Today, May 31st, marks Casey’s 29th birthday. It’s only natural to use the occasion of his birthday not only to celebrate his life but to reflect on where he’s been and where he’s going. To that end, his bio has been updated. It tells the story of the path Casey has taken to where he is today. But the most interesting part of his story is as yet unwritten. Check it out at the end of this post.
From everyone here at The Casey James Blog we want to wish Casey a very Happy Birthday!
Casey’s mom, Debra, was sweet enough to share these pictures of her precious boy with us:
Here is a beautiful, touching video tribute to Casey that @anaperfoncia put together. Thanks Ana!
And special thanks to Carman (@CoolCJFan) for putting this fancy Birthday Card together for Casey. So many participated, over 200 fans! You know this put a huge smile on his face! Great idea, Carman!
Late tonight, Casey tweeted his fans:
@CaseyEJames Thanks for the Birthday wishes! Love y’all. I had a crazy long day. Great rehearsal with the band. Worked up new songs. 🙂 I’m off to sleep!
And now, the Casey James Story…so far:
Casey Everett James was born in Plano, Texas on May 31, 1982. Casey grew up in a home filled with music. Musicians and jam sessions were a regular part of his family life. His mother, father, brother, and cousins all played an instrument. So it was no surprise that at around 13 Casey picked up a guitar and started figuring out chords. “One day I thought, man I want to be able to do that. I want to be able to make music with my hands and accompany my voice.” Up until then, Casey had been a rather shy kid. But playing guitar opened him up, helped him to find an outlet to express himself. He never looked back.
Casey was a natural and, though he never had any lessons, within a short time he and his brother were accompanying their mom Debra, herself a singer-songwriter-musician – performing at local churches, weddings and retirement homes. It didn’t take long, according to his mom, for Casey’s skills to far outpace hers and he started playing regular gigs with musicians much older than him as well as playing with his brother Billy in their own band. In his high school yearbook, Casey wrote that his dream was to become a famous blues musician.
Growing up, Casey listened to every type of music imaginable, from Pavarotti to Pearl Jam. His first band, formed with his brother Billy Cole on bass, was named Casey James and Crossover. It’s no mystery why they chose that name as their music pulled from a variety of musical influences, part country, part blues, and part rock. Casey counts among his biggest musical influences two artist from different genres, Blues’ Doyle Bramhall, II and Country’s Merle Haggard. They recorded their first demo back in 2001, a mix of southern rock, blues and country.
Casey played at every imaginable venue in and around Texas from the city pool to biker conventions, golf courses to restaurants. He garnered a following of fellow musicians and fans who were awed by his wicked skills on the guitar. But in 2004, his career was nearly derailed when a truck turned unexpectedly in front of him as he took his new motorcycle out for a spin. Casey went crashing in the side of the truck and flew over landing in a ditch. Casey thought his life was over, but the helmet he wisely wore gave him a second chance. He was, however, seriously injured, suffering multiple compound fractures to his right thigh bone and severely damaging his left arm and wrist. He was told he would never get much movement in the wrist and he wouldn’t be able to play again. Casey wouldn’t accept that prognosis, even asking his brother to put his guitar in bed with him once he got home.
It took Casey six months to get out of the cast and even longer to be able to walk again, but even while in a wheelchair, he picked up a guitar as soon as he could and started trying to make chords. He ultimately had two surgeries on his arm. Fans watching Casey rip it up on the guitar today may be surprised to hear that he lives with pain from the accident every day. But with the same grit and determination he used to battle back from the devastating accident to learn to play again, he doesn’t let pain slow him down.
Once Casey was able to play again, he kept up a rigorous schedule playing anything and anywhere he could. He developed a following among the local music fans for his bluesy, Southern vocals and his impressive skills with the guitar. In 2008, Casey formed The Casey James Band with his brother Billy Cole on bass and Jacy McCann on drums. They played a mix of rock, blues and country at a variety of venues in and around the Northern Texas area. They were planning on recording a demo when Casey lost his voice, the result of putting too much strain on his vocal chords singing for too many hours in too many small, smoky rooms. It took him many months to get his voice back and when he did, he took it to Denver to audition for Season 9 of American Idol.
His mother encouraged Casey to try out for American Idol after some friends of hers suggested it might be a good opportunity for him. Casey was not familiar with the show. In fact, he wasn’t familiar with much on TV as he’d been without one since he was seven after lightning blew out the TV antenna at their house and it was never replaced. But his mother convinced him to give the show a chance.
When Casey finally did audition for American Idol, according to the rules of the show he had to do so without his guitar. He sang John Mayer’s Slow Dancing in a Burning Roomand was passed on to Hollywood with three of the four judges’ votes. As he said during the audition, he was just hoping for a chance to get to Hollywood so he could show what he does. When he got to Hollywood, he strapped on his guitar and wowed the judges, his fellow contestants, and the TV audience. There had never been a guitar player of that caliber on the show before.
Week after week, Casey set the bar higher for all future musicians. In the process, he set many “firsts” for the show. He was the first to play a guitar lead, the first to play a guitar solo, the first to use his own amp, the first to use another famous musician’s guitar, the first to play four never-before-played songs on the show, the first to sling two guitars on stage. He elevated the musician side of American Idol to new heights. He also brought an amazing vocal talent to the mix. He could go from rough and raw, wailing on covers of Sam and Dave and The Stones, to tender and vulnerable, moving the audience as well as the judges with his touching versions of John Lennon and Shania Twain songs.
When Casey went back home as a member of the Top Three, he played four separate shows that illustrated the enormous range of his talent as a musician. With the time to play full songs, he delivered jam after jam, pouring his heart and soul into every performance. But the most noticeable thing about each performance was how happy Casey looked being on stage. While none of those performances were aired on the show, there are dozens of videos from the shows on YouTube.
Though Casey’s run on American Idol stopped just short of the finals, he ended up with the most talked-about performance on finale night, a rousing, show-stopping duet with Bret Michaels of his song Every Rose has its Thorn. From there, Casey went on tour with the rest of the American Idol Top Ten and delivered an electrifying performance at each stop which garnered him a host of new fans and critical acclaim. His four-song set isplayed his wizardry on the guitar as well as his versatile vocals.
During the American Idol tour it was announced that Casey had signed a record deal with Sony Nashville and their BNA label. Sony Nashville Chairman and CEO Gary Overton said at the time, “We at Sony Music Nashville are incredibly excited about signing Casey James. I flew to New York to see him ‘live’ with the American Idol Tour and I was blown away with his voice, guitar playing and stage presence…and so were the thousands of fans in the amphitheatre. He has honed his skills as a showman with his years of performing live on stage! I can’t wait to get him into the studio to begin recording his debut album.”
In January, 2011, it was announced that Casey James would be opening for the platinum-selling duo Sugarland on their Incredible Machine Tour during the month of March, beginning on March 4th in North Little Rock, Arkansas. On the Sugarland website, they said, “We’re thrilled to announce that American Idol favorite Casey James has joined the 2011 Incredible Machine Tour as an opener on eight dates this spring!” For his part, Casey said, “I am so excited. I think it’s an awesome opportunity to play in front of people that love great music. I can’t wait to get back out there and share new music with the fans.”
Casey has been working writing songs for his debut album, due out later this year, as well as playing before enthusiastic crowds all across the country. He has been collaborating with some of the best country music songwriters including Aimee Mayo, Jaren Johnston, Alabama’s Randy Owen, Sugarland’s Kristian Bush, Delbert McClinton and Grammy-winner and Oscar-nominee Tom Douglas.
So what can fans expect on his first album? “My music is an extension of who I am and what I went through and what I know musically.” He promises he will bring something new to country music. “I’m not going to sound like anyone else,” he said last fall in an interview. As he said at the time of the signing, “I’m going to work hard to make the best album possible!”