Guitar Man: Damian Lewis’ Music Journey Part I

“I’m looking forward to getting out there and playing the songs I’ve written and been recording for my debut album. Be good to be back on stage, this time with a guitar in my hand.”

—Damian Lewis

photo credit: Rhys Frampton

You know what I did in the title, don’t you? If you know a certain ginger man who thinks he is the “second coming of Elvis” that is returning to stage with a guitar in hand, you go and title your related post after a lesser known Elvis gem 🙂

So… if you are not living under a rock, you know that Damian returned to stage, this time, with a guitar in hand turning his fantasies into reality. I have already reviewed his first three London gigs at Omeara, The Tabernacle and Hoxton Hall. Damian also took stage at Wilderness Festival, World Economic Forum in Davos and Cheltenham Jazz Festival. And not just that but he has already dropped three singles that you can hear/download: Down On the Bowery, Zaragoza, and Makin’ Plans. There is also a double-sided special 7-inch vinyl that he released on Record Store Day UK which you can order online now. Damian’s album Mission Creep is coming out on June 16 and you can pre-order it here. And it does not end there… Damian is scheduled to participate in the critically acclaimed song-writer sessions at Black Deer Festival on June 16, a stripped back set and signing of his record Mission Creep at Rough Trade East  in London, and his biggest gig to date at Union Chapel on July 11. I am sure more gigs will follow. You can visit our Damian Lewis Music Page to find out about Damian’s live gigs, ticket information, reviews and more.

I came to Damian Lewis fandom thanks to falling in love with his portrayal of Nicholas Brody in Homeland. So it is no surprise that the first musical performance I saw Damian in was a video from Homeland‘s first season wrap party where Damian, with his band Yummy Yummy Yummy, sang for his favorite CIA agent:

And here is Damian talking about the set he and his band played at the Season 1 wrap party!

Then I saw him play the piano and/or sing/karaoke at parties, talk shows, award ceremonies, charity fundraisers and what have you! And as I read more about him, I found out that Damian has a long history with music.

Damian sang in a chamber choir at a young age — days that he remembers fondly at the Music For Youth Schools Prom at Royal Albert Hall in 2013 where he presented awards to inspirational music teachers:

“It is a really big thrill to give this away to one of the inspirational teachers… When I was roughly your age, 11 or 12, I sang in a chamber choir and had an inspirational teacher, Mr Woodgate, who rearranged Beatles tunes. And so, as an 11 year old I was able to sing Eleanor Rigby and I Love Her and other Beatles tunes in four-part harmony, and it’s a memory I treasure to this day.”

After Beatles came Elvis!

The blurb that introduces us to Damian the musician states the following:

“Damian started playing the classical guitar when he was 13 years old. Quickly though, suspecting that he might be the “Second Elvis” he graduated to the steel string acoustic, so that he could sing Elvis in the mirror, without fear of interruption.”

Damian told Kirsty Young on Desert Island Discs back in 2014:

“Up until I was about the age of 18, I thought, I was Elvis, returned, and spent a lot of my time putting shaving foam, oddly, through my hair and relentlessly coiffing my quiff, and any opportunity getting into my skinny pair of black jeans and my winklepickers and my paisley shirt from Kensington market, and this is Elvis.”

You can hear the entire podcast here and Elvis bit is at 04:34.

Even though it seems Damian has given up thinking he is Elvis, returned… He still carries Elvis close to his heart. Well, let’s say our guy just cannot sit still when he sees a piano — it turns out he taught himself how to play — and always has an Elvis song up his sleeve: here is Damian playing ‘All Shook Up” on the Jonathan Ross Show.

Elvis years were followed by busking summers. Damian talked about his lifelong love for guitars as well as the summers he spent busking in the South of France in an interview with Express:

“I was very young, 21, 22, 23, I used to have a motorbike, and I’d drive it down through France and set myself up for a month, play my guitar and sing to people in the street and make money. I’m not a great guitar player but I did learn classical guitar in my teens and then realized that busking was what I wanted to do with that.

I really enjoyed it and at one point could play 60 songs off the top of my head – although they were all songs with very simple chord structures so I didn’t get any better by playing them.

Given that, I played all sorts of things – lots of Beatles, lots of Elvis, the Eagles, the Doobie Brothers, Simon and Garfunkel. Really, what I was playing was wedding music for really uncool weddings!”

There was a square in Aix-en-Provence where there were five restaurants surrounding a little fountain, and none of the restaurants could get away from me because I’d put myself right in the middle and play to all of them!

The people eating and drinking in the restaurants would pay me in beer, and then they could really never get rid of me because I’d just sit there getting drunker and drunker and drunker.

There were a couple of nights when I’d suddenly look up and the waiters were actually putting the chairs on the tables, and I was still there, playing to nobody, with a line of bottles in front of me. It was a lot of fun – they were good times.”

And he still spends money on guitars 🙂

“I’ve  just spent quite a lot of money on a new guitar – which means I now have four guitars, which sounds extravagant. It’s a brand-new Martin, a lovely smoked black one, which I picked up in a sale.”

I bet this is the guitar Damian mentioned in the interview…

… the one he played when he and Helen were the wedding singers at their friends’ wedding ceremony in Fall 2020 both of them singing Irish songs for the happy couple!

And Damian has given some guitar love to his kids as well.

“I’ve just bought vintage guitars for my kids. There was one with a picture of Roy Rogers, the cowboy in the 1950s, for my son. The department store Macy’s put out a lot of half-sized guitars called ‘family guitars’ which Roy Rogers had obviously given his name to, and I picked one of those up for my son.

And one for my daughter from the 1930s, which has lovely graphics painted on, either Tahitian or Hawaiian. They’re both very nice.”

It seems that as he was able to earn money from acting, Damian put his music on the back burner but he formed bands on film sets, kept playing the guitar and singing privately.

As I mentioned earlier in the post, Damian sang on Homeland! And not only with his Homeland band Yummy Yummy Yummy at the Season 1 wrap party but also on the set with wonderful Mandy Patinkin: Now, for those of you that do not know of other incredible talents Saul Berenson has next to spying… Mandy Patinkin is a tenor and a voice artist who is first and foremost known for his work in musical theater, in particular the works of Stephen Sondheim and he won a Tony Award for his role in the original Broadway production of Evita!

Mandy Patinkin and Damian Lewis seen at Showtime's 2013 'Emmy Eve' on Saturday, Sept, 21, 2013 in Los Angeles. (Photo by Eric Charbonneau/Invision for Showtime/AP Images)

When asked by Entertainment Weekly about the most challenging and thrilling moments on Homeland Set during the first season, here is what Damian says:

“…the most challenging of all was the lie detector scene and Mandy Patinkin was there and we tried to do an a capella version of “Bohemian Rhapsody.” That was the most thrilling.”

Remember that scene?


“Have you ever been unfaithful to your wife?”


Haha and then Damian and Mandy sing Bohemian Rhapsody and celebrate Sergeant Brody’s passing the polygraph test with flying colors? 😀

And when asked about who has the better singing voice:

“Oh my God. I can’t believe you’re even asking! Mandy. He sat me down yesterday. I started  humming a tune from Into the Woods. And he was like, “Oh my God keep singing that! I’ll come in with my part!” Then he was coaching me. I was getting the notes wrong. He was trying to put me in touch with singing teachers. We’re not really shooting Homeland down here.”


We do not know if Damian formed a band on Billions set, but we know  thanks to Maggie Siff sharing in an interview with The Wrap about lighthearted moments during filming that Damian likes to sing show tunes on the set! 🙂 Well, Maggie, you have known Damian for a short while so it is okay you are surprised. Are we surprised at all? Nope.

And it does not end there, either! The man has a unique musical talent, too. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, Damian Lewis can play his teeth, too!


Thinking this could be my next single… #damianlewis #secrettalent #hiddentalents

♬ original sound – damianlewisofficial

So we have now established that our favorite guy is not actually new to  music but has always had music in his life either as a way to make some pocket money (busking) or as a hobby after his acting career took off (forming impromptu bands on set).

Damian picked up the guitar again during the Covid-19 lockdown. In fact, when they launched their brilliant FeedNHS Campaign in spring 2020, Helen said that while she and Manon did a lot of drawing during lockdown, Damian and Gully played a lot of guitar. And we also saw Damian playing Has anybody seen my girl?on World Health Day for Hope From Home Campaign – a first-of-its-kind multi-platform digital fundraising event to help fight the impacts of COVID-19.

Well, Damian, we still have a lot of questions about that alligator head on the wall! 😀

We already knew that Damian loved jazz. He talked about his love for jazz as he chose one of his favorite jazz tunes for his Desert Island Discs back in  2014:

“I love jazz. And, when I was courting my lady wife, we went to listen to a lot of jazz, it was really lovely. And… I like the entire spectrum of jazz, but I’ve chosen us a more traditional swing jazz. This guy was really the first jazz super star, he was dead by the time he was 28. And, this is called Goose Pimples… It’s a fantastic track and it would remind me of jazz clubs with Helen.”

And towards the end of 2020, Damian introduced us to his new favorite jazz band, Kansas Smittys who played at a bar named after the band. Yes, in their own words, it is a band and it is a bar 🙂

We were ultimately able to find out about the music Damian played with Kansas Smitty’s only when we listened to him talk on Out to Lunch podcast with Jay Rayner about picking up the guitar again during the quarantine and coming together with the band.

Damian says that it is glorious luck that he has been thrown together with Giacomo Smith (Kansas Smitty’s band leader) and the Kansas Smitty’s Band. And that he met them in the “most improbable way.”

Cut to seven or eight years ago: Damian was talking to some people about doing a musical (there were in fact rumors about him doing ‘Me and My Girl’ on West End) and they asked him if he would like to guest on  Joe Stilgoe’s Jazz and Blues Show on BBC2. Damian sang ‘Me and My Girl’ on the show.

Another guest on the program was Cerys Matthews, and her husband Steve Abbott, a  well-known music manager-agent, was in the audience. Abbott was impressed with Damian singing a jazz standard and the two of them talked about whether there could be an opportunity to work together. They recorded a few things together but then Damian was doing Homeland and he was not able to commit to a full-time music project at the time…

But when he picked up the guitar again during lockdown, to keep himself entertained, Abbott popped up in Damian’s mind and he wondered if he would still be interested in doing something together. And when he gave him a call, Abbott told him that he just emailed someone at Decca about Damian the other day (Damian calls this “weird” and I call it  “serendipitous!”) and that he knew what he wanted to do with Damian: Abbott introduced Damian to Giacomo Smith and the rest is history! And we will talk about that history tomorrow in From Lockdown to Mission Creep: Damian Lewis’ Music Journey Part II.

In the meantime, you can follow Damian on the following social media platforms:

Twitter: @lewis_damian
Facebook: Damian Lewis

Author: Damianista

Academic, Traveler, Blogger, Runner, Theatre Lover, Wine Snob, Part-time New Yorker, and Walking Damian Lewis Encyclopedia :D Procrastinated about a fan's diary on Damian Lewis for a while and the rest is history!

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