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Concert Preview: Lee DeWyze at Shawshank

Grant Walters Grant Walters Concert Preview: Lee DeWyze at Shawshank
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The singer-songwriter makes a rapid return to Central Ohio for a special engagement at the Ohio State Reformatory in Mansfield on August 27th

When singer-songwriter Lee DeWyze was in Columbus for a show at Rumba Café in April, he probably wasn’t considering coming back to Central Ohio within four months. But a quick day trip to Mansfield quickly sealed the deal on a rather fast return to the Buckeye State — at an unusual historic venue.

“Yeah, so we were out there in Ohio, and we stayed in Mansfield because we had a day off, ” DeWyze recounts during our phone conversation. “And we’d heard that the Shawshank prison was there, the Ohio State Reformatory. So obviously we were interested in checking that out because, you know, I’m a huge fan of the movie. And we get there…and we were just going to visit, but what we ended up doing…I brought my guitar with me and I went inside. And we asked if I could play a song in there because I wanted to record it just because I thought it’d be cool. And so, we went inside and they took us around — they were so awesome. Everybody over there was really, really, really great and just helpful and…just very warm. They showed us around and then we finally got to this chapel, and it’s beautiful there. It’s really something.

And I go inside of it and bust out my guitar and I started playing one of my songs. My manager was recording it and I did a Facebook Live from there. It was really fuckin’ cool. The acoustics were like nothing I’ve ever heard before. I mean, it was incredible what it sounded like. It was unbelievable. It was definitely special for me. And honestly a lot of the staff were in there as well, and were really blown away by it. Not so much by me, you know, but it was just the whole thing, the song I was singing and the room I was in. It was a really special moment. So we kind of looked at each other, my manager and I, and said ‘We need to do a show here.'”

The video of that impromptu performance, featured below, is of DeWyze’s haunting new ballad, “Paranoia” – a taste of what those who buy a ticket to his August 27 Live At Shawshank show will experience.

Attendees will see DeWyze perform an acoustic set without any amplification other than the natural acoustics provided by the walls of the historic OSR chapel. They’ll also receive a signed poster designed by DeWyze himself, an autographed steel inmate-style souvenir mug, and an exclusive five-track CD of that evening’s show to be delivered at a later date. Light hors d’oeuvres and beverages are also included in the ticket price. VIP tickets (which appear to currently be sold out) additionally feature an abbreviated tour of the OSR facility and a private two-song performance by DeWyze prior to the main event. More details and purchase options can be found via TicketWeb.

According to OSR’s website, the structure was initially built as a boy’s reformatory school and opened in 1896 to house more than 155,000 inmates within its walls before closing in December 1990. It was designed by prominent Cleveland architect Levi Scofield. The State of Ohio’s plans to tear the Reformatory down after its closure were interrupted after its ominous character caught the eye of Hollywood producers. In 1993 the Academy Award-nominated film, The Shawshank Redemption, was filmed on-site. After nearly two decades of renovation that followed, OSR is now a renowned museum, educational center, and event venue.

“Through working with OSR, we’ve been able to put together this very special show, which they’ve never really done before like this,” DeWyze confirms. “It’s really going to be an experience. What we wanted to do was something different, obviously. How many times do you get an opportunity to visit a 150-year-old prison and listen to music? I’m really excited for everyone to experience it, because even when you first walk inside, you’re taken aback.”

On the heels of the Reformatory show’s announcement, DeWyze just inked a major publishing deal with industry heavyweight SONGS, a relationship that’ll ensure his music continues to show up in new and interesting places.

“What’s cool about SONGS is that their number one priority is songwriting, which sounds redundant, but a lot of these companies, labels…whatever…it’s not always like that,” he explains. “And I think that what they found in me — and I found in them — is that they recognized me as a songwriter. That’s what I am, that’s what I’ve always been.

And with all my past successes in licensing songs and writing for other artists and things like that, I was going to find somebody, you know? I was going to find a home somewhere. After looking at all our options, the people at SONGS were just incredible; Carianne Marshall, Amanda [Tufeld], Rachel [Jacboson]…they were just great and I think they really got me as an artist and as a songwriter as well. Whether it be my songs being used for opportunities or opportunities being brought to me to write for — it’s what I love to do. This stage of my career is one I’ve been working toward for awhile now, and I think everything has to happen at the right time and for the right reasons.”

He hopes that his new relationship with the firm will allow him to explore facets of his songwriting that are as of yet uncharted. “I’ve done a lot of things here and there, but I think they really bring to the table a great opportunity to work with other artists and songwriters. Really just testing the limits of what I can do — songwriting is the fun part of music for me, and the challenge of it. Your songs are like your kids, you know? You want them to be taken care of the best they can be, and for me coming to a place like SONGS, that’s the case.”

Ticket-holders for the reformatory show will be treated to a few new DeWyze compositions, but he also hints that the general public will be able to sink their teeth into fresh material in the not-so-distant future.

“Yeah, I’ve got new music coming out. We’re going to be releasing a new song…I don’t want to say the name of it just yet, but we will be releasing it in the next few weeks and I’m very, very excited about that.”

“Paranoid” video posted with permission by the artist.

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