Lee DeWyze Admits ‘American Idol’ Theme Weeks Were ‘Frustrating’

'There's some songs I never would have sang in a million years, but I signed up for it,' he says.

Lee DeWyze proved on “American Idol” that everyone truly loves an underdog. He might not have started out as a bold-faced name on season nine, but his consistent growth from ball-of-nerves to confident rocker resonated with America and landed him the coveted crown on Wednesday night.

We caught up with Lee on Friday (May 28) to talk about the show’s frustrating theme weeks, how he chose U2’s “Beautiful Day” as his first single and what his upcoming album will sound like.

Q: The judges often talk about showing who you’ll be as an artist, but then you’re forced to sing songs out of your comfort zone with the different theme weeks. Was that frustrating?

A: I think a big part about “American Idol” that scares people and has, I’m sure, stopped people from trying out is the fact that you do have to do things that aren’t necessarily your genre. You’re given a song, and you do have some say in it, but you go with whatever song you have to go with. You take that song, and the judges always say, “Make it your own! Make it your own!” And sometimes it sounds repetitive when they say that. … I just wanted to take every song and make it sound like a song that Lee sang. The judges credited me; they said, “You had some great arrangements.” We were given free reign to arrange songs the way we wanted. That was what got me through that part, because if it was just “Go up there and sing the songs exactly like they’re written,” then that would have been a lot more difficult than it was. When we did Shania Twain Week , that was a rough week for me, because it’s so out of my element. But I did what I could with the song. It’s part of the game, though. That’s what “American Idol” is: It’s “go up on the stage, play a cover song, and do the best you can your way and make them original.” I think that I was able to do that. It was frustrating at times, I won’t lie. It was. Because there’s some songs I never would have sang in a million years, but I signed up for it, and that’s the rules. You play by ’em, and you get by as best you can.

Q: This season, you also have a cover song as your first single. How did you feel about that, and how did you choose that particular song?

A: I like that song a lot. It’s a really good song. Is it something that’s necessarily in my genre? No. But again, there were songs on the table, and that was the one I thought would represent the moment the best, because this year they didn’t have an original song written for this specifically. Whatever the reasons for that are — there’s reasons. [Laughs.] I don’t know all the ups and downs of the behind-the-scenes stuff. It’s just been a big game of “play by the rules.” If it was up to me, there were certain things I would have done differently. Like onstage, maybe a little bit longer sets would have been cool; to be able to get into the song, instead of just “ready, go.” But again, that’s all part of it. Just being able to accept it was the hard part. But then, once you accept it, you can just roll with it. You can make the songs your own, and then move on.

Q: What artists could you see yourself channeling on your upcoming album?

A: I just got the Kings of Leon album [Only by the Night]. I liked their first albums a lot; they were a little harder. I really dig their newest album. I like that sound. That’s a sound I go for a lot of the time. It’s very gritty, but at the same time, it’s got great hooks and great lyrics. They break it down, and they can be a little more chill [or] a little more heavy. I’m always looking for new music. I’m going to be listening to a lot of different things for inspiration.

Q: Were you able to talk to Simon Cowell after the show?

A: I did see Simon [at the “Idol” wrap party], and we cheers’ed, and he said, “Congratulations,” and told me he’s proud of me, and he’s excited to be working with me. And I told him, “Thanks for the opportunity,” because without “American Idol,” I wouldn’t have had this platform to start a career on a major level. It was cool. We got to spend a little time together and talk. And it was a moment I won’t forget, because that was a big moment for me.

Will you follow Lee’s post-“Idol” career? Let us know in the comments!

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