Lewis Capaldi reveals his mental health struggles in Netflix documentary
Lewis Capaldi’s songs touch a nerve with their raw emotional honesty and the Scottish global superstar doesn’t hold back in his new feature-length music documentary ‘Lewis Capaldi: How I’m Feeling Now’, which will screen on Netflix on Wednesday.
In his own words, 26-year-old Capaldi reveals the highs and lows of his meteoric rise to fame from pub singer to arena filling best-selling global star after his number one singles and record-breaking 2019 debut album, Divinely Uninspired to a Hellish Extent.
“I’m pretty terrified for people to see this documentary if I’m quite honest, but I’m also really proud of it,” said Capaldi.
As ever, Capaldi tells it like it is, and along with the laughs, he talks about his mental health issues, including panic attacks and his Tourette’s diagnosis, which were exacerbated by his meteoric rise to fame along with the pressure around making his new much-anticipated second album Broken By Desire To Be Heavenly Sent, to be released on May 19.
As Capaldi puts it: “A global pandemic is only like in the top three weird things that have happened to me in the last three years.”
Four years in the making, the documentary sees Capaldi take viewers behind the scenes as he initially struggles to write songs for his new album.
“Making the first album, touring the first album, recording it… was as close to like dreams coming true as you can possibly get. But as soon as the first album does well it’s like, can he do it again?”
Capaldi’s trademark humour is on show throughout How I’m Feeling Now, from his social media posts to the Club Tropicana homage video that accompanied last year’s single Forget Me, and there are plenty of laughs, but he is also honest and authentic about how the pressures of fame have taken their toll.
“I kind of wrestle with the magnitude of things. It’s now become this sort of bigger thing and it means stuff to other people.”
Back at the family home in Whitburn, West Lothian, there are candid scenes with his family and footage from his childhood with young Lewis playing guitar, followed by a song-writing trip to LA, then home where he completes the album and deals with his anxiety over its release.
Capaldi shot into the spotlight when his first single, 2017’s Bruises, had almost 28 million plays on Spotify worldwide, other singles followed suit with Someone You Love, the UK’s biggest streaming song of all time, sending him stratospheric, and his first album selling over ten million copies worldwide.
“Someone You Loved was really f***ing big. That was the turning point. Things just blew up,” says Capaldi in the documentary.
When Capaldi agreed to make the film in 2019 he was riding high, his album had done well, he was playing to huge crowds and his anxiety was under control. But then Covid hit and closed venues meant he could no longer perform live, forcing a hiatus which was compounded by the pressure to produce a second album that repeated the success of the first.
For Capaldi, being filmed 24/7 became a less positive experience and the singer revealed he ‘hated every minute’ of filming his Netflix documentary at the recent premiere in Glasgow. However it is Capaldi’s honesty and authenticity, along with his humour, that make How I’m Feeling Now compulsive viewing.
In it, reflecting on the challenge of writing songs for the second album, he says: “I think I’ve never been more insecure in my life than I am now. The success of the first one made me feel more insecure and sort of self-conscious about my own abilities” while at another point he admits “I feel like I’m in a race against the clock to get my mental health in order.”
Talking about his anxieties and how it may relate to his Tourette’s Capaldi says:
“You turn someone’s f***ing world upside down, you change their life… If you’re put in this situation you’re going to have something like this. Especially if you’re already quite an anxious person, which I guess I was.
“It started to get into my head about these pressures… there’s like skin in the game now rather than me just singing my silly little songs. Other people are depending on me.”
“When I have a panic attack I feel like I’m going insane. Completely disconnected from reality, can’t breathe, like I can’t feel my breath going in, it’s wild.”
However, a diagnosis of Tourette’s has finally given Capaldi reassurance and the confidence that he can do something to manage his anxiety.
“We had to make a stand to say right we need to find what’s happening here, just as this twitch became out of control… I’ve since learned that I have Tourette’s… That makes complete sense now when I look back. … Do you know how many people I’ve told I have Tourette’s since then? It’s outrageous. People think I’m bragging. But it’s just good to go ‘I’ve got this thing by the way, this is what it makes me do.’”
“I know what the steps are to get better. The onus is on me to do it. I can’t expect anybody else to … and I know that in myself I can, I can do it.”
With the second album due for release, the pressure on Capaldi is off and he’s happy with the results, saying, “I’m proud of the album. I do f***ing think it’s great.
“I do feel we’re in a good place. The last two years have been a bit all over the shop and the fact that the album reflects that in some way is kind of going to be a good thing.”
With his 2023 UK arena tour sold out in seconds, headline appearances at The Reading and Leeds Festival and Glastonbury and shows in Manchester, Edinburgh & Belfast this summer, Capaldi is about to tour North America and is taking his health seriously, with therapy, diet and exercise to reduce his anxiety levels, saying in the film, “I’ve been singing the best I’ve ever sung, I’ve got lots more energy, it’s almost been a big sigh of relief. I’ve been doing all the right things to get to a point where I can handle it all.”
•Lewis Capaldi – How I’m Feeling Now streams on Netflix on 5 April.