For Lee DeWyze, writing and performing music is both a personal journey of revelation and a joyful way to connect to his fans. Calling from Maine recently — where he was just beginning a national tour thatwill bring him to Q Bar in Glendale Heights on Saturday — the ninth season “American Idol” winner and Mount Prospect native was eager to talk about his music and especially his new album “Oil & Water.”
“When I was writing it and recording it, I did it all in my own studio. There were less than five people who worked on this entire record. It was pretty exciting. Musically, the songs are all me. …
“Point and shoot is the way I describe the way I put this album together. I’d write a song and the next day I’d go into the studio and start recording it. As I’m recording, I also producing it and writing lyrics and doing all that. It was a very internal process. It was me making these songs and writing them from a very real and honest place. Then recording them and making them sound the way I wanted them to. There was no big plan behind it. It was very organic.”
While DeWyze’s Saturday concert will be at a bar/musical venue, most of the showson this current North American tour areon college campuses. The singer and songwriter has a large college-age fan base — and he loves it.
“For me the college scene is a great one. Obviously, people who are listening to my music range across all ages, but college kids love music. Plus, a lot of things I write in my songs relate to someone who would be in that stage of their life — going out on their own and all of those kinds of things.”
Just in the five years since he won “Idol,” DeWyze has witnessed changes in the music industry.
“There are both up sides and down sides to all of that. On the one hand, some would say this is a negative, music is TOO readily available.
“But on the other hand – and this is where I’m coming from — it’s awesome that music’s so readily available. I love it that you’re able to get your music out there to so many people in so many ways today. For me as an artist, it’s not just like it was in 2002, when you worked so hard to just get your music on the radio, so people could hear it. Today there’s so many avenues and outlets to make my music available to people. So on that level it’s super-positive.”
That said, DeWyze is very aware that “we do live in what I believe is a media-driven music industry. There’s people who listen and discover music on their own, but there are many, many other people who listen to what they’re told is popular.
“Yet I can’t control all that. At the end of the day, my job as an artist and a writer and a musician is to control the things that I can control. That is, writing honest music, writing music that is true to who I am, and that’s at the core at it. Making music that means something is what is important.”
Reflecting on “American Idol,” DeWyze stressed he is “very grateful and appreciative” of the platform the show provided him.
“It’s funny. I won ‘American Idol,’ so a lot of people do know who I am. But it’s one thing for people to know who you are and it’s another thing for people to know what you’re about and what kind of artist you are today. It’s one thing to say, ‘Yeah, I know who Lee DeWyze is,’ but it’s another thing to say, ‘Yeah, I listened to his last record ‘Frames’ and his follow-up record ‘Oil & Water.’
“That’s someone who is a true fan.”
Considering this is the final season for “American Idol,” DeWyze shared a few thoughts about the show and the influence it has had on the contemporary music scene.
“With its interactivity with the fans, ‘Idol’ was very much in the forefront of social media and its impact on popular culture. Just look at Twitter and Facebook and the rest of it today. ‘Idol’ stayed in that vein and was the first of all those competition shows, like ‘The Voice,’ ‘X-Factor’ and so forth.
“But ‘Idol’ served such an important role in creating and showcasing a lot of great talent. There’s a lot out there in the world, and ‘Idol’ brought some of that talent to the masses.
“While ‘Idol’ has run its course, I’m sure there’s always going to be a show like that. Let’s face it, artists have to get out there and become known. There will always be a way for people to do that.”