and not just a moment. I think the climate of social media has created a lot of moments but not too many careers. Someone said to me once that you’re only ever one song away from being the biggest artist in the world, and I really think it’s true. I’ve put in the work for a few years now. At one moment I can be sitting in the pub like this, but maybe suddenly I won’t be able to walk down the street. Things can change so quickly.”