Donna Lewis took a bit of a hiatus after she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2021 — the same year she was gearing up to celebrate the 25th anniversary of her hit single "I Love You Always Forever." After missing a mammogram during the pandemic, she spent a year in treatment and undergoing surgery.
Despite the challenging time, the singer was "always writing."
"During my cancer treatment I wasn’t able to do any live work or too much recording until I felt more like my old self. It was really great creating in the studio again. Music became my therapy," the 50-year-old exclusively tells Morning Honey ahead of her new album release, Rooms With a View.
"This album is my own personal story at a time in my life when I wasn’t sure what the outcome would be. I love how it grew organically. I never meant to write about my breast cancer journey, but the words from my journals flooded out into the music. I love how we’ve created a beautiful soundscape on this record — plus one of the songs ‘Rooms With a View’ was written with my son, which is very special to me!" she explains.
"Cancer treatment can be very overwhelming at times, and you start to forget who you are — life becomes all about cancer but writing and creating again during treatment made me feel like myself again and was very healing for me," she adds.
Lewis typically writes her own songs, but this time around, she worked alongside composer Holmes Ives, who crafted the instrumental tracks. "He asked if they inspired me, and if I wanted to collaborate with him. It became this distance musical relationship — him in Mexico City and me in upstate New York. We exchanged musical files and ideas, and it's very much an electronic record quite different than my previous albums," she shares of the tunes.
"Holmes remixed one of my earlier songs 'I Told You So,’ which I loved. He’s similar to me in that he’s a perfectionist. We would send each other files and vocal stems back and forth. We were always very open and honest whether we loved the ideas or not. Sometimes the songs would change along the way. I remember Holmes sending me the track for ‘Corridors,' and I recorded my vocals and sent them off to him and then a few days later he sent me the track which was a completely different vibe altogether, and it was magic! I loved those moments. Plus, we did all this recording in our own studios and we have not met in person yet," she notes, adding that "The Messenger" is a single written about resisting cancer from entering her body.
"It’s always hard to pick a favorite. Each song is a chapter of my journey, so they are all so meaningful to me. 'The Messenger’ was the first one that started it all so that’s a special one," she says. "'The Imposter’ has the hopeful anthemic chorus and ‘Rooms With a View’ is the odd one out, as it’s the only one that’s an acoustic piece with real strings. I could go on and on."
Now, Lewis hopes to help others, especially people who are going through something similar. "It's such a scary time hearing that dreaded diagnosis, but when you hear of so many women going through this and surviving, their stories inspire all of us and give us hope," she says, adding that she now feels "great."
"I hope I can inspire through my story and my music. Music does bring people together leaving them feeling less alone. I’m hoping the lyrics to these songs will help people feel they are not alone and they will get through this," she shares while encouraging others to be on top of check-ups, as they're very important.
"I didn’t realize how many women are dealing with this disease. It’s crazy! I had to educate myself about my type of breast cancer so that I understood what my body was about to go through and really look at what was important in my life whilst putting my trust and faith in my doctors," she states.
The U.K. native now hopes to "write a musical" one day — and publish a children's book, which is already written by her author friend Joanne Rendell and herself.
In five to 10 years, Lewis wants to stay on the track she's currently on. "Maybe a small tour to celebrate the music I've made," she says. "I'm still amazed how 'I Love You Always Forever' is still played and loved by so many. It's given me the opportunity to do projects that I love, and I'm so grateful," she concludes.