A GoPride Interview

Blake Lewis

Blake Lewis interview with ChicagoPride.com

Wed. July 21, 2010  by Grab Magazine

Blake Lewis
American Idol alumni and beat-boxing sensation Blake Lewis returns with his second studio album, Heartbreak on Vinyl. His recent single “Heartbreak on Vinyl” jumped a tremendous four spots on Billboard’s Hot Dance Airplay Chart in May to top the chart at number one making it the second dance chart for him to hit #1. Earlier in the month, Lewis’ song topped Billboard’s Dance/Club Play Chart at #1.

“The title is an ode to all the small record shops that have been closing down due to the music industry eating itself,” Lewis explains. “I used to spend hours combing through their record shelves. Those old LPs inspire the music I create today.”

Recently, Lewis was a guest American Idol blogger for USAToday.com as well as HollywoodLife.com, where he was imparting his opinion and expertise on the recent performances of all the Idol contestants on Tuesday evenings.  In addition, Lewis has a number of upcoming appearances across the country, including Chicago’s own, Northalsted Market Days.

Grab Magazine sat down with Blake to discuss the album, the meaning behind the first single from the album, Sad Song and those pesky gay rumors that just won’t go away.

GM: (Gary Jordan) Is it true you recently performed for the First Lady Michelle Obama?

BL: (Blake Lewis) Yeah, gosh man that was almost a year ago now; it was crazy. It was the first gigs I was actually nervous performing at. The ladies of congress have this luncheon once a year and Julia Reichert, who is the wife of Dave Reichert our congressman from Washington state got to put it on so it was all thing’s Washington based and she chose me to perform and I did three songs and I taught them all how to beat-box, so I got to teach Michelle how to beat-box. It was an interesting experience you know, dealing with the secret service and meeting Michelle, you know it was great.

GM: Well Michelle is Chicago’s favorite hometown girl. Have you performed for Chicago audiences before?

BL: I have. I’ve performed at Sound Bar and a couple other venues as well with Two-Girl Chris, I love it.

GM: You’ll be performing at Market Days in a couple of weeks, are you looking forward to that?

BL: I am looking forward to it; I have a cousin who lives over there, it’s a great town.

GM: Do you find audiences vary depending on the city your performing?

BL: Yeah definitely. It depends on what kind of venue I’m doing and what kind of show I’m doing. Because I’m kind of a chameleon when it comes to performing because I do my dance album so it’s more club based, I’m usually doing more clubs and then I have my singer/songwriter stuff, which has a whole different audience.

GM: So Blake, I have to ask you what’s your take on Ellen replacing Paula on American Idol?

BL: Um.. I thought it was fun, she’s a fun addition but nobody replaces Paula in my eyes because when I was on American Idol I got to experience Paula you know, everyone else is experiencing something totally different.

GM: So do you think Paula made a big mistake leaving the show?

BL: Yeah I do, I mean well it’s not the same show without her you know and now Simon is leaving too. It’s definitely a notch down, it’s not going to be the same show. It’s like when your favorite movie decides to make a sequel and one of the main characters is a totally different actor, it’s just not the same.

GM: As an electro musician, has the American Idol label been an asset or a hindrance to your career? Is it hard to be taken seriously by hard-core clubbers?

BL: You know both really; And It doesn’t really matter honestly with dance music. The dance culture doesn’t really watch television you know, they’re out partying and having a great time. I play a lot of shows where people don’t really know who I am and then they come up to me afterwards because I kind of killed it and they’re like who are you man, I got to get your record and that’s my favorite thing that’s what I hope happens. I hope the people who have seen me still come out to my shows and enjoy my performances but the best thing is when people who haven’t ever heard of me come up to me afterwards and say man I have to go out and get your record because they had a fun time with me on stage. It’s great because globally I’m known for this television show I was on but at the same time it’s a double edged sword because they only saw me on television and some people may not have checked me out after seeing me on television, you get kind of characterized, not considered a musician, you have to kind of keep constantly proving yourself.

GM: Was Simon supportive?

BL: Oh yeah he’s very supportive. Actually I was just back there I guess the top five and I actually watched American Idol this season and he gave me a great compliment he actually remembered a lot of the songs I remembered on my season and he said that my song choices were some of his favorites out of this whole thing.

GM: Did that surprise you he would remember?

BL: Yeah, I mean I don’t get to talk to him every day, I see him like once a year maybe and yeah it was really cool, he’s like you sang a bunch of good stuff, I remember you. He’s really happy right now, he’s getting married and he has his new show. it’s good all around. Not that he’s leaving Idol.

GM: Why did you decide to release Heartbreak on vinyl through an independent label?

BL: Honestly It was just where I wanted to be in the first place, I mean after American Idol I wanted to be with Indy major you know with major label distribution but I’ve always been an Indy artist, even though I make pop music it’s kind of Indy pop, I don’t sound like anybody else, I’m not trying to sound like anybody else, I’m just trying to be me in the best ways through an Indy label and I wrote and produced some of this record and then I gave it to the label you know it’s not like where a major label has a say in everything and their hands are in everything trying to take a piece of the pie every second you know and want to have control. I don’t like that.

GM: What was the inspiration behind the first single “Sad Song”?

BL: That’s tough, the first time I wrote on my record was the Rapture of Love, which was a love song and then Heartbreak on Vinyl the whole record is pretty much about one girl. I was in this huge relationship with this girl that I pretty much loved and she was the comparison to all other women throughout the years. We broke up about five years ago then we got back together, well it was the end of last year 2008/2009. Sad Song that was like right after I had broke up with her. I had never written an anthem and I was looking at either like boys like girls or published starship more of these kind of enstemic if you call them boy bands now days, you know these pop band, yeah so I was in that kind of mood writing and I wrote it with my good friend S*A*M & Slugo who produces all those people, I just had this idea for this post chorus and kind of made my own kind of theme.

GM: Can we dispel the gay myth once and for all? Are you or aren’t you?

BL: I’ve solved it many times, I’m straight.

GM: What do you think started the gay rumors?

BL: It started when I was younger. Growing up my best friend was gay; you know not realizing that when we were fourth graders, like fifth and sixth me and him are jamming out to Bjork, Tori Amos and PJ Harvey; while people are listening to Bone Thugs, Dr Dre, and Tupac. So you get stereotyped pretty quickly. Yeah I mean I’m an actor I’m very open and performing on stage and so I got stereotyped. I was raised by great parents and I have a bunch of friends who are gay and I’ve never cared. I grew up with all these great 80’s artist’s who are super eclectic and it translates in my music.

GM: I’ve always thought the world should be more like a dance floor. The great thing about the dance floor is that everyone is welcome - Gay, Straight, Black, White...would you agree?

BL: Definitely It would be. It’s coming to the U.S. more and more too you know. Europe has always had control on the dance floor, they’re much happier over there you know. They love dance music and embrace it over there.

GM: How do you plan to get “Sad Song” pumping on gay dance floors?

BL: It’s all about getting the right mixes out there, that’s why I love dance music as well because it’s a very remixed culture, each mix works in its own location. There is so many great mixes out there.

GM: You’re participating in the marriage equality campaign. Why is marriage equality important to you?

BL: Well it should be a human right in our country, we talk about being free but it seems like its just talk. My friends that want to get married I think that’s awesome, they should be allowed to.

GM: What other causes are important to you?

BL: I do a lot of work with children’s hospital in Seattle; I’ve been doing that for ten years, singing at the Ronald McDonald house, I do a lot of cancer charities. And I play some charity basketball games with Hollywood Knights out here which is like a celebrity basketball team that gets together to challenge other high schools in the area.

GM: What direction do you hope the new album will take you?

BL: I’d love to crossover to pop just because Heartbreak on Vinyl went to number one a couple of weeks ago. Right now I’m working on mixes for binary love and just settling in to LA in my new place, I hope it take me more globally.

GM: Since Idol, What have you learned about yourself and the music industry?

BL: Oh man that’s like an hour long question, put me on the couch. Man I learned a lot after Idol, not just because of Idol but because I was at a changing point in my life, I learned a lot about myself empathy, dealing with love, spiritual growth a lot about being a human and dealing with the stresses of live, being human and the whole facade of celebrity.

GM: Any final words for our readers?

BL: Thanks for all your support you know, all the people out there who love dance music  and are supporting it, when need all the support we can get. I look forward to hearing from all my fans you can reach me through my website.

For more information on Blake Lewis, please visit blakelewisofficial.com or follow him on Twitter @BlakeLewis.com

Article written by Gary Jordan for Grab Magazine

Blake Lewis will be performing at Northalsted Street Market Days on Sunday August 8th at 5:15pm on the Addison Stage.

Interviewed by Grab Magazine