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Shake and Blake

America loves Northwest musician Blake Lewis

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“It was pretty much a surprise,” says Ethan Newberry, best friend of “American Idol” contestant Blake Lewis, who lost to Jordan Sparks Wednesday night. “After one of Blake’s concerts here in Seattle a friend came up to him and said, ‘I’m taking you to the “American Idol” auditions tomorrow.’ Blake had never even seen the show.”

What followed was a whirlwind of events that led to Lewis perhaps changing the way contestants will compete on “American Idol” forever. He may not be the first contestant to have musical skills, but he is the first to be allowed to blatantly produce the songs he performed.

Week after week he proved his skill as not only a great performer but also a great innovator. He tasted victory long before he stepped on the Kodak Theatre stage.

“We first met Blake at the competition in ‘04,” says Mariangela Abeo, co-creator of the 5th Element Beatbox Battle in Seattle. “He won that year — left the other contestants in the dust.”

Though his beatbox skills are impressive, it is his production skills that truly set him apart from the other competitors. At 25 years of age, Lewis already has 10 years of stage and music experience under his belt.

A few years ago, Lewis, who hails from Bothell, was in an award-winning acapella group called Kickshaw. More recently he was a solo artist in Seattle under the name B Shorty. In his live show he uses a KAOSS Pad and his trademark fiberglass encased floor pedal, which includes a Boss Loop Station RC-50 and various guitar effect pedals that he uses to enhance his vocals. He also uses an 88-key midi keyboard and an acoustic guitar. With these tools, he is able to perform a larger-than-life sound without a backing band, but that doesn’t stop him from constantly collaborating with several underground hip-hop and electronic bands. In his home studio he uses music editing software Ableton Live, which, according to Newberry, Lewis was able to use to create new arrangements of the songs he performed on “Idol.”

“One of the great things he liked about ‘American Idol’ is that they treated him like a musician,” explains Newberry. “When the musicians came in, like J-Lo, Barry Gibb, etc., he knew how to communicate with them. He knew the lingo so he was able to create the song on a whole new level.”

“The other contestants, I don’t even call them artists, they are just contestants,” says Lewis’ other best friend, Cisco McCarthy. “I don’t think a contestant has ever wanted to produce their songs before. Blake has been winning because he is an entertainer, the total package.”

Another impressive thing about Lewis is his loyalty to his friends. Newberry says Blake has a tattoo of a tree root on his wrist to remind him where he came from. It seems to be working because every chance he gets he does something to promote his favorite hometown artists. He also communicates with his friends daily, mostly through text messages since he’s so busy with rehearsals and meetings with the media. Seattle bands such as Common Market, Blue Scholars, Arisawkadoria, Panda Conspiracy and Mob Law have all received very valuable plugs on national television thanks to Lewis.

Lewis’ non-musician friends have also basked in a bit of the celebrity glow. Newberry is an improv comedian who performs in the comedy duo Cupcake, a division of Jet City Improv.

“It’s been really surreal,” explains Newberry. “I’ve been doing a lot of interviews and stuff. We’ve been getting a lot more press. We didn’t ask for it, but it’s great. Our audience base has increased across the country.” 

McCarthy is a filmmaker and videographer. Several comedic music videos featuring McCarthy, Newberry and Lewis can be viewed on YouTube.

“Blake has been handing out these DVDs of the videos we’ve made,” says McCarthy, “so it’s been exciting to know that people like BT, Bono and others are actually looking at the work I’ve done. I’ve been talking to some people down there. I’m looking forward to getting some work.”

Lewis’ hometown entourage visited him in Los Angeles twice during “American Idol” and were given VIP treatment at hot nightclubs in Hollywood.

“He can go out, but he has a curfew,” says Newberry. “It’s weird because everyone knows his face, his name. We had a bodyguard with us. We got into VIP rooms. We also had a party with the cast of the show.”

Stay tuned for Blake Lewis updates at

My name is Angie and I’m just a shot away here.  If you can’t rock me, somebody will.

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