DEAN Lewis can remember a time when he lived with his Nan and all he possessed was the dream of writing a hit song.
In those days he stood on the periphery of the entertainment world, working as a sound engineer for other artists and in television.
It's fair to say those days are long gone. Lewis is now centre stage.
The release of his debut single Waves in 2016, to pardon the pun, created waves globally for the Sydney-raised singer-songwriter. The track appeared on various US TV series including Suits and Grey's Anatomy as the heartfelt lyrics and folk-pop melodies connected with global audiences.
Then came the follow-up, Be Alright, which went platinum in 22 countries and topped the ARIA charts for five weeks.
Lewis' debut album A Place We Knew continued the momentum, as Lewis claimed both Album of the Year and Best Male Artist at the 2019 ARIA Awards.
However, success and the financial windfall didn't bring Lewis instant happiness.
"I moved in with my Nan and I had all these dreams and thought if I had a hit song or a couple, that I would be happy and I guess I went through getting all the things I wanted," Lewis says over Zoom from Oakland during his US tour.
"I had nothing and then now I have some stuff and I can get a house, and that was a big realisation that I'm not any happier."
For Lewis it was the two-and-a-half-year break between shows due to COVID which made him understand what actually brought him happiness.
Since last November the 34-year-old has been on the road performing in Europe and North America to his growing foreign fan base.
"Coming back on the road, announcing this tour and touring America and Europe, I think I'm really present and appreciating things for the first time because I was thrust into this craziness," Lewis says when asked if success has changed him.
"I was a sound recordist on television and then I had Waves become a hit song, and what's going on?
"I had time to look back and appreciate it and try to realise how lucky I am and take it in. I'm really appreciating the shows these days and seeing people's faces and being present in the moment.
"I think I've changed a lot, actually."
Lewis splits his time between Sydney and Nashville, but he's planning on spending the back end of 2022 in Australia on his Sad Boi Winter Summer Tour, to support his second album due out in September.
Fans have already been treated to the singles Looks Like Me and Hurtless, which have already amassed 20.6 million and 29 million streams on Spotify respectively.
Lewis is promising fans more of his emotional folk-pop - which draws obvious comparisons with fellow Aussie Vance Joy - on his second album.
"I've seen a lot of people on their second album go in really different directions," he says.
"I think to make myself stand out a little bit more I wanted to define myself and my sound. So I think I went into more of what makes me me and more into the songs on the first album that I thought represented me.
"Those were the ones that really connected like Half A Man and Waves. I think I went more into the style I had on the first album, because I wanted to define a thing I was good at.
"I've done a lot of styles and I'm not good at a lot of things, but I have this one thing I'm good at and I wanted to explore that."
Lewis admits he's a perfectionist when it comes to himself and his music.
COVID provided him with extra time to write his second album, which included around 25 different mixes of Hurtless.
"There is a point in time when you have to let it go and I do struggle with letting it go," he says.
"When you have success that way, you keep doing it. I do wonder if anyone notices the snare drum sound, probably not. But it has to be good for me.
"When I do music, I'm doing it for me. I'm doing it because it's something I wanna listen to and it's real to me and it's something I've experienced in my life."
Dean Lewis and special guest Blake Rose will perform at the Civic Theatre, Newcastle (November 12); Anita's Theatre, Wollongong (November 13); Canberra Theatre (November 22); Albury Entertainment Centre (November 23) and Ulumbarra Theatre, Bendigo (December 2).
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