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Lee DeWyze finds life beyond "Idol"
The farewell season of "American Idol" has no small meaning for Lee DeWyze.
The singer and songwriter from Illinois won the reality show's ninth season competition. And while he's no longer part of the "Idol" corporate universe, DeWyze has nothing but fond feelings for the show and its attendant operation.
"I'll always be attached to 'American Idol,'" DeWyze, 29, acknowledges by phone from his current home in Los Angeles. "That doesn't bother me. In fact, I'm proud of it. I'll always be appreciative for the show and the fans. It's a shame that sometimes I have to almost apologize for it, like 'I know I won this show, but don't pay attention to that. I'm a REAL songwriter.'
"That's kind of stupid to me, but I get it. The public views it like 'American Idol' creates these artists. Real artists don't go on the show. But the truth is I was writing songs before 'American Idol,' and I'm still writing songs now. What I hang my hat on is not 'American Idol.' It's on my songwriting."
DeWyze certainly backs that up. He's recorded three more albums since his post-"Idol" "Live It Up," including the just-released "Oil & Water." The latter, in fact, represents DeWyze's most personal effort to date -- not just lyrical but also the self-contained manner in which it was made.
"It was very internal," DeWyze explains. "I'd go in the studio and I'd write the songs, start demoing them, start producing 'em up -- very hands-on and just focused, just making music I wanted to make and making it the way I wanted it to sound and supporting each individual song with music that made sense.
"I'm a big believer in peeling things off rather than adding things on. I just wanted to do what sounded right at that moment. I know that sounds obvious, but it's not always like that, so my mind was on, 'What does this song need right now?' and we went from there."
"Oil & Water" emerges at a time DeWyze has tapped into yet another cult following. In 2014 his "Blackbird Song" appeared in an episode of "The Walking Dead," and it became Spotify's No. 2 song in the following week, subsequently debuting on Billboard's Pop Digital Songs chart as well. And that was a personal triumph for DeWyze.
"I love 'The Walking Dead;' it's one of my favorite shows, so when I wrote that song and they used it, it was the coolest f***ing thing," says DeWyze, who has other song licensing opportunities at hand that he can't discuss. "I was at home watching the (episode) with my wife and my friends and, holy s***, they used the song for two minutes in the front, two minutes later. It was a huge usage. And it wasn't about 'American Idol;' It was a cool f***ing song in a cool f***in' show. That's what was exciting about it.
"Of course, I got a lot of phone calls after that from different artists and different people. I really felt like that was the first time I was able to really showcase one of my songs."
Lee DeWyze, Wakey Wakey and Leslie DiNicola
Friday, Feb. 19. Doors open at 8 p.m.
The Magic Bag, 22920 Woodward Ave., Ferndale.
Tickets are $15.
Call 248-544-3030 or visit themagicbag.com.
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