Thursday, May 29, 2008

"ENJOY!" Blake Lewis on Friday

For those of you who aren't in the Poughkeepsie Journal's coverage area, here's Friday's story in "ENJOY!" about Blake Lewis' appearance this weekend...

(And a big thanks to Veronica and Lisa for their insight)

'American Idol' sensation Blake Lewis ready for KFEST

By Sean T. McMann
Poughkeepsie Journal

He won over millions of fans on one of TV's biggest shows. Now Blake Lewis is looking to thank them in person.

"I love playing shows. It never gets old for me," said Lewis, the runner-up on the sixth season of "American Idol." "I'm just excited, and I want to give some love back to the fans."

Lewis, 26, will do that Sunday, when he performs at the annual KFEST concert, hosted by radio station WSPK (104.7 FM) at Dutchess Stadium.

Along with Lewis, KFEST will lure acts such as Wyclef Jean, Sean Kingston and Sum 41, among others, to the Fishkill ballpark.

Known for his beatboxing acumen -in short, that's the ability to produce beats and musical sounds with his voice and mouth -Lewis told the Poughkeepsie Journal earlier this month his KFEST set will essentially consist of a guitar, a keyboard and his vocal loops.

"It's kind of like a one-man-band show," Lewis said. "It'll be me and my loop pedals."

That's the formula that made him a sensation on "Idol," falling just short of the title Jordin Sparks took home.

"I could never have dreamt about 'American Idol,' " Lewis said. "I wasn't even going to try out; my friend dragged me there. It's crazy."


At that audition, Lewis covered "Crazy," the song Seal made a hit in 1991, and impressed judges Paula Abdul, Randy Jackson and Simon Cowell enough to punch his ticket to Hollywood, becoming a top "Idol" contender.

"I didn't know what I was going to sing (at the audition)," Lewis said. "I didn't want to beatbox for them; they made me beatbox. They were like, 'We want you to,' but I thought, 'This is a vocal audition.' "

Once on "Idol," Lewis' vocal ability separated him from the rest, being voted into the bottom three just once following a week of country music performances.

"While on 'Idol,' he was the only singer - and still is - on the whole entire series, all six-plus years, that made me enjoy the old songs the contestants perform," Veronica Rainone, a Lewis fan from Richmond Hill in Queens, told the Journal. "His beatboxing added to his music, and gave him a great way to entertain people while singing his songs."

Millions of viewers agreed with Rainone, as their votes for Lewis' talent and popularity set up a finale showdown with Sparks. Though the then-17-year-old songstress took the title, Lewis said he had no regrets about his time in the "Idol" spotlight.

"I had fun with that experience, and I think it showed because people voted for me," Lewis said. "It's really surreal and amazing. I'm really happy people tuned in and liked my music. That's all I could ask for."
Experience gained

Being on one of America's top-rated shows taught Lewis many lessons: everything from public perception to the inner workings of a television studio.

"I was on the No. 1 show and learned how America can judge me without even hearing my voice," he said. "That's a hard thing to handle. I don't get wrapped up in those things.

"I didn't care about anything when I got on the show. I had more fun than anyone there. I'm the nerd that asks everyone everything: 'What's your job?' 'What are you doing?' The guys working on the crew were like, 'You're the first person who has ever come up to me and asked me a question.' "

Lewis released his first post-"Idol" CD, "Audio Day Dream," in late 2007, and said he's been flattered by the encouragement he's gotten from fans since "A.D.D." has dropped.

"The support is amazing," he said of his fans. "I support them so much. I keep going because of them."

By using Web sites such as YouTube and MySpace to promote his music, Lewis has helped connect with fans across the globe, building an international following.

Living in Windsor, Ontario, in Canada, Lisa Williams told the Journal Lewis and his music have deeply touched her.

"He really knows how to connect with his fans," she said. "I haven't seen him perform live in person, but just by watching the different videos on YouTube, he makes you feel like you are there. He has that vibe and connection with the audience."

Fans in Fishkill will feel that "vibe and connection" Sunday.

Now in its second decade, KFEST brings some of music's most popular acts to the Hudson Valley. Past performers have ranged from Nick Lachey and Rihanna, to Color Me Badd and Inner Circle.

Controversy marred last year's KFEST, as hip-hop and R&B artist Akon tossed a young fan from the stage, resulting in both criminal charges and a civil suit; neither situation has been resolved to date.

Lewis, though, is looking at KFEST as the next stop on the ride he's been on since garnering that international following on America's top reality show.

"So much has happened in the last year. So much fun has been had," he said. "It's really interesting: A lot of things have changed, but a lot has stayed the same.

"I'm still playing music every day, and I've got the support from a major label to make music that I'm really proud of."

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