Entertainment

Beatboxing just tip of genre iceberg for Lewis

"American Idol" runner-up and upcoming X-Fest performer Blake Lewis is proud of his A.D.D.

Not the medical condition, but his debut album, "Audio Day Dream." In fact, the album's initials existed long before the finished product and even "American Idol."

"I have more energy than anyone I know, but I don't have ADD. It came from my band. My roommate, producer, best friend, KJ Sawka, he and I have been playing for six years. I was coming up with names for ADD -- Audio Defying Dimension, Audio Digital Display," said the "Idol" sixth-season finalist.

The title also fits the album's eclectic genre hopping. "Audio Day Dream," released in December, is a hodgepodge of synth-pop, alterna-funk and old-school rap. On "American Idol," Lewis was known for his beatboxing, a style he said comes from his lifetime love for making noise.

Lewis spoke with The Bee from his home in Seattle.

Q: Are the initials "A.D.D." a play on the genre-hopping on the album? Why did you want to bring so many styles into the mix?

A: I have been producing music for such a long time. A good song is a good song, regardless of the context.

Coming off of "American Idol," I was trying to make a radio-friendly pop record. Since I have a major label behind me and I have the budget, I called all these amazing producers and musicians, people who inspired me to become a musician in the first place. It's been great.

Q: I understand you hadn't watched "American Idol" before auditioning, is that true?

A: I'd never seen it in my life. I don't watch TV or like it. But my friend called me up seven hours before the audition. He was like, "Come with me," and I was like, "OK, whatever."

Q: So did you have any expectations about the show?

A: I had no expectation. But even people that have watched every single show, you still don't know what it's like until you experience it. I got there with no expectations and it was amazing as soon as I got there.

Q: You've been touring behind your album now, as well. How have audiences received you outside of the "American Idol" arena?

A: The fans have been amazing. Coming off the show, it's really tough. There is such a facaded reality coming off of television. I don't believe in celebrities, it's a false appreciation.

I respect art and the craft, so coming off of a TV show, I was scared about how I would be perceived afterward. My fans are amazing; they really respect music, and that is all I could hope for.

Q: Do you think being a beatboxer helped you stand out?

A: I have been doing such underground music. Beatboxing is not appreciated in America. If people thought it was a gimmick, whatever. It's one of my favorite art forms.

I am exposing kids that are very impressionable to music that maybe they would never hear otherwise. These 5-years-olds coming up to me and beatboxing, it melts me every time.

Q: I would imagine any crowd is pretty easy once you've had to play week after week for Simon Cowell.

A: That was easy. I've played almost 1,000 shows in my life. "American Idol" was just another show. I never got nervous, never rehearsed. I live in the freestyle, hip-hop, improv world.

Q: Your mother was a musician. Was she the person who got you inspired to make music?

A: My mom has a beautiful voice. She was my first inspiration. I am an only child and I didn't have any friends around where I lived for a long time. I made noise all the time.

I watched "Mork & Mindy" and "Pee-wee's Playhouse" obsessively. I have a love for comedy, character acting, voiceovers and cartoons. I've only been beatboxing 10 years, consciously. But, really, I've been doing it my whole life.

Q: I understand you're already working on your next release. What can people expect from that?

A: I'm producing a record with KJ. I would say it's like Massive Attack meets Zero 7. It's a production record with many other vocalists. I am writing every song with the artists and myself. It's been fun. I'm hoping to have it done the first of the year.

Q: What can people expect from the live show?

A: It's really a high-energy show. I take all of my songs off my album and turn them into different songs. The live show is a totally different experience, it's like what I did on "American Idol."

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