Lee DeWyze plays Aurora's RiverEdge today
Lee DeWyze loves being on the road.
But the Mount Prospect native admits he doesn't get much opportunity to visit the suburbs he where he grew up. When he's not touring, his life and work are in Los Angeles now.
That's why coming home to play a pair of festivals has the 2010 "American Idol" winner in high spirits.
"I can't wait," DeWyze says. "I really love taking my songs out of the studio, it's a kind of musical release for me. And then to be able to play them in front of friends and family, that's really going to be cool."
In addition to playing Aurora's RiverEdge Park Saturday, July 5, and Lake in the Hills Rockin' Ribfest Friday, July 11, DeWyze plans on spending about a week and half in town "just catching up and seeing what everyone has been up to."
Still touring in support of last year's release, "Frames," DeWyze says the tracks from that record take on a life of their own onstage.
"I'm really into the music off 'Frames,'" he says. "I know the album is almost a year old, but they feel new to me. And we're going to add a lot of boot-stomping and have the band out, too. It's going to be a good time."
DeWyze says he's planning on sharing new music, too.
One new track he's eager to show off live is "Blackbird Song," the track he penned for AMC's cult zombie hit "The Walking Dead."
"I'm a huge fan of the show," he says. "So it was amazing to be able to write something (AMC) was so into too. It was a very painless process. I watched the show, was inspired by it, sat down and wrote, sent it to them, and then I was hearing it on my TV."
It's been a fruitful year for DeWyze. Songs from "Frames" were featured on ABC's "Nashville" and The CW's "Hart of Dixie."
What meant even more to him is that the songs off "Frames" were all his own creation.
DeWyze says his new label, Vanguard, is already committed to a second album. He reveals he's back at work, laying down new tracks and song snippets.
One thing that's helped foster the creative process is that DeWyze recently finished work on his own studio in L.A.
"It's amazing to be able to have a place of my own to go to and make music all day," he says. "Recording, thinking about it for awhile, maybe playing some Xbox and then going back to it later."
The new record won't be out until sometime next year, but DeWyze teases fans to expect "something exciting by the end of the year," perhaps another single for fall or Christmas.
Although he'll always be grateful to "Idol" for giving him a foot in the door, DeWyze says four years removed from the show, he's ready to stand on his own.
"Before, I was more about trying to give people what they wanted. But then I realized I had to do what I wanted. It's not all about writing a hit or sitting down and saying 'How do I write a number one song?'"
Still, DeWyze says he watched some of "Idol" this year. He's heard all the chatter about the elder statesman of reality singing shows: It's too old, it's too tired, no one watches it anymore.
For the record, Dewyze doesn't think "Idol" is going anywhere. "I think it will always set the standard."
DeWyze says he liked the fact that the judges were more focused on the contestants this year instead of themselves. As for the contestants?
"I thought the right two people were in the finale," he says. "But I wish all of the contestants would have changed up the songs they performed more, instead of just doing songs they were comfortable with. When I was in the show, we were really encouraged to change things up. Like I could have performed all Cat Stevens covers. The only song I did on the show that I'd done before was the Paul Simon song ('The Boxer'). But then I came out and did the Owl City cover ('Fireflies')."
DeWyze says being forced to think out of the box ultimately helped him get to where he is as a songwriter now.
"I'm done figuring it out," DeWyze says. "I'm really focused on being a songwriter, writing lyrics and music that emotionally connect with people. I'm in a really good place right now and I'm thrilled to come home and share that with my fans."
Lee DeWyze shows• 7 p.m. Saturday, July 5, with 10,000 Maniacs
RiverEdge Park, 360 N Broadway St., Aurora, www.riveredgeaurora.com. Tickets $12.
• 9 p.m. Friday, July 11
Lake in the Hills Rockin' Ribfest, Sunset Park, 5200 Miller Road, Lake in the Hills, lithribfest.com. Tickets $5 for 13 and older; free for military with active ID.