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Goodbye Simon Cowell, hello Pirates: Season nine ‘American Idol’ winner, Lee DeWyze, talks fame, spills new album ‘Oil & Water’

[caption id="attachment_13914" align="alignnone" width="300"]Sheng Xi Chen/Staff Photographer Sheng Xi Chen/Staff Photographer[/caption] From the time he was a child, Lee DeWyze has wanted to be a musician. The singer-songwriter was thrust into the limelight after winning season nine of the reality TV show “American Idol” and has recently released his sixth album “Oil & Water.” On March 30, the Student Activities Board (SAB) brought the famous artist to campus where he performed during the Wednesday night SAB Coffeehouse. “I was really driven toward singer-songwriters and that kind of music when I was young,” he said. “I taught myself how to play and decided I wanted to do music as a career from a very young age so I was in pursuit of it ever since.” For students hoping to break into the industry, DeWyze said that everyone has their own path. “What works for one person may not work for another,” he said. “It’s a matter of doing everything you can. I think it takes a lot of dedication, I can tell you that much.” While DeWyze broke into the industry on “American Idol,” he said there are many different ways to get your name out there. For instance, YouTube, iTunes, Spotify, Vine and Pandora are just a few ways a student can promote their music. “There’s a million ways to get yourself out there,” he added. “Being able to make a living off of being a musician or songwriter takes dedication and sacrifice. I went all in because it’s my true passion.” DeWyze was no stranger to performing or touring even before he appeared on the hit reality TV show. Prior to winning “American Idol,” he had a solo career and formed the Lee DeWyze band. During this time he released two independent albums and has continued releasing music after he won the competition. Life after Idol has been everything he expected. DeWyze used the show to propel his music career and break into the industry, noting that it isn’t always easy to do that. “Nowadays it’s so hard to break into the industry,” he said. “There are so many different artists and people that I just saw it as a different outlet to get myself out there and it worked out for the best.” From the viewer’s vantage point, auditioning for the show may seem intense, especially since there are roughly 100,000 people auditioning per season. “There are different stages for judging,” he said. “My audition was fairly quick.” While the audition was six years ago for him, he remembers waiting in line and singing a short snippet of his chosen song. The most important advice he has for auditioning for any competition show: Don’t go in with any expectations. “I just hoped for the best,” he said. “Originally my mentality was how far could I get and things went the way they went.” On season nine of the show, the judges were Simon Cowell, Randy Jackson, Ellen DeGeneres and Kara DioGuardi. A major aspect of the show is the feedback from the industry professionals. Some of DeWyze’s feedback included telling him to smile more. “Getting judged in front of 40 million people isn’t the greatest experience all the time,” he said. “I was playing music before Idol so it was weird for someone to judge me for something I’d been doing for several years.” Due to his experience, DeWyze actually tried not to listen to the feedback too much. “You have to take everything they say with a grain of salt,” he said. “Some things you take to heart, but being told to start smiling more – things like that, I couldn’t care less about. For me it was a matter of getting up there and trying to stay true to what I do.” While going on the show put DeWyze in the public eye, he said that it was never about becoming famous to him. “It’s the last thing I went on the show for,” he said. “I wanted people to hear my music and know who I am as an artist. I had to keep that mentality and not let it get to my head too much.” Becoming famous is not everything he expected either. “Nothing is everything you want,” DeWyze added. “There’s an upside and a downside to everything. There was an adjustment period of having to figure out how to be in the spotlight and as time goes on, you fall into it and get used to it.” While at SHU, DeWyze performed music from his new album “Oil & Water.” “It’s my best record,” he said. “The songs are much deeper and have more meaning to me than songs I’ve written in the past. If you said ‘tell me about Lee DeWyze,’ it would be this record.” Some of his favorite songs on the album include “Again,” “Learn to Fall” and “Stone.” “The way it came out and what those were about, meant a lot to me,” he said. “I have an emotional connection to those songs.” While promoting this album, DeWyze is performing at multiple colleges because he said his music relates to the college scene. “I think a lot of what I write about is emotional turmoil, which relates to emotionally distracted college students,” he said. “So much is going on in college – career choices, family, life. A lot of what I write about relates to those things. I write very honest and straight from the heart so it’s easily relatable.” Rebecca White can be reached at


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