Blake Lewis was one of the biggest underdogs American Idol has ever seen. Seemingly coming out of nowhere, the kid from Bothell, Washington burst onto the scene thanks to creative arrangements of classic songs on American Idol and his prodigious beat boxing abilities. Blake eventually was the runner-up on American Idol, but that’s just fine with him. Blake’s debut album “ADD: Audio Day Dream” was released yesterday amid a solid amount of hype and positive reviews. Blake spoke with us recently about his experience on American Idol and his new album.
Below you will find both the written transcript and full mp3 audio of the interview.
The album Audio Day Dream comes out December 4. Are you pretty pumped?
More than pumped. Ecstatic.
How would you describe the feel of the album, and the songs that are on the album, to someone who might not be a fan of yours yet?
Easy. Well, if they were born in the ‘80s they’ll get it. I call it my 2080s record. All of my influences are very ’80s derived: Michael Jackson, Prince, U2, The Police, The Cure, Erasure, New Order, Depeche Mode. All of my melodic tendencies are basically ‘80s driven, so the record has this very electro soul funk pop kind of feel to it, where every song transitions or doesn’t transition into the next song. Just like an electronic mix tape or a hip-hop mix tape. Yeah, there you have it. It’s called ADD, Audio Day Dream. Everyone thought I had ADD growing up just because I’m very high energy and focused.
You’ve been making music for a long time now. Do any of the song’s have origins prior to American Idol?
Oh yeah, definitely. The whole concept of the album has been mine for years. I have old sample discs that say “B Shorty, ADD Sampler” from like four years ago. Three, four years ago. So definitely there’s a lot of concepts of songs that I wrote that were in my book and my journals. There’s definitely a lot of stuff on there from the past, and working with these amazing producers that have inspired me for years. I’m very fortunate to make an album that I’m very passionate about.
What was your process for creating the album? Were a lot of songs brought to you? How many are completely original and how many are collaborations?
It’s a very big collaborative record. All of the songs but one were written by me, and co-written. I worked with so many different producers, there’s five different producers on this record, and I couldn’t be more fortunate to work with these amazing, creative people that I’ve been inspired by and that are inspired by me. That’s why they wanted to work with me, so a lot of people called out to my A&R guy to work with me. I did the same thing. I wanted to work with BT, cause I opened with him a long time ago in Seattle, and he actually called out to me because he saw a song that I had written that was up on YouTube with all my loop pedals and vocal effects and all vocal song that I do. We worked on that song, and we wrote another song together for this record that just turned out amazing. Then I might with Ryan Tedder of OneRepublic, and the day we met it was like wow, I didn’t know we were best friends. It was crazy, because I found amazing friends through this whole entire project, and amazing musicians and collaborators that I’ll forever work with.
I know you collaborate with your fellow Idol Chris Richardson a lot. How much involvement did he have in the album?
We wrote one song together called “What’cha Got 2 Lose,” and then we co-wrote another song with Sam and Frodo out of New York called “I’m Just Human,” which will be a bonus on iTunes. With “What’cha Got 2 Lose” I got co-production on that song as well with JR Rotem. It’s just great, a rollercoaster ride. “What’cha Got 2 Lose” is kind of along the lines of “Break Anotha,” but definitely funkier. It’s Prince meets James Brown meets The Zapp Band, rollercoaster into Michael Jackson “Thriller” in the breakdown with me scratching over it. It was definitely the ADD track of Audio Day Dream.
Are there any guests on the album that you’d like to talk about?
There’s just one guest, and that’s Lupe Fiasco. He blessed the track “Know My Name,” which I wrote with Ryan Tedder and Josh Hodges. It’s just a funky soul Nikka Costa meets Robin Thicke inspired track, with an a capella breakdown, just vocals, beatboxing. When Lupe comes in it’s all vocals, there’s no break with a drum set on it. The track came out amazing and his verse is sick, so I’m very honored and fortunate to have him on this album.
You just fairly recently got done with the big Idol tour. What was that like and what are you going to take away from that whole experience?
It was a great experience. Playing these amazing arenas to these fans that we didn’t get to see through the television. I didn’t get to see them every week, I just envisioned that hopefully there’s a bunch of people out there watching me. You hear about these 20 million, 30 million people that watch this show, but you don’t really get to see that or partake in that energy. For me, that’s a big thing. So the tour was amazing, because I really got to see these faces and reach out and touch fans that are really into the show. A show that I was this huge part of, and something that I’ve never seen before. It was really interesting for me, and the kinetic energy was just amazing. To see that support, and give back, really performing for these people that you were performing to through the television was amazing.
Going back to the American Idol finale, there was some talk going in that it might be better for your career if you didn’t win, that you might have some more creative freedom. Do you think that’s been true, and would you agree that you would rather have gotten second place than win?
Definitely for me. I really don’t believe in idolatry at all, so the fact that I got second was meant to be. If I got first I think I would have just given the crown to Jordin, you know? My music’s really eclectic coming out of Seattle, where the music is just crazy eclectic, and what I do is beatboxing, looping myself, and singing my own beats, and there’s not many people that do that. The fact that I represented myself true to form on the show is amazing. I was scared trying to get on it, because I thought I was losing my artistic integrity, and I haven’t. It’s been such a blessing to get second on that show. It couldn’t have happened any other way.
Do you have any plans to go out and tour? If you do, what’s that set up going to be like?
My band I’ve been playing with for years, my drummer and I, we were ADD four years ago. My bass player Jeremy and him have been playing together since high school, for fifteen years. I don’t know if the horn players will be coming on the road since we just had them on “Break Anotha,” but my guitarist Johnny and keyboardist Kent, we’ve all been playing together forever. It’s just a really energetic show, just crazy. We’re all performers, we don’t hold back at all, we sweat our asses off and just bring it. Hopefully the audience is gonna bring it right back, and it’ll just be a musty, sweaty, in your face, people’s heads falling off, it’s gonna be crazy.
I appreciate you stopping by Blake. Are there any final thoughts that you would like to say to your fans?
Thank you so much for the support, and definitely go support your local art and your local music. I’m just a local artist who got a lottery ticket and got to be on this amazing show, and that’s why you know about me, but other than that I’m still a kid on the street beatboxing on the corner.
-Interview Conducted by Oscar Dahl
(Image Courtesy of Arista)