Mid-November just rolled around again and you know what that means: it's time for the first release from the latest American Idol winner. I admit I didn't exactly fall in love with Live It Up, the offering from Season 9 champ Lee DeWyze, but I gotta respect the guy's warm, strong croon and passion for the craft. With his disc hitting shelves and the ‘net today, I sat down with the single singer and former paint salesman, 24, to find out just what's in it -- and why he really hopes it succeeds.
UsMagazine.com: So what will your fans be surprised by about the new disc?
Lee DeWyze: Each song has its own little character to it. I don't want every song to sound the same, and I didn't want it to be just a bunch of songs thrown together for no reason. Each one of them has a reason for being on the album and kind of connects to the other songs around it. I wrote on ten of the eleven songs on the album.
US: What's it like coming off Idol and releasing your own album?
LD: Going from American Idol to doing my own thing is an awesome feeling. American Idol was a great thing, and it obviously gave me an opportunity I wouldn't have had. But the truth of the matter is that I am really happy to move on to making my own album and to put that out there because truthfully that's who I am. I think everyone will get a good feel for that once they hear it.
US: Are you still surprised you won?
LD: I'm not surprised I won. That's why I entered the competition -- because I thought I could win. I am very glad I went through the process and I guess it sometimes surprises me when I am sitting in the studio, looking at my album or when I am flying here and flying there. I think about what I was doing about a year ago, and it blows my mind. But I am very grateful and blessed to be in this situation. I figure if I can always remember that, I'll be alright.
US: Do you worry about the Idol curse? Of all the Idols, very few have actually had long, big, enduring careers. Are you worried about that at all?
LD: Nope. Like I said, I don't look at myself and say,'you're the American Idol now so you have to go and be successful.' I won 'American Idol, and it was one of the greatest things that's ever happened to me, but I'm not going to ride the Idol wave until the end of time. At some point, you have to prove yourself musically and put an album you are proud of and that's what I am doing. I am just going to roll with it and try to make the right decisions and do the right things.
US: What do you think about the critics that have said that last season wasn't such a great season? Simon checked out and Ellen and Kara left. Do you feel like you got short changed or do you think it helped you in some way?
LD: Everyone is entitled to their opinion. American Idol isn't me -- it's a platform and for people who want to get up there and make albums and do great things in music. That's what American Idol is there for. Ratings are really irrelevant to me because my job on that show was to get up there every week and perform the best that I could. I am happy with my season -- I had fun. I liked the people I worked with and I liked the judges. I do think the new judges are going to do a great job. It'll be a different show but it will be cool.
US: How did you feel being the last person being on there with Simon Cowell? The last winner?
LD: I thought that was cool. I was actually kind of unhappy about it, but I thought it was really neat that I was there for his last season. It made it special for me, and I had a good time.
US: How was it working with Ellen that season? Do you think she was a good judge?
LD: Ellen is great! She is really cool, she's funny, she is down to earth...she made it fun! It was definitely nice working with her. She's a good person.
US: Do you think that the next season will be good with Steven Tyler and Jennifer Lopez?
LD: Yeah, I think next season will be cool. It will be a different show. I've never met any of them personally so I don't really know what they are like, but I can imagine it will be an interesting show. I'll be watching!
US: Do you have any advice for someone going on the show?
LD: My advice is for anybody on that show is to prepared get some thick skin and know that it's really not as scary as it looks up there. I can say that now, but during the show everyone gets nervous up there. It's not as bad as you think, though. Just go up there, be yourself and stay true to who you are, and you'll be fine.
US: Any tour plans now?
LD: We are going to be having a couple things going on in the winter. And next year when we go on tour it's going to be a good time. I've got my band now and they're four good guys and great musicians, so we're going to have a good time.
US: You were linked to Crystal Bowersox, your runner-up, on Idol. Are you dating anybody now?
LD: I never actually heard about that. That's funny!
US: There were some rumors!
LD: Well, it wasn’t true. I'm definitely dating but right now it's really about focusing on this album. You've gotta stay focused and take care of what's at hand now -- and that is putting out a good album and marketing it well and really performing. And when the dust settles, I am sure I will find a nice girl. Maybe dating is in my future, and maybe it's not? We'll see!
US: Do you still talk to Crystal? Do you think you guys will do anything together again?
LD: No. She's been busy with her thing and I am busy with my thing, but I never know what will happen in the future. The competition is over in my mind, and I'm not trying to compete with anybody at this point. I know she's been busy with her marriage and all that stuff. I wish her the best. She's cool.
US: And what about your bulldog Capone? Do you plan to bring him out on the road?
LD: Capone is the best dog in the world, so when I am on the road he is home with family and friends. He will be me out here with me eventually. I don't want to leave him home alone too long by himself so when it's all over, I'll get to bring him out here and see him.
US: I know you used to sell paint. Do you ever paint if, let's say, you are in the house and something needs a touch up?
LD: I try to avoid that at all costs. It's always good to have those things in your back pocket just in case things fall through, but I don't paint anymore. I'd get bad flashbacks for sure!