Exclusive: Lee DeWyze Talks Ellen DeGeneres' 'Idol' Departure
AMERICAN IDOL finalists Crystal Bowersox and Lee DeWyze perform a duet from Dodger Stadium which will air during FOX's special Major League Baseball prime time broadcasts. Ray Mickshaw/FOX

"American Idol" Lee DeWyze offered up some hints as to the direction of this first major label album Friday, saying he's most recently been inspired by the Kings of Leon, Dave Matthews and Sufjan Stevens.

"I really dig [Kings of Leon's] newest album," he says. "That's a sound I go for. It's very gritty, but it's got great hooks and great lyrics. They can break it down -- they can be a little more chill or a little more heavy."

In their first press conference since the season ended on May 26, DeWyze and runner-up Crystal Bowersox reflected on their time on the show, with DeWyze saying the six-month process was exhausting but exhilarating.

"A big part of "American Idol" that scares people and has stopped them from trying out is doing things that are not in our genre," he says. "Shania Twain was a rough week -- but part of the game is that you play the best you can. You roll with it and move on -- and it's cool to listen to the tracks after they're done."

DeWyze said he's been overwhelmed by the support of the previous winners and contestants on "Idol," noting that Adam Lambert, David Cook, Kris Allen, Ruben Studdard, Carrie Underwood and Chris Daughtry were particularly helpful. "They're such genuine people," he says. "There's a line you cross when you get to this point with everybody -- it's like you joined them, in a sense. Talking to them was very helpful -- it gives you a sense of direction."

Departing judge Simon Cowell met up with DeWyze at an afterparty on Wednesday night and "we cheers'd and offered congratulations," he said. DeWyze said he was happy to share his coronation night with Cowell's farwell
tribute, noting it "make the night a little better -- it made it really big."

For her part, Bowersox says she has her first meetings about her album next week, noting that "my influences are pretty straightforward -- my songwriting tends towards simple songs that people can relate to and enjoy."

When the "Idol" tour stops in her hometown of Toledo, Ohio, Bowersox says the producers have given her the approval to sing her original song, "Holy Toledo" during the concert. The song was briefly featured in the footage of Bowersox when she performed in the city during her home visit in the show's final weeks.

"I feel so blessed and honored that they even considered letting me play it at my hometown," she says.

DeWyze also has some hometown pride; he says after the "American Idol" tour starts this summer, he'll be spending time in Los Angeles working on his album -- but he always intends to at least have a home in Chicago as a retreat. "It's the food, man," he laughs. "The food in Chicago is the best."

More 'American Idol' on Billboard.com:

Lee DeWyze Wins 'American Idol'

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