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Before winning the ninth season of American Idol, Lee DeWyze released two independent albums that introduced his mix of husky vocals and acoustic singer/songwriter fare. Working under the tutelage of Ministry guitarist Louis Svitek, who doubled as his producer and mentor, DeWyze made his solo debut with the release of 2007's So I'm Told. Slumberland followed several years later. Meanwhile, he worked in a paint store to make ends meet.

DeWyze’s career received a big boost in 2010, when he began competing in American Idol at the age of 23. In a competition filled with guitar-playing vocalists, DeWyze managed to stand out from the pack with his smart song choices, eventually beating second-place rival Crystal Bowersox and taking home the Idol crown on May 26, 2010. His debut single, a cover of U2's "Beautiful Day," was released in conjunction with his win, and a full-length album, Live It Up, arrived later that year.

Live It Up debuted on the Billboard charts at 19 and failed to gain much traction despite DeWyze supporting it with a headlining tour. In October, 2011 RCA decided not to exercise their option to DeWyze's recording contract. As the singer/songwriter worked on new material, a collection of old recordings called What Once Was was released in 2012; it contained outtakes from his first two independent albums, 2007's So I'm Told and 2010's Slumberland. ~ Andrew Leahey, Rovi