Lee DeWyze made a name for himself on "American Idol" with brooding, raspy renditions of songs like "Single Man" and "Hallelujah." Producers painted him as a paint salesman with a tortured soul, fighting for a shot at redemption, which he ultimately got when he was crowned the season-nine winner in May.
These days, with the pressure and strict theme weeks of the show behind him and a breezy major-label debut called Live It Up now in stores, the serious, soul-patched singer/songwriter is — dare we say it? — happy. Smiley, even!
"I'm over the stress. For me, I'm really just doing my thing. People say, 'Oh, you're doing your thing? Well, what's your thing?' My thing is, I'm making music now," DeWyze told MTV News. "I love doing it. I love performing. I love playing out. I love doing all that stuff."
Lee said his furrowed brow relaxed as soon as he began working on the album this summer, quickly realizing that RCA Records and 19 Recordings were going to give him a lot more freedom than he anticipated. "When [RCA and 19] allowed me to write right out of the gate, it was just kind of like, 'Really? Like, I'm allowed to write? Cool!' They were awesome about it," DeWyze said.
The Chicago native ended up with co-writes on all but one of the album's 11 songs, which run the gamut from gentle acoustic ballads to midtempo toe-tappers to stadium-ready anthems. "I'm very proud of it," DeWyze boasted.
Lee's newfound positive outlook is reflected all over the album's lead single, "Sweet Serendipity," a jaunty song that celebrates how random and unpredictable life can be. "It's a fun song to play, and that's a big thing for me," DeWyze insisted. He's even taking the song's tongue-twister of a chorus in stride. "It's not as bad as people think. It's not that hard to sing," he joked.
With Live It Up hitting stores the same day as highly anticipated releases by Rihanna, Nelly, Kid Rock, Rascal Flatts, the "Glee" cast, and Pink (among others), you might think Lee would be freaking out about making a dent on the charts next to established artists. "For me, I can't really complain about it. It's coming out with all these other albums; I think it's cool to be in the mix," DeWyze said. "I've always wanted to say, 'I have an album coming out on this date,' and I do."
To quote a line from "Sweet Serendipity," "what will be, will be." DeWyze isn't just singing it; he's living it.
Have you checked out DeWyze's debut? Share your reviews in the comments!
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