Landing a spot – and even more so, winning – American Idol is seen as once-in-a-lifetime launch pad for a music career. However, as previous Idol winners have shown us, being the last man (or woman) standing hardly foreshadows a steady music career afterwards. That’s why Lee DeWyze, Idol’s winner in 2010, shared with News-Press his journey through the contest and how it shaped his path forward in the lead up to his show at Jammin’ Java this Thursday.
DeWyze was drawn to music at early age after his father introduced him to some of the classics: Simon & Garfunkel, The Mamas & the Papas, Peter, Paul and Mary as well as Led Zeppelin. But it was when he stumbled across one record that really connected him to the art form.
“One of the earliest memories of music I have is when I reading the back of the Cat Stevens record, Tea for the Tillerman, and I understood what songwriting was for the first time and fell in love with it then,” DeWyze said. “Ever since it’s been symbolic for me as I put songwriting at the forefront of everything that I do.”
The singer had his mind made up from a young age of what he wanted to do with his life. After a hitting a rough patch at school, DeWyze moved out of his parent’s home at 17 and grew up fast while chasing his dream of a music career. He released two albums through WuLi Records, titled So I’m Told and Slumberland. After some encouragement from friends, DeWyze auditioned for and landed a spot on Idol in the summer of 2009.
It wouldn’t be until the following spring when DeWyze would be crowned the winner of the show’s ninth season. The moment was undeniably great publicity for the burgeoning artist. But it was by no stretch of the imagination the intended pinnacle of his career, let alone a sign that any future progression could be taken for granted.
“I didn’t go on the show to be famous or win a competition [because] when it’s done, there’s no guarantee on anything. For me, I never wanted American Idol to be the wave I rode for the rest of my career. ” DeWyze continued. “I was a songwriter before I went on the show and that always going what I was going to do.”
Keeping that promise to himself is what helped DeWyze endure the inevitable highs and lows that come with a music career. While he wasn’t as prominent as a face in the industry, DeWyze’s songwriting chops led him to pen melodies for shows such as The Walking Dead, Elementary, Suits, Shameless, Snatch and Nashville. That talent allowed DeWyze to sustain his relevance in the business and preserve a core component of his original reason for blazing his way into music.
The experience also guided him toward the sound he wanted his latest album, Paranoia, to embody. DeWyze had been tinkering with new elements to add to his harmonies and finally got a chance to craft a work that represents the evolution he’d experienced as a songwriter and as a composer.
“I never want to get bored in the studio and I wanted to step outside and make a more emotional, personal record,” DeWyze concluded. “I used a lot more electric guitar sounds, pianos and had a lot of space in the record because I wanted people to get lost in the music. It has a soundtrack-type feeling to it that I want people to live in each song like it’s its own little movie.”
Lee DeWyze will be performing at Jammin’ Java (227 Maple Ave. E., Vienna) this Thursday, Feb. 22 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets can be purchased at jamminjava.com.