Lee DeWyze was the winner of Season Nine of American Idol, beating out Crystal Bowersox in the finale. Before winning the competition, the native of Mount Prospect, Illinois had released two independent albums and fronted his own self-titled band. DeWyze became a fan favorite during the competition for his soulful singing and humble roots, and was praised by the judges for his ability to grow as an artist during the competition.
DeWyze dropped out of high school during his senior year; however, he was persuaded to return to school and complete his degree by teachers who recognized his talent in music. DeWyze toured the Midwest extensively before auditioning for American Idol, promoting his independent label releases and building up a solid following of fans. He also worked at a paint store in Mount Prospect to help pay his bills.
When it comes to musical influences, DeWyze certainly has a thing for singer-songwriters named Stevens. He told Rolling Stone that he is a major fan of indie folk songwriter Sufjan Stevens, particularly his Abraham Lincoln-concept album Illinois. DeWyze also has a tattoo on his arm featuring lyrics to the Cat Stevens classic "Father and Son."
By winning the competition, DeWyze earned a recording contract with RCA Records. His debut album Live It Up was released on November 16, 2010, with the title track being the lead single. Unfortunately, the album was met with tepid critical and commercial response. It debuted at No. 19 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart -- the worst first-week performance from any album from an American Idol winner -- before dropping to No. 93 in its second week of release.