Singer-songwriter Lee DeWyze’s rousing emotionality and storyteller songwriting has enthralled both fans, and high-profile film/TV/advertising sync licensing tastemakers, earning him over 40 prime placements in just a few years.
There is a crystallizing moment in Lee’s childhood that poetically pre-figures his nascent gift as an empathic and sensitive songwriter. It’s become a piece of lore in the DeWyze household. When Lee was just four, his mother was listening to John Denver’s “Sunshine On My Shoulder,” and noticed Lee was crying. Turns out, he was so taken aback by the song it moved him to tears.
“Songs are magic for me—I’ve always wanted to live inside them,” the Mount Prospect, Illinois-based artist says. “My aim with my music is to give people a moment of transcendence where they can step outside their world and into the song. I want to spread the magic.”
Lee’s latest is a darkly cinematic album that represents a profound breakthrough in the power of letting one’s emotions take reign in creativity. Paranoia—out February, 16, 2018 on Shanachie Entertainment—grants the listener intimate access to an achingly beautiful netherworld that’s both seductive and sagely wise.
Lee is a visionary songwriter with a catalog of seven albums, and a robust profile of sync placements and features. His songs brim with sophisticated hooks and heartfelt storyteller lyrics. Lee is a hands-on artist and ensures that every facet of his creativity reflects his artistic authenticity. To that end, he overseas every aspect of his albums, including co-production, album artwork, and video treatments.
Lee grew up in Mount Prospect, Illinois, and, at a very young age, would obsess over folk-pop artists such as Simon & Garfunkel and Cat Stevens. Some of his earliest memories are staring out the window, imagining he was inside the world of his favorite songs. Lee knew he was destined to be a songwriter, and, by the age of 17, he was a professional musician, touring, recording, and earning regional radio spins.
His career took a massive turn in 2010 when he won the ninth season of American Idol. The honor offered a boost in exposure to an artist already two-albums deep in a promising career. Post-Idol, Lee’s profile has skyrocketed as his songwriting has earned impressive sync placements. His breakout moment was penning “Blackbird Song” for the hit horror AMC series The Walking Dead. Since that track’s release in 2014, it has accrued over 12 million YouTube views, over 6 million streams on Spotify, and has sold over 100,000 copies, putting it in the Top 10 of 2014’s most influential music syncs.
Since that career milestone, Lee has become a formidable artist in the sync licensing world. Select career highlights here include placements in Elementary, Suits, The Fosters, Nashville, Reign, Hart of Dixie, and Bull. Blue Cross/Blue Shield chose his song, “Don’t Be Afraid,” as its official national campaign song two years in a row. ESPN placed his song, “The Ride,” in several NASCAR commercials. In addition, Lee’s song, “Fight,” cracked the Hot AC Top 40 charts for 10 consecutive weeks. “Fight” was also featured in the critically-acclaimed indie movie, Sister. Lee directed the video for “Fight” for which he won an award from the LA Indie Film Festival.
Lee’s previous album, Oil and Water, earned accolades from Billboard and Huffington Post, among other outlets. It also cracked the Top Billboard Folk Charts, and made the Top 10 “Album Of The Year” list for PopDose Magazine. Recently, Billboard.com premiered the lyric video for his latest single, “The Breakdown” from, Paranoia. On the heels of all this heat, Lee has signed a publishing deal with Songs Publishing, home to Lorde, The Weeknd, and Diplo, among other modern iconic artists, and signed an exclusive deal with CESD, the leading voiceover agency for animation, videos, film, and more.
Paranoia, is an immersive 10-song collection that lures you in with engrossing narratives of struggle, salvation, and vulnerability. “I’m at a point in my life where I feel more open to share my experiences. On this album, I’m letting my guard down and being more emotional,” Lee confides. “There is a lot of difficult things revealed on this record, but the songs are meant to show the light in the darkness.”
The production on Paranoia, a joint effort between Lee and longtime co-producer/artistic ally Nico Grossfeld, is sleekly intimate, melding Lee’s singer-songwriter compositions with dreamy electronic soundscapes. “I wanted people to feel like they could take a warm bath and submerge themselves in these songs,” Lee says.
Upon entering the world of Paranoia, songs like the title track, “Sink Or Swim” and “Lonely Hearts” offer a majestic sense of emotional surrender. Lee’s low-register vocals on the ethereal “Paranoia” hypnotize the listener, submerging you into blissful melancholia. Lee recently posted a goose bump-inducing video of him performing the song by candlelight in Mansfield, Ohio at the Ohio State Reformatory Prison Chapel where the Shawshank Redemption was filmed. The stately “Sink Or Swim” pulls at your heartstrings with a vulnerable acoustic singer-songwriter composition textured with heavenly harmonies and moony electronic ambience. Lee favors the grandeur of the piano on many of Paranoia’s tracks, and “Lonely Hearts” benefits from this elegant touch, lending a beautiful bleakness to lyrics like Lonely hearts are broken everyday, everyday/That’s just how we play with it In the end/Oh everything will change, things will change Wake up so you’re not missing.
Crucial to that “light in the darkness” spirit of the record are the tracks “Let Go” and “Carry Us Through.” The intimate “Let Go” feels like it’s being performed only to you, in a dark room under a spotlight. The lyrics are a wakeup call that it truly is always darkest before dawn. Here, Lee sings: Were fighting just to pass the time I know Let it go
Let it go. The album concludes with the sweetly wary anthem, “Carry Us Through.” “That is like a palette cleanser. It is there to give people a sense of hope at the end of the record,” Lee shares.
Now, on the other side of Paranoia, Lee has learned a lot by purely letting his vulnerability and emotions guide his songs. “This is the beginning of a new chapter for me. I tapped into different parts of my songwriting on this album. It’s like discovering a new door in a house you live in—you walk into another room, and there are four more doors to explore in that room. But maybe one of those doors goes back to the comfy living room,” Lee says laughing.