‘American Idol’ Bigwigs Threaten Legal Action Over Contestant Josiah Leming’s Major Label Debut: Report

Though he didn't make the top 24, Leming signed a contract that may forbid him to release album.

The hard times continue for male “American Idol” castoffs. The latest (alleged) victim is frequently weepy, formerly homeless singer Josiah Leming , who just last week announced that his major-label debut on Warner Brothers’ Reprise Records would be out in early 2009.

A teaser digital EP, Undercover: Selections From Josiah Leming’s Album Debut, was just released on Tuesday, but, according to the New York Post, that might be the only music you hear from Leming if the “Idol” folks have their way.

Leming, 19, didn’t make the show’s top 24, but a strict contract all “Idol” contestants must sign that makes them promise to record only with the “Idol”-preferred label, Sony/BMG, and gives show producer Simon Fuller’s 19 Entertainment exclusive rights of refusal for management and merchandising. So his current record deal might be in violation of that pact.

The Post reported on Thursday that Leming “received an official letter from ‘Idol’ threatening legal action if he puts out his record in January as planned.” E-mails requesting comment from Leming’s label had not been returned at press time; a representative for Fox (which broadcasts “Idol”) had no comment.

“Josiah was the only ‘Idol’ contestant ever to get a record deal who didn’t make the top 24, and one of only four contestants to get a deal this year,” an unnamed rep for Leming reportedly told the paper. “He has personal reasons for getting his music out, threat or not.”

Leming, one of eight siblings from Morristown, Tennessee, who famously spent some time camping out in his 1989 Mercury Topaz, is eager to get the album out for a very personal reason. According to the rep, Leming is “racing the clock” because his mother has terminal cancer, and “nothing is going to stop him from getting his music out while she is alive to share it.” The paper reported that Leming’s lawyer has responded to the “Idol” letter but hasn’t heard back yet.

If it does get released early next year, Leming’s album, produced by Dave Kosten (Bat for Lashes), will feature a suite of emotionally charged, Keane-esque piano-driven songs all written by Leming and recorded over several weeks this summer in London. Among the songs on the sample EP (and streaming on his MySpace page) are: “Arctic Outcry Wind,” the majestic “Angels Undercover,” “Theysay,” “This Cigar” and “To Run.” Leming is currently on tour.

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