Interview: New Year, new Lee DeWyze

Lee DeWyze

Former "American Idol" winner Lee DeWyze (center) celebrates New Year's Eve with fiancee Jonna Walsh (third to right) and friends at the Hard Rock Hotel January 1, 2012. (Photo by Barry Brecheisen)

The temperature was in the 30s Saturday evening in downtown Chicago, but you wouldn't know it from looking at Lee DeWyze.

The former "American Idol" winner and Mount Prospect native was wearing flip-flops and a black t-shirt while smoking a cigarette outside the Hard Rock Hotel, where he later performed three songs with The Gold Coast All-Stars at the "Starry New Year's Eve" party.

"They have heat lamps," said DeWyze when I questioned the decision.

The 25-year-old singer now lives in the L.A.-area – where flip flops and a t-shirt in late-December is more common. He moved there after winning "Idol" in May 2010. He plans to marry fiance and model/actress Jonna Walsh there some time between August and October.

In addition to a wedding this year, DeWyze plans on releasing his follow-up to 2010's "Live It Up" in the spring. The album will be his first since being dropped from RCA Records in September.

"This album will be much different than the last album as far as creative control on it," DeWyze said once we sat down in the warmer Hard Rock lobby. "I definitely have been able to write the songs I want to write and take my time on it.

"I was able to write on the last album, but the last album had a bunch of songs I liked that didn't get on the album. And that one, I had only three months. This one, I have almost a year to get this to where I want it to be."

"Live It Up" sold fewer copies than the debut albums of any other past "Idol" winners and received mixed reviews. Still, DeWyze, who is quick to point out that he loves the album, said he doesn't know for sure if that's why he was dropped.

"Was I surprised?" DeWyze said about RCA's decision. "I'll say this: They were great when I was with them. Do I feel I got the support that was needed to promote the album – especially after coming off an 'Idol' type show? No, I don't. But I'm not on that end of it. It's easy to sit here and say that."

DeWyze said his new album will include a few folk country songs, which he said is what happens when you write music in Nashville. He described the sound of these songs as Jason Aldean-meets-Keith Urban. And while he has yet to officially decide on a new record label, he said he was approached by one major label and a few independent ones.

DeWyze also still needs to decide on album name and cover. He does, however, know what he doesn't want.

"It's not going to be a self-titled album," DeWyze said. "And the album art isn't going to be my face smiling 'Hey, how you doing?' It'll be a little more me."

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