Being able to focus on the here and now over the past year and do anything remotely creative was a struggle for many, including ‘American Idol’ winner Lee DeWyze. He admitted in our back and forth that he did have to sit back and think for some time before the inspiration to write again took over. From that, much of his August 2021 release, ‘Ghost Stories.’ We talked about his growth, his latest single “Weeds,” getting back on the road, and what kind of mysterious stories he and his wife like to indulge in below…
Kendra: Looking back on your first post-’Idol’ release, ‘Live It Up,’ how do you feel your artistry has grown when you compare and contrast that album to 2021’s ‘Ghost Stories?’
Lee DeWyze: I think over the years I’ve just become more self aware of who I am as an artist. I’m not sure “Live It Up” was a representation of who I was as an artist. There were a lot of outside influences at that time.
That said, I believe now more than ever, I feel emotionally invested in my music. Whether it be my own experiences, or just a feeling or emotion I can appreciate. So much of that has flooded my album ‘Ghost Stories’ in so many different ways. Over the years I think learning to trust my instincts, and letting the writing process play out naturally vs forcing it has been somewhat of a revelation for me. ‘Ghost Stories’ is a reflection of that. I feel this album, and this time has allowed me to explore some different avenues of my song writing, which led to some of my favorite moments on the album. As time goes, I’d like to believe I have learned to take more chances and embrace the scary, or the unknown. You can find some of the most amazing things in the most uncomfortable places of your mind.
Kendra: Were you working on ‘Ghost Stories’ pre-pandemic, or was this album bred on the back of the constant chaos that was 2020?
Lee DeWyze: It was a wild situation. The song and even title of the record ‘Ghost Stories’ itself wasn’t even written at that time.
I was coming off of writing and recording about five of the songs RIGHT before everything happened. Several of these songs weren’t even written within that first year after Covid happened. There was a long period of just thinking, and taking in what was happening.
It was honestly hard to tap into anything creative for me for a long while. I didn’t want to force anything. Then, out of nowhere I started to have that feeling, and inspiration to write, and turn the feelings into words and songs. If there was ever an album I’ve made that was meant to be listened to from the start to the end, ‘Ghost Stories’ is that record.
Kendra: I have to ask, are you a fan of things like ‘Unsolved Mysteries’ and true-crime documentaries? If so, any favorites stick out in your mind that you saw and thought, WTF…
Lee DeWyze: My wife Jonna and I can’t resist a good crime show/document series or podcast. We listen to them and watch them often. We LOVE, “Criminal” with Phoebe Judge, we’re currently following a story on the “To Live And Die in LA” podcast, and of course who can resist a good Investigation Discovery story.
Kendra: Back to the music at hand. Your single, “Weeds,” musically reminded me of singer-songwriters like Billy Joel and Simon and Garfunkel; timeless in many ways. So I wanted to ask you about that…there are some artists that make music that does indeed last but it’s more based on they were pop culture icons and not so much artistic wonders, and then you have musicians that maybe are less recognizable faces, but their music is considered top-notch. What are your thoughts on musicians who are more in it for the pop culture, fame status than the artistry?
Lee DeWyze: I think it takes an element of creativity no matter which side of the fence you fall on, or your motivations. I can’t speak for other musicians or artists – However I can say for myself, that I’m always just trying to put out music that feels honest. I think some things can ring true for a moment, and some things can ring true for a lifetime.
Kendra: As for the video for “Weeds,” the animation has been getting a lot of (wait for it) buzz…Sorry, couldn’t help myself! Was the animated route traveled down because of COVID restrictions at the time?
Lee DeWyze: The paper and stop motion animation for “Weeds” really lends itself to the organic feel of this song. A while back I was lucky enough to meet Stefano Bertelli. He’s an amazing animator and director from Italy.
The Covid restrictions did play play a part in choosing to go with the stop-motion route, I’ve been fortunate enough to have done two other videos with him (“Castles” & “Victims of The Night”), and that video felt almost like the third installment of the Trilogy he and I have put together. Each video has had a life of its own but there’s always been an esthetic and an emotionally driven storyline that has tied them all together with the music driving it along . Imagine if you will, different emotions all living in the same universe of stop animation, paper, and magic.
Kendra: Fans are going to be able to enjoy this song and all the rest from ‘Ghost Stories’ live and in-person starting August 14th. Do you think these first couple of tours back are going to be more emotional in many ways because this time last year, no one knew if and when live music was going to be a reality again?
Lee DeWyze: I am both excited and anxious to get back on stage. It has been a while, and so much has happened in the past… almost two years. I think I’m mainly anticipating what it will feel like to play this album live for the first time. I think there’s a breath of new life, and appreciation that’s been breathed into hitting the road I haven’t felt in a long time. On that front, I think it will feel more emotional.
Kendra: You’ve got the new album, the tour – I mean, what else can fans be on the lookout for from you as we make our way towards the fall?
Lee DeWyze: Honestly, I’m just really happy to be able to be able to put out this new music after all that has happened. It wouldn’t have been possible without everyone that worked on the record, and helped me get through this crazy time, and that’s including the fans. This record is for you. I have poured my heart into ‘Ghost Stories,’ and can’t wait for all that follows.