SANTA MONICA, California — About this time last year, Simon Cowell was describing Jon Peter Lewis as a pen salesman.
JPL has surpassed those expectations, but the "American Idol" finalist has since become a salesman of sorts, selling his own music directly to fans.
"With all the cutbacks, I don't anticipate record labels will be signing many artists, so I'm doing it independent and keeping it low-budget," Lewis said recently.
JPL spent last summer on the American Idols Live Tour (see "Fantasia Gets Standing O, JPL A Wanted Man, Huff Tackles Darkness At 'Idols' Launch"), but a he moved to Los Angeles as soon as it wrapped and began recording with producer Alex Gibson.
Rather than rely on covers, as he did on "Idol," or hire songwriters, like his peers have done for their albums, Lewis taught himself to write his own material.
"I think writing your own music gives you something to really sing about," he explained. "When I listen to music and it's an artist singing something by someone else, I feel disconnected. I don't like that. I like to communicate better. The songwriting just came out. My first songs were terrible, but everyone gets a little better. They evolve over time."
Lewis' tracks so far, such "Turn to Grey," "Stories From Hollywood" and "What's Wrong," are mostly about girls. "I guess I'm pretty unoriginal," he joked.
As for the style of his music, JPL is singing what he believes his fans want to hear. "I did well on the show with Elvis Presley and Van Morrison, two people with soul voices who did rock and roll," he said. "So that's the direction I'm going."
Lewis plays guitar and drums on his recordings, but he's putting together a band so he can tour. He plans to put three or four songs on his Web site (www.jplewismusic.com) within a few weeks and release a full album in the summer. Pens not included.