Camryn Lewis finds the beauty in life through music and film production
The Music Box is a quaint theater, easily spotted by the red-illuminated sign affront big windows and gold detailing. It was closed this particular Thursday afternoon, but Camryn Lewis had an in.
Lewis works at the Music Box – at the concession stand and coordinating movie showings – alongside his artistic endeavors of filmmaking and songwriting. Upon my arrival, he opened the door and immediately greeted me with a hug, already exuding his warm, Southern demeanor.
Lewis grew up in Danville, Virginia, where he, as a kid, aspired to be a cartoonist for Nickelodeon. Over the years, he played basketball before revisiting his love of the arts. In his first year of community college, Lewis discovered the classic film DVD section, and he became enthralled with film production.
From creating short projects on his iphone, Lewis pursued his passion in filmmaking and moved to Chicago to study at Columbia College. In the past year, Lewis worked on three short films, one of which will be reviewed for release early next year.
Beyond his filmmaking aspirations, Lewis explored another artistic medium: music.
When Lewis first started creating music, he invented the stage name Tyrese Witherspoon, which is a perfect fusion of Tyrese Gibson from “Baby Boy” and Reese Witherspoon in “Inherent Vice,” both films that he had watched recently. The dichotomy of these identities allows Lewis to feel free in his creativity.
“Both are equally sure of themselves and equally, equally confused. But I try not to separate it and just keep it as one thing,” said Lewis. “It’s allowed me to use two different mediums that I respect a lot.”
One of his songs called “Soar” is a poetic rendition of two lovers distanced by their individual lives. “Hopin’ you don’t listen / And hopin’ that that plane crossin’ past is yours / I told you go so I can watch you soar” embodies the heartbreak and intensity of young love. Lewis’s girlfriend graduated from college, and they both knew they would be leaving each other to live their own lives.
Lewis and his girlfriend worked on the song together, and the collaboration makes the song all-the-more personal.
“I knew she could sing because I listened to her in the shower,” said Lewis. “We went to the studio that same night of recording the rest of the stuff, and she did the book.”
The tone of “Soar” is mellow with an R&B rhythm that layers his girlfriend’s honey vocals with his melodic rap. The two distinct voices accompany each other perfectly, just the way that two people coexist in love.
The music video for “Soar” only intensifies the deeply-felt work. There are scenes of Lewis and his girlfriend reading in the park and walking along the lake, dancing, smiling and savoring their final, bittersweet moments.
In that video, and in several of his other works, Lewis emphasizes the beauty in the mundane, which coincides with his approach to life.
On his daily walks to work, Lewis breathes in the crisp fall air and absorbs the city life. He cherishes boredom, which is probably why he favors a flip phone to an iphone (although he has both). Social media and constant stimulation is an inhibitor of creativity, and Lewis avoids it when he can.
“Like I say you have your artists you really love listening to but I’m just a conversation like I might pull something from my interaction with you or just different things. It can be something that was said, and you just have an idea,” said Lewis. “Boredom helps a lot.”
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Lewis is currently busy at the Music Box, with the showing of their core October films and the 24 hour music festival. Last week, he gave an impassioned and dynamic performance at Bookclub Chicago, where fans cheered in support for him.
Lewis believes that good art comes from genuinity and honesty. His work is vulnerable, and so is he. That’s what makes Lewis’s art special.
Header by Mei Harter