Blake Lewis wears many hats in the music industry. He is a singer, songwriter, beatboxer, multi-instrumentalist, and producer. While he is most well-known as the season six first runner-up on American Idol, his career was already in full swing before taking the Idol stage. He has also kept busy in the years since his stint on Idol, doing what he loves best – making music. Blake is currently finishing up his third studio album, Portrait of a Chameleon.
Most recently, you may have seen him on the big screen. Blake, along with his new single “Your Touch,” are featured in the new advertising campaign for Internet Explorer 10. The ad is currently running during the pre-movie show in movie theaters across the country.
I recently had the opportunity to speak with Blake about all of his exciting new projects.
How did the Internet Explorer commercial come about?
I had been producing commercial music for my friend Keith Rivers, who is a director in Seattle, and he asked me to do a piece for them a long time ago. This time around I was working on my album, doing a beatbox sample library, and he got inspired to write a treatment of me doing some beatbox on a touch screen and it went from there. I was working on my song “Your Touch” and thought it would be perfect for that commercial.
It must be exciting to see it on the big screen.
I’m so happy it’s out here. It’s already been getting a great response in the U.K. and Germany.
Tell us a little bit about your new album. This one is self-produced?
I have a co-producer and an engineer, and we’ve done it all ourselves. It’s almost done, I’m only a couple of weeks away. I’m doing a west coast radio promo tour with my label Republic Records.
What kind of musical direction are you taking with the album?
Well, I like to describe this album as a future-pop, electro album. It incorporates a lot of my ’90s influences – all the influences from my adolescence are coming out on this album. There is an R&B influence coming out that I never knew I had. I grew up with Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson and Prince, but in the ’90s I wasn’t really into a lot of R&B. I was into more house music, rock and pop. But now it’s just been pouring out of me. My rock side is also coming out on this record and it’s definitely heavy with electronic music. I’ve been playing a lot of piano lately and this album is filled with Rhodes piano, with beatboxing as more of an auxiliary percussive instrument. My beatboxing doesn’t always sound like a human voice, it sounds more like samples of drums. I’m doing a lot of programmed beatboxing as well as a live mixture on every song. I have one song that is like 80% human mouth, which is pretty fun. I get to show off a little of my R&B side and a little of my reggae side, which I’ve always loved. I’m really excited about it. I have some glitch hop on there. This one is more of a songwriter-electronic-pop record.
So you’re recording most of this album at your home studio?
Yeah, I’ll be recording mainly here. Some recording is done at other studios. My album is called Portrait of a Chameleon because my music is ever-changing. Just like this album – it’s cohesive, but it’s still multi-genre pop.
How does doing this album compare with you previous albums?
Well, the first album, Audio Day Dream, was too many cooks in the kitchen. I got to work with great producers, and I had a record label telling me what to do, but it took a lot of the creativity out of the creative process. So with this project, I’m writing all of my music, and I only have a couple of friends I like to write and collaborate with. We’re very fortunate to have gotten my single out through Republic, and they’ve been great. We’re just starting our relationship right now.
So this album gives you the creative control you were missing on your first two albums?
The process was a lot different back when I did my first two albums. The first one was different. I was with RCA, and right when I got signed, and my album came out, pretty much everyone got fired on that record label. I was pretty much shelved as an artist – well not shelved, my album came out, but no promo was being done. That was that, it was kind of a sad time. So, I got off of my ass and started writing more music immediately. It took two years to get with Tommy Boy. My album Heartbreak on Vinyl was really about heartbreak. I was losing myself in the music, which kept me off heartbreak, but I was still writing about it. You can only do so much. This album is definitely more of an uplifting anthem album. Not so much about love, there are a couple of love songs on there, but it’s more about loving yourself, and life – getting out of the darkness and into the light.
I hear you are planning a concert series for Stageit.com?
Yeah. As soon as I get everything set up. Right now I’m focusing on getting this album together and getting my music prepared. When it’s ready I will have people over to my house to jam, and we’ll do the shows. They’ve approached me a couple times and I would love to do it. I have so many friends that are such amazing musicians. In my home I have a cool set up – a white piano, that I’ve had since I was 11, and a white drum set on a purple rug. Now that I have the mixer and speakers from BEHRINGER, I’m almost all set up.
Who would it be your dream to work with?
Oh, man there’s a million people. I love collaborating with people. Even being a beatboxer and jamming with people. There’s a million MC’s I would like to give a beat to. I’m inspired everyday by different musicians, and singers, and songwriters – Sting, Jill Scott, Harry Connick Jr. I’m down to jam and collaborate with any type of genre. There’s so many different cool producers that I’d love to do something with, and tons of British artists that I’d like to do vocals for. Andy Allo is this new girl Prince is working with and she is awesome. Not many people know about her yet. There’s several beatboxers across the world that I’d love to jam out with. I’m an only child so I like sharing, and jamming with people, because I never had that when I was growing up.
What is the most memorable highlight of your career?
Oh man, there are o many moments and moving pictures are in my head. Before Idol, I had some amazing moments. I got to open for Jurassic 5 in the Tacoma Dome, with a rap group called Unexpected Arrival from Seattle. I got to beatbox with Del the Funky Homosapien from Hieroglyphics at the Showbox, it was just me and him. It seemed like an eternity on stage with him. He just kept going and I kept beatboxing. I was 21 or 22 and it was a huge moment. I got to battle Qbert in front of 2000 people back when I was 21, and that was a huge moment for me. In 2004 I was on one of the first beatbox compilations, Human Element. I played a lot of places in Seattle and I grew up as a musician. It’s an amazing town to be playing music in.
What were some of the most memorable moments from your time on American Idol?
That whole entire year was amazing. There were little triumphs every week. It was really fun. Beatboxing with Doug E. Fresh in the finale was huge. I got to meet Bono, and I talked to Quincy Jones for an hour and a half one night. There were all these amazing moments, and then after that, there was making the album and going on tour. I got to play to a million people on New Year’s Eve in Times Square. The list goes on. I’ve got moments and moments and moments that I forever will cherish and tell my grandkids about someday.
Keep up with Blake at his official website.