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updated: 11/2/2012 3:16 PM

DeWyze sees silver lining: 'Idol' winner's new album more folk-rock

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  • Lee DeWyze goes back to his roots with second album.

      Lee DeWyze goes back to his roots with second album.

 
 

Lee DeWyze knows the rather infamous numbers he's known for.

Lowest-selling debut for an "American Idol" winner. A single that failed to chart. Worst first week sales of any "Idol" winner.

Despite that and despite the fact he was dropped by RCA last September, the Mount Prospect native and Season 9 "Idol" winner refuses to dwell on the negative.

"I think when people hear dropped from the label, they think dropped from the music industry," DeWyze said, "when the reality couldn't be further from the truth.

"I look at it as a step in my career, and if it hadn't been for that, I probably wouldn't have made the album I made now."

DeWyze said that forthcoming album, his fourth, is much closer to his folk-rock roots than his post-"Idol" release, Live It Up.

"I'll always be proud of Live It Up," DeWyze said. "But if I'd had more control over the album, things would have been a lot different. But that's the game you play when you go on 'American Idol.'"

Live It Up was recorded during the frantic period during of endless touring and promotion after DeWyze won "Idol" in 2009. In contrast, the new album took more than a year to make.

DeWyze said what came out of those recording sessions is a more organic, rawer, folk sound -- especially on vocals.

"This whole new world of Autotune was not something that came up," he said.

Think Mumford and Sons or Ben Harper, a musician who DeWyze has long cited as a huge influence in his career. There are hints of Chicago blues and -- because some of the album was recorded in Nashville -- even a bit of country flavor.

"It's a fingerpicking, boot-stomping, banjo-playing affair," he said.

Dewyze said he's shopping the record around to labels and hopes it will be released late this year or in early 2013.

He'd also like to get back in the studio to recut and release an acoustic album of his favorite tracks from each of his four albums.

DeWyze married in July and the song he wrote for wife Jonna Walsh to walk down the aisle to, "Who Would Have Known," will appear on the new album. Still, he said, it won't be a record of love songs.

"Jonna's my primary inspiration, but there are songs of heartbreak too, songs everyone can relate to," DeWyze said.

The couple lives in Los Angeles, but he's back home this weekend for a cause close to his own heart.

He'll play two songs at the annual Demand Cures Today Cures Gala (sold out) to benefit cancer research on Saturday. DeWyze lost his grandfather to cancer. Both his aunt and his mother-in-law have struggled with the disease.

"I think everyone has someone they know, be it a friend or family member who's been touched by the disease, he said. "It really knows no boundaries."

He'll also play an intimate show Monday night at Lincoln Hall, where he's eager to show off his new material, which he calls the best he's ever written.

There's a particular song that resonates lately.

"There's a track I wrote called, 'We'll Be Alrightm' with the chorus, 'If we take our time to find the silver lining/we can make these crying waters into wine,'" DeWyze said.

"That's where I'm at right now. I've been handed a lot of lemons, but I've been able to make lemonade and you know what? It tastes pretty damn sweet."

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