Lee DeWyze is not the typical American Idol winner. The 33-year-old musician, who helped make it acceptable to strum an acoustic guitar while singing on the popular series and who won the ninth season in 2010, grew up in Illinois admiring the music of classic folk artists including Cat Stevens and Paul Simon. DeWyze says he took his musical cues from his father and considers himself a songwriter as opposed to a flashy crooner.
"When I went on American Idol, the show wasn't really conducive to the singer-songwriter; it was more about creating pop stars," explains DeWyze. "I love performing, and I love playing, but the reason I went on the show and the reason I'm still doing it ten years later is that I always put songwriting at the forefront of what I'm doing. It's hard to really get know an artist from just watching them on [the program]. I think that [American Idol] has learned that rather than trying to create celebrities, it's okay to create artists.
"Getting your name out there is great, but then you have to carve out whatever path you want," he continues. "I was the first person on Idol to sing a song by Simon and Garfunkel. My dad was a mail carrier, and on Sundays he had a day off, and we would listen to his albums. I would be taken in by the art on the covers, like Tea for the Tillerman, and then he'd be like, 'Okay now let's listen to the music.'"
DeWyze, whose compelling original material might come as a surprise to those not familiar with him, says his career as a tunesmith took off when he wrote an original piece, "Blackbird Song," for the series The Walking Dead in 2014.
"[Blackbird Song] opened up a lot of peoples' eyes," says DeWyze who started playing his guitar as a young teen. "And it all led up to the music that I'm writing now, which is a culmination of everything I've put out so far. I moved my studio into my house for this new album. I wanted the music to be as close to me as possible. The first song I wrote for the project, 'Night and Day,' is a good front foot into what the album is going to be like."
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"There's something different about my new material," DeWyze continues. "It feels elevated. On a personal level, I was able to access a certain part of myself that I hadn't felt before. On this album, I was able to pull in all the different ideas that were floating around in my head. It feels different in a very good way."
"Night and Day" dropped April 12, and DeWyze says he has an EP and full-length record that will follow soon. Denver listeners can get a taste of his latest sound when he plays the Soiled Dove Underground on April 23.
"I'm taking my time with this music," he shares. "I think it deserves it, and I think it speaks to people. [Some of] the words go, 'My days feel long and my nights feel short, and I think I'm tired, but I'm not quite sure.' The song is that line between everyone's reality and their subconscious. It has a lot to do with sleeping. Something is always being sorted out in your sleep. I think that's why the term 'sleep on it ' exists. There's a part of your brain that's working even when you're not. It's about getting clarity through that part of your brain. I feel like I've lived a lot of lives in a short amount of time. There are always decisions to be made and things to think about and all that. I wear my heart on my musical sleeve, and music is like a therapy session for me. I'm not an introvert, but I can more easily express some things through music than if I had to share my feelings directly with someone, and I try to do it in ways that really connect. It's the soundtrack of your life."