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MAR
23
4 YEARS

Lee DeWyze Speaks Candidly About Life After 'Idol'

The Season 9 winner opens up about his "upsetting" album release day, telling THR's Idol Worship: "There were so many things going against it."

lee dewyze idol publicity 2010
PictureGroup / FOX
Lee DeWyze

Lee Dewyze has achieved an extraordinary feat: he won American Idol during one of its toughest seasons ever -- not just in terms of the competition, which was formidable, as always, but because he also had to battle apathetic judges, viewer fatigue and slipping ratings. Somehow, Lee not only survived season 9, he thrived, transforming from a reserved former paint salesman to a star on America’s biggest stage. 

The euphoria lasted until November 23, 2010, when, after a week of mixed emotions, Lee saw his debut album, Live It Up, chart at a respectable No. 19, only to be derided in the same breath for its low (by Idol standards) sales -- as far as the rest of the music business is concerned, 39,000 units moved is a good week! 
 
Last week marked Lee’s return to the Idol stage since winning season 9. And perhaps in being reminded what he had truly accomplished, Lee sat down with Idol Worship and spoke candidly for the first time about that roller coaster record release week and life after Idol
 
THR: The Idol experience, especially for a winner, can make you feel like a hamster running on a wheel. When were you finally able to stop and take a breather?
 
Lee DeWyze: People use the world whirlwind a lot, and it really was. It was just out of control -- almost like you don't remember it. When it was over, I didn't know what was next. I was like, "What do I do now?" Going back home and seeing the family was awesome, but I got back in the swing of things really quickly with recording the album. 
 
THR: How did your family handle Idol?  
 
DeWyze: I think they handled it well. It was definitely difficult at times. It was pressure for them, too -- now they're the parents of this kid that's on American Idol. It was interesting for them. They're very humble, normal people so it was more fun than anything.
 
THR: How did it feel to be back in the Idol studio?
 
DeWyze: It was awesome. It felt more like playing a gig with my band than going up as a contestant. You're finally doing your own thing, playing your own music -- getting to that point is a really great place to be. I had a couple flashbacks here and there, but it wasn't a bad feeling. It was more like, "I remember what this was like." 
 
THR: The set is different…
 
DeWyze: It's very different. I like it way better, actually. It felt more like a stage, like a place I'd want to perform. The other one was like a backdrop and here's 60 feet of floor. Now, it's got a dynamic to it, it's got shape, there's an audience of people surrounding you. It feels like you're in a venue. 
 
THR: What didn’t you miss about that building? 
 
DeWyze: Waiting around for performances, sound checks and things like that. What I did miss were the people behind the scenes.
 
THR: What was your impression of the new judges? 
 
DeWyze: They're doing great. I think that they're really finding themselves as judges. And the niceness slowed down a bit, I noticed. They were real fluffy at first, and now it's a little more direct. 
 
THR: It’s like a feather's touch compared to your season. They were harsh!
 
DeWyze: On our season, they tore it up. They really didn't hold back at all and I think a lot had to do with it being Simon's last year. It was just, like, “Let's do whatever the f--- we want, let's just tear them down.” But I got through it. I'm okay with where I'm at, and I'm happy I went on the show when I did… . It was a wild ride, but now it's all about real music.
 
THR: Of course, most people judge the success of a music career on album sales. Was your release week kind of ruined because you couldn’t just take pride in the accomplishment? 
 
DeWyze: Definitely. It was interesting. They didn't release the album on time [because] there was some sort of a mix-up at iTunes --  it was supposed to be out at midnight, it didn't get released until three in the afternoon -- and just as it’s about to come out, the Beatles release their full catalog. So it was like, "Wow. Really?" Almost every album above mine was the Beatles, which is cool, but I got a lot of flack. 
 
People wanted to bash on me and I was, like, “I don't really f---ing care.” I don't. I'm gonna do what I do because I love doing it and for the people that like my music. So for me, the album release wasn't my best day. It was pretty upsetting. Not because of where it was or how much it sold, there were just so many things going against it… 
 
It's easy to sit behind a computer and blog about how much you hate somebody. It's my job to get out there and perform, and it's their job to try to tear people down. 
 
THR: Were you able to talk to the Season 10 contestants? Maybe offer some advice? 
 
DeWyze: Yeah, I got to hang with them for ten minutes. They were really inquisitive. They asked me a lot of questions like, “How did you feel every week?,” and “What's it like when the show's over?” My advice to them was, "Just remember why you auditioned in the first place: you love music. And if that's really what you're in this for. No matter what happens, you'll still be playing, one way or another. Small venues, big venues, whatever. And you have a lot to look forward to in your careers, so don't look at this as the be-all, end-all." That's what I did. I looked at it like, "If I go home, I go home. If I don't, I don't.” I'm still as happy with my life no matter what happened. You can't look at it as if, "This is it. This is my life.” Because it’s not. 
 
THR: Although the words American Idol will be attached to your name forever. 
 
DeWyze: Which is okay. I like that I stand for something like American Idol which helps musicians and artists get out there. It's important to have shows like Idol because it's so hard to get into the music industry nowadays – nearly impossible. 
 
THR: Season 10 finalist Haley Reinhart is from Wheeling, Illinois, not too far from your hometown of Mt. Prospect. Coincidence?
 
DeWyze: It must be something in that Midwest water. [Laughs] I'm hoping the best for her. I've seen a bit of the shows here and there, and I've got my eye on a few of them, like Casey [Abrams], Pia [Toscano] and Haley; they would be my three. 
 
THR: Your album is called Live It Up, have you been able to? 
 
DeWyze: A little bit, but a lot of my time has been work. Living it up for me is just enjoying life. That's really what the album is about: experiencing life, examining relationships… The new single "Beautiful Like You" is a song that I relate to so well and I can sing from a very honest place. 
 
THR: Is there a lyric you’re especially proud of on this record?
 
DeWyze: "You've only got one life, live it up darling." I love that line because it speaks to everybody. It’s saying: just do it. Whatever your dreams are, if you're in love, just go for it and have fun doing it. And then it goes on to say every second that passes you by is just wasting time. You can sit on your ass for years saying, "I want to do this," but until you actually get up and try, it's like, "what are you doing?" 
 
Lee also treated us to a special acoustic performance of his new single "Beautiful Like You," which, following his Idol performance, saw an 8,000-plus percent boost (Live it Up also re-entered the Billboard 200 chart on March 23, coming in at No. 96). See video below...