The new American Idol Le DeWyze held his final national media conference call Friday morning.
He discussed a wide variety of topics ranging from Simon Cowell to his favorite music.
Already in his hometown of Mt. Pleasant, Ill., there are those celebrating his victory and his past employment as a paint salesmen by wearing T-shirts that read: “Lee shook my can!”
He laughs at that.
Following is his interview from this morning:
What did America see that kept viewers voting for him?’
LD: “Throughout the show, even the beginning when I was a little more reserved, I’m a real guy. Whether it be on camera or off the camera, I stayed true to myself. I really wanted my experience on the show to be about me and performing my music. I can connect with an audience because I know what it’s like to be on the other side of it. I know what it’s like to have a goal and trying to reach it. Throughout the show I was trying to be myself and make it about the music and not so much about things in the past. And I put my emotion into every song.”
What are your feelings on your old original music charting on Billboard and the new album you are about to make?
LD: “As far as anything I did before the show … that was a stage in my life that I’m obviously proud of and I’ve learned a lot from my past experiences through music. It’s cool to hear things like that obviously, but I’m really looking forward to the new album I’m going to be making now.
“It’s nice to know fans have reached out and found interest in other things that I’ve done. This has given me a platform to really, on a major scale, make an unbelievable album. That’s really what I’m looking forward to right now. I’ve got an album I get to make and I get to take time on it.
“The show is interesting, because you go each week and you have a song. I’m the kind of person when I’m on stage I like to build up to something, but we get a minute-and-a-half. That’s the game, that was the challenging part of it all.
“For me, I’m just excited to get on the big stage and really put on a performance without time limits, without judging. Going through the process that I did really helped. Those are the scariest conditions you can be under, being judged by people on national television. It’s a rough thing to do. I’m psyched to make a new album, man. I’m really looking forward to it.”
How did it feel meeting the ex-Idol winners Wednesday night and did any of them give you good advice?
LD: “Meeting the past winners in the beginning of the show was really almost intimidating because you see what they’ve accomplished and you just want that.
“I want advice. I want to know how you got through this. In the beginning, it’s very different because there’s a lot of us. Coming closer to the end, we get to meet more and more of the past Idols. They’ve been really amazing.
“Adam Lambert was awesome on the show because he’s a real genuine guy. He’s original and I like him, he’s got a good attitude. I think he’s real, he says it how it is.
“I got to talk to David Cook a little bit. He’s one of the nicest guys I’ve ever met in my life. I’ve noticed a trend all the Idols are very genuine people. They all know what it’s like to be on the other side of it, where I was at.
“I got to talk to Kris Allen, Ruben. I actually saw Carrie (Underwood) for a little bit at the Idol party. She was so supportive — anything you need, just let me know. She’s been awesome. There’s a line you cross once you get to this point with everybody. I’ve joined them in a sense. I see all the accomplishments they have.
“For me, because I won American Idol, it’s amazing. But at the same time it’s also a new beginning and a time for me to really show what I have and what I can do. I look to them for inspiration. They’ve been through the same process and they’ve been able to make their marks on music the same way I want to make my mark on music.
“Talking to them was really helpful because it gave me a sense of direction, and how it’s all going to go from here. To see them big and successful it’s really awesome.
“I met Chris Daughtry too and he’s just a cool guy, down-to-earth and original. I can relate to that. I’m looking forward to working with all these guys and talking to them, and hopefully forming some cool relationships.’
Did you get to have a final drink with Simon at the Idol after-party?
LD: “I did see Simon and we cheers-ed and he said congratulations. He told me he’s proud of me and excited to be working with me. I told him thanks for the opportunity, because without American Idol, I wouldn’t have had this platform to start a career on a major level.”
If the paint store makes you into a color swatch, what color would you want it to be and what name?
LD: “Somebody asked me that a couple days ago. I was taken off-guard. I guess I’d have to go with one of my favorite colors. I like blue a lot blues and greens those earth tone colors. As far as naming it, I don’t know. Probably just name it my name!
“The paint store thing was made into a whole thing this year, being the average American, working guy. Initially I was kind of ‘Why do they keep talking about that?’ But at the same time, that’s what this is all about. It’s giving people an opportunity you wouldn’t have had if you hadn’t tried out for the show.
“It’s cool. It’s good. It keeps me grounded, remembering where I came from. I know what it’s like on the other side.”
Tell us a little bit about the alternative high school you attended in Chicago.
LD: “You go through different phases of your life. When I was younger, a big problem for me was finding a sense of direction, as to what I wanted to do. I’ve always wanted to be a musician, I’ve always wanted to be making music. At a young age I didn’t really care too much about the things that were happening right there at that moment.
“If I could go back, I probably wouldn’t change much. But, at the same time I made decisions when I was younger that you wouldn’t make when you’re older, when you’ve been through things and had the experience.
“Going to the alternative school was cool for me because I got a totally different outlook on life and it just made me realize that things aren’t always as bad as they seem and there’s always an answer.
“Whatever the solution is if you can’t do it you do the best that you can. It made me realize that there’s a lot more out there than just whatever problems I had in my life right now.
“And there’s other ways of looking at things and not to be so narrow-minded. Going to the other school really opened my eyes to that. If it wasn’t for the other experiences I went through, I wouldn’t be here.
“It’s all about taking risks and be willing to put yourself out there. That was a big thing for me when I was younger — not being able to let me be seen, being afraid to just be myself. After going to that high school, it was really cool just to be able to open up and make a name for myself in the music world.”
What do you miss about Chicago?
LD “Food, man! The food in Chicago is the best. The thing about Chicago that I love so much is that everybody is trying to do something. There’s so much going on. I’m not a big club-scene guy, but I just love going down to the city because there’s always so many different things to do.
“You can go see a great show, you can go to the lake, you can go to one of your favorite bars in the city and hang out with friends, go to a game. There’s just so many different things to do. The music scene, and the art district area of Chicago is just amazing.
“I used to love going to this place called the Pick Me Up café. It’s a great little place. I used to love to go there because it’s right in the heart of everything. There’s so many great musicians there. You can see a great show every night.”
How did you handle singing the different genres?
LD: “I think a big part of American Idol that scares people and actually has stopped people from trying out is the fact that you do have to do things that are necessarily not your genre. But my thing on the show was this — that you’re given a song, and you do have some say in it. But you go with whatever song you have to go with and you take that song — the judges always say make it your own – make it your own, and sometimes it sounds retarded when they say that.
“But at the same time, you really do. It’s one thing to get up there and play a song the way it was written originally. If that’s the case, then just go by the original. My thing, I just wanted to take every song and make it sound like a song that Lee sang. The judges gave me credit, they said, ‘You had some great arrangements.’
“My thing, when I was at the studio, we were given free rein to arrange our songs how we wanted and I did. That’s what got me through that part of it. Cause if it was just a matter of singing songs exactly the way they were written, that would have been a lot more difficult than it was.
“Shania Twain week that was kind of a rough week for me, because it was so out of my element, but I did what I could with the song. I think it’s part of the game. That’s what American Idol is. It’s ‘Go up there on the stage, play cover songs, and do the best you can your way and make them original. I think that I was able to do that. It was frustrating at times, I won’t lie. There were some songs I wouldn’t sing in a million years. But, I signed up for it, and that’s the rules.
“You play by them and you get by as best you can. As far as the single that they put out by me, I like that song a lot, it’s a really good song. Is it something that’s necessarily in my genre? No. But again, there were songs on the table, and I went with the one I thought would represent the moment the best because they didn’t have an original song written for this specifically. There’s reasons. I don’t know all the ups and downs of the behind-the-scenes stuff. It’s been a big game of play by the rules. If it was up to me, there’s certain things I would have done differently just on stage, maybe a little bit longer sets would have been cool, to get into the song. Being able to accept it was the hard part. But then once you accept it and you kind of just roll with it, you can make the songs your own and then move on. It’s cool to listen to the tracks after they’re done.”
How much did yours hometown visit move you to go back to Hollywood and just win this thing? Did it give you confidence?
LD: “You nailed it on the head right there. By the time you get to that last three weeks, you are — and I’ll just tell you straight out — you are just exhausted. There’s so much mental stress going on. Not in a bad way, there’s a lot to think about.
“You want to win, you want to get as far as you can. It’s stressful. That’s the name of the game. But going back home and being able to play for everybody, was just the most amazing thing. I’ve been told by so many people — man it just seems so different than when you’re on Idol.
“For me, I play to a live audience. That’s my thing. I really get into it when there’s a live audience in front of me, and when I can build up to a song, and build a set and do all those things, which I’ll be able to do now. But seeing all the people come out and support me was so huge because it wasn’t all me. It was a mixture of a lot of things. There’s a lot of people to thank.
“Seeing all the fans and support really allowed me to get a good grip on how intense the situation is and how seriously impacted people can be by music. They all showed up and it was the most surreal experience. I was scheduled to play three or four songs, and I ended playing nine or 10. How do you not?
“They were all there for me, and I didn’t want to leave them empty-handed. ‘All right guys, have a good night!’ They were there for me, and they had been supporting me the whole way. I wanted to do everything I could for them. Eventually the plug had to be pulled (he laughed).
“It really gave me the sense when I came back that I was doing the right thing and to just keep doing what I’m doing and staying true to what I told myself I’d do from the beginning. And that’s just go up there and give it everything I have. Sometimes it’s not going to be the best. And I’m aware of that.
“I had weeks that I wasn’t so sure. I went in a little nervous, whatever the case may be. And It wasn’t the best performance maybe. That’s part of it, learning from it, getting over that and not letting that bring you down. If you let one performance drag you down …I’m going to be performing a lot and if I let that happen to me in real life, what kind of artist is that?
“I’m just way more comfortable now, I’m going to be able to do my thing, on my stage, and really show everybody what I can do without that dome (American Idol) over me. American Idol was amazing. They gave me this opportunity, and I wouldn’t be here without them, but, now I can do my own thing. It’s the next step, and I’m really looking forward to making an album, I’m really looking forward to touring.
“If it wasn’t for the people back at home, I wouldn’t be here. When I went back it was basically a big thumbs-up from everybody. When I came back, I had a rejuvenated energy. I was just ready to do it.”
Will some of your original songs be on your album?
LD: “We’re going to be getting into the studio and working on some stuff. I’m definitely going to get a chance to write and put some of that on the album. Whatever we choose to do with any music I already have, there’s a lot of stuff that goes into these kinds of things. We’ll see. I can’t say that it wouldn’t bother me, but at the same time, I’m really looking forward to the next step and making new music. It’s a new stage of my life and it’s going to be exciting. Maybe. Who knows.”
What artists inspire the kind of music you’d like to make on your album?
LD: “As far as new albums, I listen to a lot of different things. Everything from Sufjan Stevens to Kings of Leon to Ben Harper. I love Soundgarden, I love Rage Against the Machine, Simon & Garfunkle. I have a pretty wide range of musical tastes. I actually, for the first time, sat down and listened to Kris’s (Allen) album. I really dug it. He’s a cool guy. It was inspiring to me, because he got to do a lot of the things he wanted to do on his album. I want to get the chance to do the same thing. I think for me, I’m not really one way on music. I like rock, I like folk, but I’m not only going to listen to that. For me, it’s if I like it, that’s what I’m going to listen to.”
What album struck you as something you’d like to emulate for your album?
“I just got the Kings of Leon’s new album, and I like their original stuff, their first albums a lot. They were a little harder. But I really dig their newest album. I like that sound. That’s a sound I go for. It’s very gritty, but at the same time, it’s got great hooks and great lyrics. They break it down and can be a little more chill, a little more heavy. I’m always looking for new music.
“Right now, I’m going to be listening to a lot of different things for inspiration, different ways of production and all those kinds of things. It’s been a crazy experience, the whole album-making thing – talking, going to the meetings about it and everything.
“I’m going to have a lot of say in it, and that was something I was worried about in the beginning. Was it going to be, ‘Now here’s your songs, sing ‘em?’ And it’s not.
“I’m going to have a chance to write and sit down with some people. There’ve been some people who have reached out, they want to work with me, and I’m just excited to to do that. I’d love to co-write with some people and get working on it. I actually like Dave Matthews’ new album too. I love it. I listen to that a lot. There’s so much music out there. A lot of it is underground stuff too. Not stuff that’s necessarily mainstream or on the radio.”
What would be your dream collaboration?
LD: “I mentioned Sufjan Stevens. His lyrics are so good, and he so gets it. I’d love to write with him. He’s amazing. I’d be really willing to work with anybody that wants to work with me, because they’ve been there and done that. I don’t necessarily have the experience as far as putting out an album.
“I haven’t put out an album on a major label yet. Now I’m going to get to do that. There’s a good list of people that I’ve been told I’m going to be getting a chance to work with and I’m just stoked about it because I think it’s going to come out really really well. I can’t wait to make an album that represents me and put it out there and tour it.”
How did you feel sharing the spotlight with Simon on finale night. Did it take some of the pressure off?
LD: “He definitely shared the spotlight and that’s OK because he’s been a huge part of the reason the show’s been a success. And of course, it’s the last season, they’re going to have to make mention of that. I expected it to be that way.
“As far as the pressure being off … the night before wasn’t about that, it was about us performing. For them to say good-bye to him the way they did was really cool and I thought they did a good job.
“I got a chance to talk to him and he was just really happy for me. He told me ‘I’m proud of you. I saw something in you and I’m glad you won and I’m happy for you.’
“He’s a really nice dude. I don’t’ feel like he stole the spotlight. It was two big things going on in one night. I thought it was pretty cool, actually. I think it made the night a little bit better. It made the night really big. It was fun to be a part of it.”