Sunday, August 29, 2010

Lee DeWyze pleased with post-American Idol recording plans

Written by Alan Sculley,

Lee DeWyze seems to be the kind of artist and musician who isn’t afraid to set lofty goals.

“In my mind you only live once, and if you’re not going to do it big, then don’t do it at all,” he remarked during a recent phone interview.

DeWyze has certainly followed that line of thinking during the past year or so, taking one of the quickest paths any musician can follow to make a big splash on the national music scene.

He auditioned for “American Idol,” and was crowned the champion this past season. Now he’s about to record an album on major label RCA/19 Records, and if all goes according to plan, it will be released during the high-profile Christmas shopping season.

And with the built-in fan base that comes with having your performances seen on “American Idol” by millions of viewers week in, week out, there’s little doubt that DeWyze will have a good chance to make a big first impression with his RCA/19 debut album and have the kind of immediate success that many past “Idol” winners have enjoyed with their first post-“Idol” CDs.

This is exactly the platform DeWyze wanted to reach in his music career. In interviews as the “American Idol” season was unfolding, he made no secret that he wanted to record for a major record label — not an independent.

“No one’s got the outreach like a major label does,” DeWyze said, explaining that preference. “I don’t care what anyone says. You can’t get the exposure that a major label can offer [on an independent record label].”

“For me, I want to get my CDs everywhere. I want it out all over the place. I want everyone to listen to my music. That’s just how I am. If I’m doing something and I’m proud of it, I want everyone to hear it.”

DeWyze, 24, knows what it’s like to be trying to build a career from a much more modest starting point. Prior to auditioning for “American Idol,” he had tried to build his career the way so many artists do, by playing countless gigs around his home base.

Starting out at age 17, he had spent six years playing shows in his hometown Chicago area.

“We played everything from your dive bar to the House of Blues … just a lot of different places, everything you could think of,” DeWyze said.

Along the way, DeWyze released two CDs on the Chicago-based independent label, WuLi Records: 2007’s “So I’m Told” and 2009’s “Slumberland.” Both albums found DeWyze working in primarily an acoustic folk-rock vein (with bass and drums often added to his guitar parts and vocals). It’s a sound that isn’t far afield from that of artists like Jason Mraz or Jack Johnson.

The fact that DeWyze had this experience in music wasn’t played up on “American Idol,” which instead focused on the fact that he had worked in a paint store before making it as an “Idol” finalist.

DeWyze said he wasn’t that bothered by how he was portrayed, although he admitted the “paint store guy” angle was a bit odd.

“I think their whole thing was he’s the paint store guy, the working class man,” he said. “And it was cool. I worked at a paint store. Everyone’s got jobs. Everyone’s got to pay the bills. So for me it was kind of just weird that was the main focus.

“I’m glad it wasn’t some kind of sob story,” he said. “I understand that people have things that go on in their lives, but for me, I didn’t want it to be about any of that stuff.”

Even for a musician with performing experience, getting onto “American Idol” can seem like a pipe dream. First, one has to audition against thousands of other hopefuls. And that’s just to get to the next round to try to become one of the 24 semi-finalists that will actually get the chance to compete on the show. To DeWyze, who sounds like he doesn’t lack for confidence, auditioning for “American Idol” was something he decided he just had to do.

“I just didn’t want five years to go by and be like, ‘what if I had done this? What would have happened’?” he said. “Now I can’t say that to myself. I know exactly what would have happened.”

What happened, of course, is that DeWyze kept doing well week after week on “American Idol.” On the way to claiming the title of this season’s champion, he never landed in the bottom three — something that no previous male finalist had ever achieved.

He admitted, though, that doing the “American Idol” show was different than what he had expected.

“I thought it would be a lot more relaxed than it was,” DeWyze said. “At times, it became very high tension, like it was very tense, the whole situation. And it was just very sometimes unnerving and just a little bit more than you would think.”

Now, DeWyze is getting to showcase his talents away from the set of the show on the “American Idols Live!” tour. He’ll do a set of five songs or so to close the shows, which also feature performances from the other nine finalists from this season. DeWyze said he’s ready for the tour, even though he’s accustomed to clubs and not arena stages.

“I’m used to playing in front of people, but nothing on this scale,” he said. “I’m definitely not worried about the performances. I’m more looking forward to them than anything. I’m not nervous about it or anything. It’s different than ‘Idol.’ It’s not like you’re being judged or you have a minute and a half to play a song. You get to play full songs in front of crowds. It’s going to be great.”

He’ll also get started recording his first album for RCA/19. DeWyze though, didn’t offer many details about the kind of sound he’ll pursue on the CD, or if it will be different from the acoustic-oriented sound of his two independent CDs or what producers or co-writers will be involved.

“I have a lot of new ideas and things I want to get down, different sounds and things,” DeWyze said. “Being in the studio and being able to do that is going to be awesome for me, because that’s exactly what I need right now.”


  1. This is an awesome article about Lee. I saw him live on the AI tour, and he didn't disappoint. He is so into his music!! Can't wait to buy his new CD.....There is one thing that was wrong in this article. Lee is not the only male finalist not to end up in the bottom 3. I know that Clay Aiken didn't, and I don't think Kris Allen, David Archeletta, or David Cook did. May be others too. Still, this article was great and I do believe Lee has a successful career ahead of him!

  2. Lee was the only male finalist not to end up in the bottom 3 this season, so he's a member of a pretty elite club. I love his music and can't wait for his next CD which i've already preordered. Thanks for posting the article.

  3. Love everything about this real, genuine artist with a great talent and big heart--can't wait for his new music--love ya Lee!!!

  4. Lee is a truely artist: He know how to do music.. he is very creative.. Just a real talented musician.. I love him!!.. I love you Lee from Colombia- Latinoamerica !! I can't wait for your new music!!

  5. It's nice reading this article about Lee's humble beginning; serves as an inspiration for young people struggling to do big things in life. While there on top but feet still on the ground, gateful to his family and people who kept on supporting him along the way. What an exemplary guy! Lee, you're one in a million... A fan from the Phils.