‘American Idol’ Producers Never Intended To Block Josiah Leming’s Debut Album

A spokesperson for 19 Entertainment says his contract expired months ago and he's free to release LP.

When MTV News spoke to “American Idol” season-seven contestant Josiah Leming last week in Los Angeles, it was clear that he wasn’t going to let any rumors of contract disputes stand in the way. Lucky for the once-homeless singer/songwriter, neither were “Idol” producers.

Two weeks ago, news broke that “Idol” producers were threatening legal action against Leming if he followed through on plans to release his debut album in January on Warner Music Group’s Reprise Records. According to The New York Post, Leming’s contract with Reprise (which he signed back in May) might be in violation of the contract all show contestants must sign that gives producer Simon Fuller’s 19 Entertainment exclusive rights of refusal for management and merchandising and requires contestants to record only with the show’s preferred label, Sony/BMG.

It all sounded fairly ominous, but it turns out, reports of any legal threats had been greatly exaggerated. Commenting on the Post story for the first time, a spokesperson for 19 Entertainment explained to MTV News that “Idol” contestants are generally required to sign a contract that gives Sony/BMG exclusive rights for a period of three months, but “if the contestant is in danger of losing a recording contract because of that, [19] generally will allow them out of their contract.”

In Leming’s case, his contract with 19 expired “a few months ago,” the spokesperson continued, “so we are not sure what controversy people are talking about.” And in an e-mail, the spokesperson told MTV News that “19 Entertainment wishes¬†Josiah the best of luck on his album release.”

When MTV News caught up with Leming at Warner’s Los Angeles offices — before we received this clarification from 19 — he seemed unaware of the entire incident.

“Honestly, legally, I have no real idea [about the rumored lawsuit], you know?” he said. “I had a good experience on the show, and I’m thankful that I am where I am right now, and they definitely helped push me along. … I’m thankful and I acknowledge they were a steppingstone in the process of me being where I am today.

“I wasn’t very familiar with the contract, so I’m not sure what repercussions would come of it, but like I said, the only thing that has ever been and is on my mind is the music, and moving forward on my career as an artist,” he continued. “I’m going to continue to make music, because that’s what I love to do. I did that before the show, and I’ll do it after the show.”

So now it’s all systems go for Leming’s Reprise debut, which is tentatively titled They Say. He’s currently promoting his efforts with an EP, Angels Undercover, and a video for its title track. He’s also about to launch a tour in support of the EP, before heading back to Los Angeles to put the finishing touches on his full-length.

“[They Say] basically goes out to everybody who doesn’t believe,” he laughed, “and everybody who doesn’t feel like I’m ready or prepared to go the direction I’m going, which is absolutely anybody and everybody.”

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