Tae Lewis Gets Nostalgic on “Summer of 21” [Exclusive Premiere]

Tae Lewis leads with his heart on his new single, “Summer of 21,” premiering exclusively with American Songwriter. 

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Lewis can still remember the moment he formed a connection with country music. Lewis was a teenager growing up in North Carolina when a family moved in next door that would prove to be pivotal to his musical journey. At the time, Lewis was raised in the church singing gospel music and often listened to R&B, so much so that he didn’t realize country music was a genre until one day he was at his neighbor’s house and they played “Wide Open Spaces” by The Chicks. 

“I said, ‘Is this gospel music?’” Lewis recalls to American Songwriter about the similarities between the two genres. “The sound that [it] gave off was very inspirational, but also there were so many sounds and elements of gospel music in it. That was my first introduction to [country music]. I was like, ‘This is what I want to do for the rest of my life.’”

From there, he became a country music connoisseur, his neighbors introducing him to songs by Shania Twain, Keith Urban, Brad Paisley and other artists that Lewis started researching. Despite the pressure he felt from his family and church community to pursue a career in gospel music, Lewis’ passion for country music never faded. He eventually made the move from New York to Nashville where he’s become a member of the Black Opry and received a grant from Rissi Palmer’s Color Me Country Fund, in addition to having his song “Good Luvin’” be featured in an episode of Shameless.  

Lewis demonstrates his ability to craft a nostalgia-filled country song on “Summer of 21.” The bright track finds Lewis looking back on two formative relationships that are tied to that specific number: the first time he fell in love at the age of 21 and when he was in another pivotal relationship in 2021.

“The story behind this song is creating those memories with that person that you are in love with and having those memories with you when you leave that person,” Lewis explains.

The song offers lyrical snapshots of his memories of falling in love during the summer, with such lyrics as You in my jacket / Now I’m nostalgic and Couldn’t get enough of that midnight magic / Yeah baby we had it / The summer of 21, Lewis pulling from his real-life experience when he wrote the song with Chris Sligh, Mary Kutter, Brian Alexander and Heath Warren. 

“It was the way that she treated me with kindness and care,” Lewis says of what he gained from his first love that he channeled into the song. “She cared about who I was and the heart that I had for other people. I still keep the memories that I have of her in my heart.”

The singer admits that he fully expected to marry the woman he fell in love with in the summer of 2021, to the point where he bought her an engagement ring. But their breakup didn’t sour his spirit. Instead, he still carries the fond memories from both relationships with him as reflected in the line, I can still feel the way your hand felt inside of mine, which he cites as the most vulnerable in the song. 

“I think a lot of it had to do with I can still feel both of their hands, I can still smell the scent of the fragrance that they would have, the stuff that I would buy them,” Lewis describes of the meaning of the line. “These are memories that I’ll never forget.’” 

Lewis hopes that by the song’s end, listeners will have a better understanding of his vulnerable approach to songwriting, as well as how his heart remains open to love. “I want people to really understand my heart and what I’ve experienced,” he concludes. “No matter what people tell you, you can do what you are destined to do. It’s meant to happen.” 

“Summer of 21” will be officially released on Friday (May 12). 

Photo Credit: Daniel Shippey/Courtesy of Groot PR

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