In my rather obvious and feeble attempt to get the release of the video to "How Many Words" by Blake Lewis sped up the other day, I somehow managed to get him to answer a few interview questions instead – and his responses are rather informative!
In this exclusive interview with EQ, Blake Lewis talks about the origin of his new single, who he is big upping for this season of American Idol and what it was like to work with some of the legendary names on his uber fantastic debut album "Audio Day Dream". Enjoy EQs!
EQ: Hey Blake, thanks for chatting with us. So tell us what’s been the reaction so far industry-wise from "Audio Daydream"?
Blake Lewis: The reaction has been great so far. I have been blessed with amazing fans that respect my art. It has been interesting coming off such a phenomenon of a television show like American Idol and trying to break out in the world of radio.
We loved your performance of "How Many Words" recently on the new season of American Idol. Was this song a standout track for you on the album? What is the inspiration behind the tune?
This was my pick for a single the day I got a rough mix back. I was trying terribly hard to make this my first single and I couldn’t’t be happier that it’s finally out there now. "How Many Words" is about my last girlfriend I had before American Idol. In the chorus it says, "This loves black and blue". "Black" is for Blake and "Blue" is her last name. She is a beautiful, talented woman that I kept breaking up with and getting back together repeatedly over the course of two years. It came down to me not liking the man I was becoming when I was with her and her lack of support in my music career made me let her go. Thus, "How Many Words" was born.
And you know I am dying to know – how’s the video coming along?!
I have received many treatments for the video and wrote one myself. Just waiting for the label to give the go ahead and trying to find the right person to see my vision through.
Do you think you would have pursued a career in music if the springboard of American Idol didn’t exist? Would it be easier or harder to break into the American public eye without it?
I have been singing professionally for the last eight years doing underground music (A Cappella/Electronica). I have been pursuing my music very hard ever since the moment I stepped out on a real stage at my first gig. I auditioned for American Idol on a whim and ended up coming in second place. What a shock! I had never watched this program in my life and had no idea it would take me into the world of celebrity and jump-start my career into mainstream radio. It was definitely hard for my art to be recognized and break into the public eye in Seattle and everywhere else, so American Idol has been an amazing experience and has allowed my art to be seen to a broader audience.
What’s been the hardest part of becoming famous so instantly? Was it something you had to prepare for or did it come quite easily for you this whole pop star thing?
It was really interesting for me because I’m not a real big fan of American television and don’t believe in Idolatry. I think I have it easy, because I don’t view myself as a celebrity. The only thing that has really changed is the environment I’m in. People recognize me now when I come into a room and have been respectful.
Any plans for international promotion at the moment? I think you would do quite well in the UK, Europe and Asia given that "Audio Daydream" is really a strong musical debut.
I hope to badly get my record out there as soon as possible! I would love to throw on two new tracks as well! Fingers crossed!
So honestly, what was your first reaction to that infamous photoshopped photo of you and Chris Richardson looking comfy in the chair? Ghastly or hilarious?
Ghastly and hilarious, I laughed out loud. People are funny.
Do you mind it when people compare you to Justin Timberlake?
I’ve been getting the comparison for years now. I take it for what it is. It’s a compliment I think. I was more a fan of N’sync as a whole than solo Justin. I do think he is an amazing performer.
Getting back to “Audio Daydream” – what are your favourite tracks from the album? I quite love "End Of The World".
When getting your first record out there, they become all your favorites. They are like my kids. I did a lot of work on "What’cha Got 2 Lose" I co-produced it with J.R. Rotem and wrote it with Chris Richardson. "End Of The World" as far as my vocal arrangement and "1000 Miles" for the sentiment are also two of my favorites. "Shes Makin’ Me Lose it", was a dream come true to work with BT and he is one of the reasons I communicate through music today. Look out for a tour soon. See?? They are all my favorites.
What made you go back and pay tribute to "Puttin On The Ritz" in "Gots To Get Her"? I have to say, that worked quite well…
I’m glad you like it! This came together with Ryan Tedder of One Republic, Steph Jones and myself… With the help of Clive getting the rights to use the melody, It was conceived. I’m very honored to be the first person ever to change the lyrics to this classic. I’ve been singing jazz for a long time now and thought this would be a great piece for the album.
How did you come up with the great cover art concept for the CD?
I was on the internet looking up digital art and came across and inspiring piece, very 80’s with neon lighting, with two faces. It was my desktop screensaver on my computer all through my American Idol tour. I’m very influenced by 80’s pop culture and music. I have been working in Photoshop for a while now and have gotten around pretty good, so I worked up some concepts and found Courtney James, a really talented digital artist and asked her if she would oversee this project. The concept is that music transcends time (Music Is Timeless). I wanted the music and the artwork to take people on a journey. I oversaw every inch of the design, picked every picture, drew the poster that folds out and wanted it to look like a vinyl record because of my appreciation of phonographs. It was really great to see a vision come alive so beautifully. I fought hard to have my picture not facing the viewer. Hence "Daydream", me looking up to the sky.
What was it like to work with Lupe Fiasco on "Know My Name"?
This was the first song I completed on the record and it was just missing something. I was into Lupe the minute he stepped onto the scene. He’s so conscience while holding down a mainstreams appeal. I asked my label if they would be down with having an emcee and they were really for it. It ended up being the last track to be finished and Lupe’s 16 bars bring a whole new level to the track. So dope!
What’s it like to work with the legend that is Clive Davis?
I’m so honored to be working with such a legend. My life has happened for a reason and this was just icing on the cake. The only person I had ever dreamed of being signed by was Clive. It’s been great. I’m really open and honest and we have maintained great communication, which is tough in his world, because a lot of people walk around on eggshells when in his presence. I just can’t do that.
Who are you dying to collaborate with now, being that you’ve got your first album under your belt already?
I could name a thousand. Black Thought and Doug E Fresh were gonna be on the album, but time ran out. I would love to work with Prince, Sting, Edit, Adam Levine, Jay Kay, Robin Thicke. The list goes on…
Do you read the pop blogs and fansites dedicated to you? What do you think of them? If it wasn’t for some other music blogs singing your praises from America – I don’t think I would have heard about you so early on here in England.
I really appreciate all of my fans that have gone on there and have taken the time to share their interest in my music. It really means a lot to me. I have, however only gone on one twice. I really can’t read about myself or check out YouTube or anything like that. I stay in touch with my fans by running my MySpace page. That in its self is a lot of work. But I still won’t let anyone touch it but me!
What’s the craziest thing you’ve read about yourself online?
That I got a noise complaint and that the cops came to my house. It’s was really surreal and funny at the same time!
Have you been watching American Idol this year? Who are you rooting for? Personally I want Jason Castro to win, but I don’t know if that will happen or not…
I really liked Chikeze and David Cook. So now its down to him. I’m a little bias. I want a guy to take it home this year. David Cook sang an arrangement of "Eleanor Rigby", by Doxology. They are real good friends of mine out of Seattle, so he’s doing great in my mind.
Any artists out there that you are loving at the moment? Any artists you want to give props to?
So many!!! Edit (Certified Air Raid Material) such a brilliant record. Zack Hexum (Open To Close), Mute Math, Shiny Toy Guns (We Are Pilots) and The Black Keys.
When you want to get crazy and let loose, where can we catch you on a Saturday night?
I’m usually rockin out at a friends show or keeping it mellow playing Halo with some friends. It all depends on where I’m at, at the time, whether it be Seattle or on the road.
That’s it Blake – thanks again for chatting with us. We are really looking forward to seeing more of you in Europe this year. Any parting words for our EQ readers?
Thank you to everyone that has supported me through this last year. It’s because of you I communicate myself through the art of noise. Love and Happiness to all!