With a guitar in one hand and a trophy in the other, Lee DeWyze walked off the American Idol stage on May 26th as the ninth winner of television’s most popular show.
Changes are coming to the show and Lee is none too happy about some of them.
Idol executive producer Ken Warwick said last month in San Francisco that the use of instruments would be curtailed because participants were hiding behind them and all songs were tending to sound alike.
That comment left DeWyze, who will perform at 7:30 tonight at The Last Day Saloon in Santa Rosa, bristling … to say the least.
“I think taking instruments away is stupid,” DeWyze said in a phone interview this morning from Monterey. “Cause if you are a musician, an artist, that’s what you should be allowed to do, play your instruments.
“But at the end of the day when it’s all over the show (American Idol) is not the one that’s writing your album for you and going on the road with you. All I can say is that the more you can stay true to that then the better off you will be.
“To say we hide behind our instruments is funny but … it’s kind of a joke and to say we all sound the same is another joke. But they produce television. I do music. They do TV.”
Tonight’s show, and Saturday’s with Idol Season 8 winner Kris Allen, is sponsored by radio station Mix 104.9. The Last Day Saloon is located at 120 5th St., Santa Rosa (545-2343 for ticket information on Saturday’s show).
Before he performed tonight for Mix contest winners only, DeWyze addressed a variety of other topics.
What is the name of your album and how many songs are on it?
“The new album is called ‘Live It Up.’ There are 11 songs on it. I wrote on 10 of the 11.”
When you write songs, what comes first the music or the lyrics?
“It kinda depends. There wasn’t anything specific as to which came first. I was in the room and there was music and lyrics and I kind of put things together as I went along. Just whatever happened to come first.”
Where do you like to write?
“Anywhere where it’s quiet.”
Prior to Idol you made a couple of albums, was it drastically different doing it now with a major label?
“I released a couple of albums back in the day when I was younger with my own band.
“Definitely doing it on a major label on a major scale is like totally a different experience than doing it on a smaller label. They were great guys, but this is what I needed to do for myself and what I needed to do musically. Release a major album on a major label and get some really good things going musically for myself.”
Are you pleased with the final product?
“Yes, I absolutely love my album. I’m really proud of it. I put a lot of myself into it. I’m very proud of it. I don’t think there is anything I would go back and change.”
Do you enjoy this part of the job, traveling and performing at small venues?
“I do this with radio stations, and it’s really cool to see people come out and watch the show. I just like playing live. I like performing. I like singing. Doing what we are doing now is kind of like a mini-tour for me and my piano player.
“Obviously, radio supports a big part of the system and they’ve been nothing but awesome to me. But playing in front of a crowd of people, that’s what I love to do.”
How many songs will you do tonight?
“We are set to do four songs. But I usually wind up doing 5, 6 7 … I don’t know. You never know how many songs I’ll do.”
Understand you are going to play with Kris Allen in Oregon over the weekend and it almost worked out that you were with him here in Santa Rosa.
“I didn’t know about that (almost being in SR with Allen). But I am really looking forward to playing with Kris (Allen) in Oregon. I haven’t really seen him since the finale. We have talked here and there a few times though.
“We are both pretty busy, but to be in the same place will be pretty cool.”
Did you play any sports as a kid?
“I played baseball. I was a catcher and a pitcher for a long time. I am a Cubs’ fan.”
What about the other Idol finalists? Do you keep in touch with any of them?
“Andrew (Garcia) and Katie (Stevens) are good friends of mine. We talk a lot. Everyone is kinda busy doing their own thing, but I definitely made some good friends on the show. Andrew is a great guy.”
A lot of people thought, at least in the beginning of Idol, you were shy or timid. Was there a point in the show when you said to yourself that you just weren’t going to be like that any longer?
“I’ve heard that a lot, actually, and the thing is that I’m not really a shy guy. When I was on the show I just wanted it to be about my music and what I was doing. I think that is the reason, more or less, why I was the way I was. I just wanted to do my music, I wasn’t up there to try to be funny or to put on a show for any other reason other than the music. I’m glad I did what I did and I’m proud of the way it went down. I wouldn’t change anything.”
Did American Idol turn out to be what you thought it would be prior to being on the show?
“I didn’t know much about the show before I auditioned. I saw a little bit here and there. But my goal was to go on there and not let anything affect me. What they said and stuff like that.”
You switched from a regular high school to an alternative high school your season year. Since winning Idol, have you received any messages from kids who did the same thing?
“I have gotten tons of letters and messages from kids saying they were in the same boat. It’s always a cool thing when you can help someone out who’s in a place that they don’t necessarily want to be in. To be a figure for that is a pretty cool thing for me.”