American Idol Countdown Week Sunday: #3 – Murtz Jaffer Interviews 2007 American Idol Runner-Up Blake Lewis

While Sanjaya Malakar was my favorite American Idol contestant in terms of entertainment value, there is no question that I was a big Blake Lewis fan as well. I though that he added a completely different component to the Idol competition, and I really believe he should have won. I had a great time talking to him about his experience.

(Blake arrives at interview wearing the shirt with the tuxedo print).

Murtz Jaffer: I have to wear that to a wedding once.

Blake Lewis: Do it!

MJ: (Laughs).

BL: Actually Jordin gave me this and I loved it and then I wore it on the show. I loved it. I have wanted one for years but some of them are too cheesy and this one is actually pretty cool.

MJ: Is it the same from the show?

BL: It’s the same one.

MJ: Very cool. American Idol obviously did a lot for your profile. Can you tell me what breaking into the music industry was like before the show?

BL: You know, it’s tough. I am from Seattle and we only have one record label. Sub Pop. And it is tailored to more alternative rock music. And I am definitely not alternative rock. The stuff that I was doing in Seattle, I had too many different projects but mainly project was my beatbox project and that’s me looping myself beatboxing and singing over it and creating new songs. It’s kind of coming from a freestyle/improv, jazz/hip-hop, electronic feel. For me, it was really hard because I knew I would have to travel and tour. Get my name out there. It’s tough. The only thing that has changed for me is American Idol. Instead of going out and making flyers two weeks ahead and posting them up all over the city, putting the word out there, texting every friend that you know…

MJ: Myspace?

BL: Yeah, myspace… all that stuff.

MJ: They just know who Blake is now.

BL: Yeah, they just know who I am now and they are excited for the album. I won’t have to promote it like I would have had to eight months ago.

MJ: Were you ever concerned that the show would hurt your credibility because you seem like such an original artist?

BL: I definitely thought that coming into the show. I had never seen it. The one time I did see it, it was like the second episode of the first season and I couldn’t even watch two minutes. Some dude was just singing terribly. And I turned it off because I don’t really watch television. I am not really… I am not a big fan… I really hate reality television.

MJ: That’s funny because that’s my main job… covering reality television.

BL: Oh really.

MJ: Yeah, it’s funny.

BL: Honestly, I think it’s just the demise of television right now. It’s just pointless and there’s no education from it. There’s nothing to learn. That’s the great thing. American Idol isn’t reality TV. It’s just a competition.

MJ: Exactly.

BL: The cool thing is that I am not a competitor. I don’t have a competitive personality unless I am playing Halo first edition. I will kill you in Halo. I got some of that. But other than that, me, I am just like… it was a whim. My friend called me. I played this jazz club called The Triple Door (we actually had a reunion show for the a cappella group I was in for four years). My friend called me right at the show and was like ‘what are you doing right now? What do you got going on tomorrow?’ I was like ‘I don’t know.’ I was just doing music fulltime. I like quit my job and was doing music fulltime again. He was like the American Idol auditions are tomorrow and I was like ‘oh cool.’ I thought the registrations were over and I had missed it. He’s like ‘no, no. You can actually go right now and it will take two minutes. I was just there. We’ll get sandwiches in the morning and we’ll go audition.’ That’s how that happened. And going through the process, as far as artistic integrity and all that, I was like how could I lose… besides singing covers because I had just had a gig at a dual piano bar where I had to learn a bunch of covers and stuff so I wasn’t opposed to it. Due to my artistic integrity, I was like this is a live television show. They can’t touch me. I can do whatever I want.

MJ: Exactly.

BL: And so, I come from like this improv background and I am like ‘you know.’ And then all the judges, you know you gotta factor in how it will affect you. Me, I am the kind of person, I just go with the flow of things. I really honestly, I put myself in a positive light and in a positive light to the universe and if the universe gives it back then…

MJ: That’s great.

BL: I am great. I am good to go.

MJ: Tell me about “You Give Love A Bad Name” because I thought that was the hottest thing that I have ever seen. I have never seen anything like that on Idol before.

BL: Thank you. That came from… I am way into electronic music and in 1993, Oracle came out with Halcyon (which is like the track that really really got me into electronic music). And I heard that song and “You Give Love A Bad Name”… just that “shot through the heart” mixed in with Belinda Carlisle, and how there was controversy on how they sound exactly the same (which they totally do) and I was just like ‘if I make it on the show…’ cause we get the theme weeks and we know what all the themes are going to be. That would be the track because I am not a big Bon Jovi fan but I like a couple of his songs and definitely that one is my favorite. So I was just like I am changing that song. I was going to do it just me beatboxing and drums because as soon as I met Teddy and watched him play drums, I was just like ‘oh, I gotta battle him.’ Because my drummer at home is like drum and bass and we can do this four-hour, we can do like four hours together just vocals and drums. I was like America and the world is not just going to get it if it just beatboxing and drums. For me, that’s great because all I wanted to do being on the show is balance the beatboxing with the vocals and this is the perfect opportunity for that because honestly, everyone’s like criticizing me for beatboxing too much but I really didn’t even do it at all. It made it look like it’s more of a gimmick for me and it’s not because it’s such an awesome art form and there’s so many talented people out there.

MJ: Finally, I wanted to ask you about the new album. I have read that you said it is like an 80’s mix tape with it being influenced by The Cure, Michael Jackson, Prince and Depeche Mode. Can you tell me anymore about it?

BL: Yeah, yeah. Definitely. It’s called Audio Daydream. ADD. Everyone thinks I have it. I just have a lot of energy…

MJ: (Laughs).

BL: I don’t have it. For years, since I was a born, everyone thinks I do.

MJ: Well, you can do so many things with the marketing. Like ‘ADD it to your playlist.’

BL: Yeah, there you go. You’re just giving me more ideas. I am stealing that one.

MJ: (Laughs). So when do you think it is going to come out?

BL: I am hoping for the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. I got about eight songs done. Chris and I actually wrote two. I got three more that I am writing right now. A couple that I had already written before we started which is great because I don’t know how to produce the music I want to produce. I did on the show because it was easy for me. I looked at it as a remix competition. And so I could just take a track and I could throw it and mess around with it. As for the music that I am into, very 80’s driven, heavily vocally-driven… to where like the song could just break down and it could just be a cappella. I am very excited about it. I played it for some people and they were freaking out so I am very excited. It’s coming from a good place.

MJ: That’s awesome. I was a big fan.

BL: Thank you.

The American Idols Live Tour hits the Charlottesville John Paul Jones Arena tonight. The tour wraps up on Sept. 22 in Manchester, New Hampshire.

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