LunchMoney Lewis Talks “Bills,” His Debut Album & The Songwriting Process: Idolator Interview

Future Hit: LunchMoney Lewis' "Bills"
When it comes to predicting future hits, "Bills" is pretty much a sure thing. Listen now.

LunchMoney Lewis makes the leap from songwriter-for-hire to breakout artist look easy with debut single “Bills.” It’s the kind of universally relatable, mood-lifting anthem that only comes around once in a while. And usually wreaks havoc on the charts. Time will tell if that’s the case with “Bills,” but the track is already gaining serious momentum on radio and iTunes with very little promotion.

It’s already an impressive result for a song that randomly sprang to life during a writing session with producer Ricky Reed (Jason Derulo’s “Talk Dirty” and Jessie J’s “Burnin’ Up”) and fellow hitmaker Jacob Kasher (Kesha’s “We R Who We R” and Avril Lavigne’s “Here’s To Never Growing Up”). The trio then got to work on an album, which they kindly previewed for me in Reed’s sprawling studio in the hills of Echo Park.

But first, the making of “Bills.” “Ricky played the beat and that just started the idea,” Lunch explains. “I sang ‘I got bills’ and he just popped up off his chair. It was like a chain reaction,” he remembers. “Ricky doesn’t really get excited about much. I don’t either because we write so much, so it’s hard to gauge but there was a good feeling. We were writing about things people can relate to, which is fun. It’s all truthful.”

“We all write songs for other people,” interjects Kasher. “We’re all doing really well. You know when those magic moments happen, you can feel it. You know when you leave the studio some days and you don’t got shit,” he continues. “But when Ricky played the beat and Lunch sang, ‘I got bills’ — we all kind of were like, ‘Whoa!'” He puts it all down to fate. “I was saying to Ricky yesterday, ‘What would’ve happened if you’d never played that beat that day? Or if you played it an hour later?’ It might not have happened.”

That loose, organic approach is indicative of their songwriting process as a whole. “Sometimes Ricky will have a basic track and we’ll come in — just write, come up with ideas and sketch it out,” Lunch says. “Or we’ll make something from scratch. It just depends on how we feel. It varies, it’s all vibe.” Reed agrees. “It has to be how you’re feeling in the moment,” he explains. “It’s never like, ‘Today we’re going to make a smash.’ If you feel happy and you want to write a sad song, it won’t be genuine. If you feel sad and want to write a happy song, it won’t be genuine.”

That ethos works exceedingly well if the five tracks they played me are any indication. Lunch shows off his full range — tackling hip-hop anthems, Latin-infused club-bangers (he’s from Miami, after all) and even a tender yet ridiculously catchy ode to his mother. Reed’s innovative production and the quirky, often humorous songwriting is what pulls it all together and promises an oddly cohesive LP.

Here’s what I remember of each track:

1. “Mama” — An impossibly cute ode to Lunch’s mother. They mentioned the upbeat tune being a possible single.

2. “Vegas” — The hitmaker outlines what he’s going to do when he gets to Sin City. It’s a horns-heavy hip-hop anthem.

3. “Love Me Back” — This is an unusually honest song about a dude begging his girlfriend to take him back. Think Big Sean’s “I Don’t Fuck With You” in reverse.

4. “Ain’t Too Cool” — My favorite. A relentlessly catchy party jam about letting go and having a good time. It sounds like a smash.

5. “La Cubana” — This track was co-written and semi-inspired by Camila Cabello of Fifth Harmony. They all worked on the girl band’s 2014 hit “BO$$” and became firm friends. The diva called them up when she was in town recently and they created this Latin-flavored gem.

That gives you a sneak peek at what’s on the horizon, but where did Lunch come from? We walked down to front garden of Reed’s oasis-like studio for a quick Q&A about the 27-year-old’s start in the industry and his journey from hit songwriter to rising pop star.

Were you originally signed as a songwriter?
I wasn’t. I was just freelance, just doing stuff. I had did stuff for like Meek Mill and Rick Ross. I was doing a lot of urban stuff… I hate the word urban… but a lot of rap stuff, writing rap hooks for people. That’s when [Jacob Kasher] hit me, like “Do this Juicy J stuff with me” and I did that, and I met Dr. Luke.

I was so nervous. I always looked up to his production and when Kash got signed to him, I was really hype. I was like, “Man you got signed with Luke? That’s dope.” And then I got to meet him, I played him some stuff, I found out he wanted to sign me, so I just packed my stuff and I left Miami and moved to Los Angeles.

I read that your dad sang the Cops theme song?
Yeah. My dad’s my superhero.

Sounds like you had a musical family.
When I was young, him and my mom and I got to go to shows in the summertime and I was around a lot of live band stuff and he definitely put… music runs in the family. My mom’s side too. Her dad and her uncle was into the scene. He was a music director in Jamaica and my dad was in the band and like music was just embodied in my life. I caught the bug early.

When did you know it was going to be your career?
I was really young. Man, I just knew. I played drums and I was into music and I was into like studying the nerdy stuff about it, the technical stuff and the writing and reading the credits. I’d want to know who produced stuff and wrote stuff. I was always into that stuff.

Was the goal always to become the artist?
Funny thing, I was in a group when I was 18. We got signed to Universal. We were called Bottom Of Da Map. It was me and my best friends — they’re still my best friends to this day.

I’m going to Google the band.
That’s funny. If you find stuff, that would be amazing. [Sure enough, I found this article from 2007]. When I was in high school and I told my mom I wanted to leave high school because I just wanted to try my hand at music… she was not excited about that, but she knew I was passionate. Then I joined the group and we got a deal. It didn’t work out.

What happened then?
I was writing. I always was writing in the group too, like hooks and stuff for the group. I was always engaged in the studio stuff. I was like, “I know I’m going to write,” so I kept writing and then writing for artists in the city and putting out little mix tapes and stuff like that. At one point I was, to be truthful, settled with being a writer.

I was like, “I love writing. I love giving ideas to other people.” And then Kash always was the one pushing me, saying: “You know man, you’ve got to do your own stuff again!” He was always like, “You’re talented.” And I was like “Ah, I’m just a writer, man. Let’s just keep giving songs to people and making some money and being cool and behind the scenes.”

But then when we did “Bills,” and I did a couple more songs. It called for me. It’s funny when they say you don’t look for something, it looks for you. It kind of just happened like that.

It sounds like it was predestined
Yeah! Man, it was. Every time that I did songs that were kind of soulful, people were always like, “Yo man, you sound so good on the song.” I’m like, “Thank you.” I listen to a lot of soul music and reggae music. But when we did “Bills,” it was something that clicked I guess because it was kind of still from me.

Given the success of “Bills,” you probably won’t have such a hard time paying them in the future…
The funny thing I found out about bills is that the more money you get, the bigger the bills get. More money, more problems. That’s why I feel like people relate to “Bills” no matter where you’re from. Whether you’re very middle class or you’re lower class or you’re in the projects or you’re upper middle class. We all get bills.

If you’re a mother, single mom taking care of your kids, you got bills. You got school fees if you’re trying to send them to a good school. You’ve got to keep the lights on in the house. And if you’re middle class and you got a full family, father and mother, you still got bills. And if you’re a fucking dude who lives in the Hollywood hills, your bills are probably more expensive than the dude’s bills who got the middle class.

The bills get bigger. Maybe you have more people to help manage them. But, you know, bills is one thing that’s not going to stop coming until — and the funny shit is even after you die, you get bills. So you, it kind of like keeps rolling. That’s why I wanted to turn it into something positive, like when you hear “Bills” it kind of makes you feel happy, you know?

When did you discover Lunch? Let us know in the comments below.

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