A little more than three years ago, Mount-Prospect-born Lee DeWyze won 'American Idol' after a messy season for the judges' table and the beginning of a downward trudge in ratings. The opposite is true for DeWyze right how, however, as he says he's in "a very positive place right now," having just finished his third album and first for Vanguard Records, called "Frames." DeWyze will be in town this weekend to assist and perform at the Barefoot Wine Beach Rescue project at Oak Street beach Saturday. We talked to him about clean beaches, his new album and his current relationship status with "Idol."
You have both a single and new album coming up. Talk about what we can expect from that.
Well, this whole album is definitely more me. I had a lot of the creative control on this album, and it feels really good to be writing and recording the songs that I want to do. The music really speaks to who i am as an artist and a musician. I mean, having won "American Idol," to come off the show and putting out albums prior to this one, I think that, you know all those steps, winning and putting out those albums really led to me putting out this record. I think all those things had to happen for me to release this record. You know, I believe in this music more than any of the music I've put out to date. This is really something that I've put my heart and soul into, you know, so when people hear it, I think they'll be pleasantly surprised.
Can you elaborate a little more on what you mean by [the album] is more you, and having more creative control? I know you signed a new record deal.
I signed with Vanguard records, but you know it wasn't necessarily one of those situations where after I parted ways with my last label I was like "Let's rush out and find another label right now." We wanted to take our time. ... I was able to take a year and a half off. ... The music I'd always been making, you know, prior to "Idol," it was always stompy anthem folk, you know, rock, then to be able to come full circle and make that kind of music again while that lane is open in the music industry is great. Vanguard recognized that, and they've been really supportive of what I wanna do. When people hear the music they'll really have an understanding of an album I knew I could make, I wanted to make, and I've been waiting to make.
You got married last year, and I wondered how that affected your songwriting process or your lifestyle or anything like that.
Yeah, no, I got married last July, and you know, there's a song on the album called "Who Would Have Known?" that I wrote about my wife, and there's definitely inspiration I take from not just being married, but my life, other people's lives ... trying to tell stories that are relatable, but not, you know, in your face.
You're from Ridgemont? I wondered how much time you spend in Chicago these days.
Well I don't spend that much time there. I live in California ... but that's why it's so great that I can be there for the Barefoot Wine Beach Rescue project ... cleaning up the beaches and encouraging people to come out.
Are you a big beach guy then?
You know, I am a big beach guy. I was growing up in Chicago. People when you tell them you were going to the beach in Chicago, you know, people don't realize that there's also beaches in this big city. ... Now going to the beach with my wife and my dog is something that is definitely in our schedule. ... The whole reason I'm doing this thing is because I truly believe in it.
When you do come back to Chicago, is there anything you make sure you do?
Lou Malnati's man, that's my jam. And Portillo's. Those are my two things I gotta get. Oh, and my mom's food, but that's it.
One more question: I've talked to a lot of Chicago-area "Idol" contestants recently and didn't realize until now the extent of their relationship with the show. Now, a few years later, what's your relationship with "Idol" like?
I appreciate going on the show, and I was lucky enough to win. That was an amazing experience. That really allowed me to kickstart a career. But I think at the time I thought "Idol" was like the top of the mountain, and it wasn't. Really it was the most important first step I ever took in a musical career. They asked me to come back and perform this year. ... As far as my relationship with them, it's good, but it's not maybe what people think. I've definitely taken a different route--I think everyone from that show does. ... I'll always show my appreciation for them. I'll always be grateful.
Dewyze will be performing for the volunteers after Saturday's event. To register, visit their website.