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Interview: Lee DeWyze gets personal with his new album, 'Paranoia'

By:   AXS Contributor Jan 17, 2018

There’s something special about Lee DeWyze’s new album, Paranoia. It’s the singer/songwriter and American Idol winner’s seventh studio album, and his first full-length set since 2016’s Oil and Water, but it’s also a collection of reflective introspection.

In addition to emotionally-driven songs like “Let Go,” “Got It Right,” Carry Us Through,” and the title-track, the new album also includes “The Breakdown," DeWyze’s hauntingly beautiful song of love realized.

There’s a lot of space on Paranoia, which DeWyze will tell you was left intentionally to leave the listener with even more room for thought.

AXS recently spoke with Lee DeWyze about Paranoia (which will be released on February 16) and more in this new interview.

AXS: What inspired this new album?

Lee DeWyze: I’ve always been a singer-songwriter who plays guitar. It’s what I do, but I never want to be bored with myself. I wanted to do something that was me, but me in a different place. It was one of those situations where it wasn't an album from the get-go. It was more of a situation where I was writing, and as I continued, it felt more like a collection of music that belonged together. The inspiration behind the record actually kick-started with the song, “Paranoia.” I already had pieces for a few of the other songs, but once I started working on “Paranoia” and then “The Breakdown” all the other songs started to come together. Production; instrumentation; vibe. Everything started to feel connected. I wanted to go into the studio when I was inspired and capture those emotions to put in the songs. At the end of the day, I wanted it to feel like an album that you could listen to from beginning to end. Individual pieces that make up a much larger thing.

AXS: Did you find the process of writing an album this way to be more therapeutic for you creatively?

LD: "Therapeutic" is the right word because there were moments where it felt so good to get into the studio and work on the songs. There’s a feeling that comes when you play live on stage where you consciously say nothing else matters. When you’re up there, you’re in the moment, and all of the outside stuff goes away. It felt that way every time I went into the studio.

AXS: Let’s discuss a few more tracks from Paranoia, starting with “Let Go.”

LD: Some of the songs on this record were written in real time, and “Let Go” was one of them. I was sitting in the studio and started playing the riff that opens the song over and over for hours. Then I just started writing. Some of it was really in the moment, emotionally.

AXS: “Got It Right.”

LD: The interesting thing about that song is that I originally wrote it from a woman's perspective, but not intentionally. I was working on a song for another artist and that's where it started. Then as I worked on it, I fell more in love with it. I wanted it to have an eighties feel and subtly incorporated it into the song. There's a lot of things I’m doing vocally on that song. It talks about never looking down and just living in the moment. It was a fun track to work on.

AXS: “Carry Us Through.”

LD: Finding the right sound that makes sense for a song sometimes means stripping it all down, and “Carry Us Through” is a great example of that. Originally, that song was acoustic, folky and anthemic, but there was something that wasn't right about it. It really bothered me, and I thought about it for months. Then one day, I went into the studio and took everything off. I just left the vocal and played piano. It became a case of less is more, and the song has since become one of my favorites.

AXS: You’ve recently signed to do voice-over work with CESD. What made you decide to explore this side of entertainment?

LD: I have a large array of voices I’ve done ever since I was a kid. It’s not really strange because using my voice is what I do for a living, and I also feel very comfortable in the studio. So much of what I do is musically focused, so it's nice to have another creative outlet. Hopefully, I’ll be able to share some of the things I’m working on soon.

AXS: What excites you the most about the release of Paranoia.

LD:  I look at what I do like being in a house with a thousand different rooms. People are always opening up new doors and exploring new things and with this record, I feel like I get to open a door to a whole new section of what I do. There's something different about this album, and I’m excited to be at this point in my career where I’m able to tap into this other part of me. This record feels like a soundtrack to a movie that doesn't exist yet. When I sing these songs, I want people to live in that song for three minutes. I want to be able to say them, “Here’s the story and the song. Experience it with me.”