Lee DeWyze on Nigel Lythgoe Trophy Controversy: 'I Didn't Want Them to Throw Me a Bone' (Exclusive)
"I can't say there’s anything that's made me want to go have a drink with the guy," says the Season 9 winner of the "American Idol" executive producer who publicly snubbed him on Twitter.
If the onstage action at American Idol's season 10 finale wasn't exciting enough, the off-camera drama between executive producer Nigel Lythgoe and season 9 winner Lee DeWyze certainly had tongues wagging the day after.
To recap: DeWyze, who released his debut album Live It Up in November 2010, was not asked to sing on the finale, despite a long-held Idol tradition of having the previous year's winner perform their latest single. And when the idea was brought forth of having DeWyze hand over a microphone-shaped trophy to his successor -- Lythgoe says it was presented a week prior, DeWyze says it was more like two minutes before the announcement of winner Scotty McCreery -- DeWyze declined, saying he did not feel it was appropriate to be in "Scotty's moment."
All the gory details of Idol politics were revealed via Twitter, where both men have large and active followings. Soon after, it looked to be a case of "class versus ass," as one commenter noted of the feud, but it's taken on a whole new level of absurdity as at least one party can't seem to let it go. (Worth noting: Lythgoe did not work on Idol during Lee DeWyze's season.) What's DeWyze's take now that the feud has spread to heights never imagined? THR's Idol Worship tracked him down on Friday afternoon for an update on Trophy-gate.
The Hollywood Reporter: A lot has been said in the 48 hours since the finale, how are you feeling about things now?
Lee DeWyze: I feel good. I think a lot was made out of it, but that wasn't really my intention. I was getting messages asking, "What are you performing on the finale?" Like, tons of them, so I simply said I wasn't asked to perform, and it kind of took off from there.
THR: Did you schedule a trip back from Asia so you could attend the finale?
DeWyze: My plan always was to go to the finale. As you and a lot of people know, the past winners have come back and performed so I was looking forward to performing. It was definitely something me and my management team thought was a possibility. That being said, it came down to the wire and they never asked me to perform, so that was that. I [thought], “I'll just go and be a spectator."
THR: Was there a moment when you thought about maybe not going?
DeWyze: I wouldn't not go. I'm definitely supportive of American Idol and what it's done for me, and I don't think that the decision of a producer hinders my view of the show or what it does for people who want to be discovered. It's not like I hold a grudge against American Idol or anything, it's just a simple fact that I wasn't asked to play.
THR: Beyond the question of you performing was the issue of handing a trophy to season 10 winner Scotty McCreery. Nigel Lythgoe tweeted just after 1:00 a.m the night of the finale, “I was so upset Lee DeWyze wouldn't present the winners trophy to Scotty. Especially as he'd been on the show this Season. I guess he was shy." Did you take that as a jab?
DeWyze: The viewers and the people who vote on American Idol, I don't think they're stupid. When someone says something like that, you can make of it what you will. But if he or anyone thinks that I'm a shy person, just sit with me for a minute and talk to me, you'll find out very quickly that I'm not. Why he said that, I can't speak for him. He’s the big shot but it came down to simple facts for me: I was not asked to perform on the show, which was something I was hoping to be a part of since it was such a big part of my life, and a last-second scramble -- whether it was a week, a minute or a month -- seemed inappropriate and kind of ridiculous. I thought, rather than getting up there and being in Scotty's limelight while he's going through the biggest change in his life, I would much rather be a viewer. So yes, when Nigel tapped me on the shoulder and asked to “borrow” me, I said no, and next thing I know, he's talking about it publicly. I don't know what point he's trying to make, but it's really not a big deal to me anymore. I’m over it.
THR: Although it continued earlier today when Nigel tweeted that the trophy hand-off had been discussed for a week …
DeWyze: I think that once they realized that people were talking about the fact that I wasn't performing, I was asked if I wanted to partake in some trophy situation. I didn't know the details of it, but I know I didn't need a consolation. I didn't want them to throw me a bone because I didn't perform, but besides that, in my mind, there was no reason for a past contestant to be onstage as the new Idol is crowned. It's not the passing of the torch. I just didn't feel it was appropriate … Also, that's never been done before. When past winners have won, there aren’t other winners on stage. And I wanted it to be Scotty's thing. I didn't want to be, "Hey, here I am, look," and find some poor excuse to get some TV time. It was made clear that it was something I wouldn't be doing.
THR: Do you feel like your brother Mike fueled the fire somewhat? He called Nigel a scumbag …
DeWyze: Yea, but it wasn't just him. Tons of fans were tweeting all sorts of things. People can say what they want, but no one can speak for me.
THR: When you performed "Beautiful Like You" on the show this season, did you get to spend much time with Nigel?
DeWyze: I didn't get to spend much time with him at all. It was kind of, like, “hi” and “bye” and that was the end of that. He came up to me after [my performance] and said, “Great job.” That was it. Then I hear people saying, “David Cook's performed this many times.” It’s like they think it’s still some kind of competition for me… I'm not mad at Nigel either, but since he took it publicly, I wasn’t just going to lay down… I can't get inside his brain or make him think one way or another about me, but at the end of the day, it's clear to me that shots were taken.
THR: How was it for you to sit in the Nokia Theater, where you were crowned a year ago?
DeWyze: It was great. I was with my girlfriend and we were having a great time. We got to watch the performances, we did the red carpet and saw a lot of people who I've known through the process and other contestants. The transaction with Nigel lasted maybe 20 seconds out of my whole night.
THR: What did you think of the final performances?
DeWyze: I thought both Scotty and Lauren did a killer job and had a lot of fans backing them up. Scotty really knows who he is as an artist and I think he's got a great career ahead of him.
THR: Your season bears the brunt of some of the harshest criticism, be it for ratings or the fact that many of your fellow finalists played acoustic guitar…
DeWyze: People can say I'm the singer-songwriter guy or that our ratings were this or that… All these things happened around season 9 and I won so therefore I became the representative and that's OK. I’ll happily represent because it was a great thing for me, but at the same time, people voted and I won and that doesn't make me better or worse than anybody else that on my season or any other seasons -- that’s just the way the show went. At the end of the day, I love my fans, my family and everybody that's been involved in helping me with my career. My team is great and I appreciate everything they’ve done. People can say whatever they want about me or my season, but at some point, I have to let it roll off my back. I just love music, man, and that's what keeps me going.
THR: So are you surprised at how this story has spiraled. Some have said that, for someone who didn’t perform on the finale, you ended up getting much of the attention…
DeWyze: It's a little surprising for something that I didn't really plan on, but I don't really think that way. It just kind of happened. But I thought it was necessary to at least say my peace on it, because I'm not looking for bad blood with anybody let alone the producers of the show that have helped me in my career so much. I can't say anything about Nigel as a person, I’m not saying he's a bad guy, you can only go off of peoples' actions and what they say, so this has been my experience getting to know Nigel.
THR: What do you think of Nigel Lythgoe now?
DeWyze: Clearly he's a very vocal person, and I can respect that part, but other than that, I can't say there’s anything that's made me want to go have a drink with the guy. But who knows? Maybe I'll run into him sometime and it will be a handshake and a hello. But I'm over it. It's not a big deal to me. I'm not offended I wasn’t asked [to perform] but all I can do is accept it and move on … This is America -- you're allowed to say and do what you want and what you say and do defines who you are as a person. I think people should have a very good idea of who I am.