Interview: Lee DeWyze discusses new LP 'Paranoia', writing songs for television, exploring voiceovers for animation and more
The American Idol season 9 winner discusses the new electronic elements and his divergence from his acoustic folk sound on his new LP 'Paranoia'.
One solo artist who's been consistently making waves in the pop/folk scene is Lee DeWyze, winner of the ninth season of American Idol. DeWyze has been branching out into a few other fields off late, apart from working on his own material. He's been dabbling with scores for a host of hit TV shows and is now also trying his hand at voiceovers for animation.
His brand new album, 'Paranoia' dropped earlier this year on February 16 via Shanachie Entertainment and marks Lee’s seventh studio album to date and first full-length set of new music since 2016’s 'Oil & Water'. The lead single, 'The Breakdown,' has also been selected to feature in Showtime's #1 hit show 'Shameless.' Meaww caught up with Lee DeWyze to talk about his new album, his songwriting process and his foray into voiceovers among other things. Here's what we got.
Since emerging onto the scene, Lee’s real breakout moment came in 2014 when he wrote an original song for AMC's 'The Walking Dead'. 'Blackbird Song' has over 12 million YouTube views collectively, and 5.8 million Spotify streams.
"Stepping outside of the box to write for projects outside of “working on an album”, is always a creatively motivating experience. The challenge is putting some things you may want on a personal artistic level aside for what’s best for the project," DeWyze said, talking about how different it is to write a song for a show as opposed to a studio album or a single. "Blackbird song was written for myself first, and then used in the Walking Dead. I wrote it with the show in mind so it was definitely an inspiration."
"It was a great experience. I am a huge fan of the show, and seeing how the song was inspired by the show, to be able to watch it play out in such a cinematic way in such an emotional scene was truly an honor," he adds.
Since the release of 'Blackbird Song,' Lee has gone on to have more than 35 syncs and placements in TV shows such as Elementary, Suits, The Fosters, Nashville, Reign, Hart of Dixie, Bull, and many others.
Recently, Lee signed an exclusive deal with CESD, the leading agency for voice-over for animation. We asked him what led to the exploration of this new avenue. "Since I was a child. I’ve always loved animation, cartoons, video games, movies.. and at a young age discovered I could do voices. Seeing as I spend so much time in a vocal booth, doing voice-over work felt like a natural added branch to the tree of my career. CESD has been awesome and it’s been great working with their team," DeWyze said.
Lee's latest album 'Paranoia' also showcases this explorative effort as we see the Illinois-based singer/songwriter evolve his acoustic folk sound and smelting it with a healthy dose of modern electronics. Talking about the inspiration for the album and the new sonic feel, DeWyze says, "I think for me it was about exploring new parts of my studio. I never want to get bored as a singer/songwriter. I think keeping things as interesting I can for myself, as well as my listeners is important in career growth. I never know what my next record will sound like. So it’s always interesting and exciting to see what comes next."
But what DeWyze retains on the album is his earnest, introspective tone in the lyrics, with an almost a therapeutic feel to it all. DeWyze outlined his songwriting process on the new record.
"With this record. I wrote the songs with a very in the moment process. I was writing, recording, and working on production as I went. In a real-time way. I wanted each song to feel like the soundtrack to whatever the song is about. And the goal if there was one, was to get the listener to feel how the song sounds." And that's exactly what we get as we listen to DeWyze almost murmur the words instead of belting them out on 'Paranoia'.
The album was even accompanied by a fantastic lyric video that was a pure visual delight. Talking about his involvement with the video Dewyze says, "It started with an idea I had about the kind of look I wanted. Then with my manager and production team, we were able to put it together and shoot several songs."
Eight years after his launch via American Idol, Lee DeWyze has come a long way indeed. Looking back at his journey, Lee has a lot of words of inspiration for today's young aspiring musicians looking for their own big break.
"Write music that you would want to listen too. Keep at it. Don’t expect anything. No one owes you anything. People say a lot of things. Go with your gut. Work hard. Be conscious of your listener. Keep writing. Trust the people around you. Put people around you that you trust. At the end of the day, It’s your career," he says emphatically.
So what's next for Lee DeWyze? "Getting out on the road, playing the new music. Releasing more content, and continuing to write. I’m always trying to keep creatively busy," he says. "Right now my focus is the new record and exposing this music to as many people as possible."
DeWyze will be hitting the road next month in support of 'Paranoia'. He also confirmed that new dates will be updated periodically. You can check out DeWyze's full schedule of tour dates and more on his official website.