By Ralphie Aversa | For Weekender

Ralphie Report: Leona Lewis goes rogue and it works

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On Sept. 4, 2014, Leona Lewis wrote a letter to her fans. Posted via a snapshot on Twitter, the singer talked about a “rollercoaster year” and “taking the huge step away from Syco and Sony.” Syco Entertainment is Simon Cowell’s record label; Lewis landed with Cowell after winning “The X-Factor” in the UK more than eight years ago.

But after four albums, Lewis felt it was time for a change. She left Cowell for Island Records, and a year and a week to the date of dropping that open letter, Lewis will release her new LP I Am.

She does not find the timing too significant though.

“I didn’t even realize it would be a year,” she told me. “It wasn’t planned like that. Naturally it just happened that the album was kind of done around then and it was time to release it.”

Lewis later clarified that she had been working on this material for much longer than six or seven months; rather almost two years.

“Before (the letter) I had gone out on my own and started creating the album,” Lewis noted. “I was making it but I didn’t know what label I was going to sign to or what was going to happen.”

This album started by Lewis simply creating music with no other purpose or plan besides the creation itself. She collaborated with super-producer Toby Gad (“All Of Me,” “If I Were a Boy”) and their work led to I Am.

Outside of a track penned by Diane Warwick, Lewis and Gad receive writing credits on every song. Other writers who contributed to the LP include Anne Preven and Wayne Wilkins. There are no featured artists on any of the songs.

“I think for this album it was so important to just kind of have it as my own thing because it was so personal,” she explained. “So collaborations as far as producers yeah, but not artist-wise.”

Lewis will drop I Am on September 11.

The Rare Occasions score Lennon ‘Song of the Year’

The Rare Occasions, an indie-rock outfit from Barrington, R.I., took home this year’s $20,000 Song Of The Year honor in the John Lennon Songwriting Contest with its track “Dysphoric.” The announcement of the prize came on “Ralphie Tonight,” the second straight year that The JLSC has asked us to reveal the winner.

Brian Rothschild, Executive Director of the contest and Matthew Reich, Vice President of U.S. Tours and Promotions joined myself and American Authors lead singer Zac Barnett on the phone to call the winners. Barnett’s band, which scored the mega-hit “Best Day Of My Life,” won the competition in 2012 and now serve as judges alongside Fergie, George Clinton, Natasha Bedingfield and a handful of other musicians.

The John Lennon Songwriting Contest splits in to two sessions, with winners named in a number of categories leading up to the “Song Of The Year.” Over $300,000 in cash and prizes is awarded to artists annually; fees from the contest support The John Lennon Educational Tour Bus, a state-of-the-art studio on wheels.

Listen to “Ralphie Tonight” weeknights from 7 p.m. to midnight on 97 BHT.

By Ralphie Aversa | For Weekender

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Listen to “Ralphie Tonight” weeknights from 7 p.m. to midnight on 97 BHT.