While not dissimilar to other music docs of recent years, Lewis Capaldi: How I’m Feeling Now charmingly encapsulates the Scottish superstar’s struggle with second album syndrome.
Following the likes of Billie Eilish, Taylor Swift and Selena Gomez, Lewis Capaldi is the latest music sensation to deliver a behind-the-scenes, tell-all documentary about the struggles of success. While Gomez and co.’s efforts might not have had as many references to wanking, swearing or piles of laundry, they all follow a formula that Joe Pearlman’s How I’m Feeling Now doesn’t shy away from either. Nonetheless, it’s an interesting, heartfelt look at the cheery guy who sings sad songs and the irony in that dichotomy.
The documentary is predominantly focused on the making of Lewis’ upcoming sophomore album, ‘Broken by Desire to be Heavenly Sent’. It chronicles the difficulties of following the incredible success of his debut, ‘Divinely Uninspired to a Hellish Extent’, and how Capaldi worries anything he delivers won’t be a worthy successor. It’s second album syndrome, coupled with Capaldi’s struggles with anxiety and his eventual diagnosis of Tourette’s.
Director Joe Pearlman isn’t treading any new ground here. Wild success and near instantaneous global fame, personal and creative struggles, a break before an optimistic comeback, are all music-doc checkpoints that the film ticks off in due course. It doesn’t completely avoid the trappings of genre cliché, but Capaldi has such infectious charisma, humour and energy that it doesn’t feel as rote as it could do.
Capaldi is refreshingly – and unsurprisingly – candid throughout, confessing to a lack of confidence in his song-writing abilities and admitting to feeling like an imposter. It’s an honest and frank look at an artist struggling to make art under pressure, and a man whose humour and goofy social media persona disguises his crippling panic attacks. His first album was written mostly in his bedroom, sat at a piano with vague hopes that someone would hear it and enjoy it someday. And now he’s selling out arena tours, breaking UK chart records and surrounded by songwriters to help make ‘hit singles’. The stakes are much higher, and Capaldi is beginning to buckle.
Pearlman is sensitive to Capaldi’s mental health struggles, and the film allows his parents to express their worry and for the audience to visibly see the affect it’s had on him. At times the film feels like how Capaldi describes his life post-fame: frenetic, loud, oversaturated and overwhelmed by people. And then it strips all of that away to emphasise ‘Lewis’, the regular guy who suffers from anxiety and just happens to have sold over 10 million records. The intercut screaming fans and flashing lights are sometimes a little incongruous to that aspect of him, but they help Pearlman make his point about the man behind the music.
How I’m Feeling Now gives us a glimpse into the pressures of a follow-up and the weight of expectation. It’s self-aware – with Capaldi even making a joke about the cliché shot of a plane flying overhead when the subject is about to travel, and Pearlman immediately offering one up – and a decent insight into a man that overshares on social media but struggles in private, even if it doesn’t tread any particularly new ground. And from the snippets of new music sprinkled in there, it seems like Lewis might finally stop watering those seeds of doubt and enjoy this second go around.
Lewis Capaldi: How I’m Feeling Now is now streaming on Netflix.