Part of the myth of American Idol is that it plucks ordinary people from their regular, mundane lives and turns them into performers. The producers further that illusion of creating an overnight success by focusing on some aspect of the contestant’s lives unrelated to music. This was certainly the case during Season 9.
When the audience first saw Casey James on the screen, he was walking, carrying his guitar case down the street. He described himself simply as a musician. Yet months later, when host Ryan Seacrest was announcing the final four contestants, Casey, who had built his own house, had suddenly become the “construction worker.” Don’t let that fiction confuse you. Casey was, is, and always will be a musician first.
While it is true that being on the number one rated television show does provide the contestants with instant notoriety, it would be wrong to confuse instant fame with not paying your dues. Casey James has been nothing but a musician ever since high school, honing his skills, playing whenever, wherever and whatever he could – blues one night, country the next, rock the night after that. Night after night, with some concerts lasting three-four hours, playing till his fingernails came off and had to be Super-glued back on. Casey did not take a short cut or easy path to fame. Check out this playlist to see a couple of Casey’s Pre-American Idol videos HERE.
As Casey recently told an interviewer, his only goal since he first picked up a guitar was to play music for the rest of his life. Nothing has changed for Casey since leaving American Idol; he has gone back to what he was before and what he always planned to be – a working musician. He is happiest when he is on stage playing his music for people, and photos and videos of him playing have captured the joy, passion and intensity he brings to every performance. In that same interview, he said playing is what he lives for and no one who sees him onstage would doubt that for a second.
And yet in one significant way, everything has changed for him. Casey isn’t doing this all by himself – a struggling musician trying to eke out a living on his own with just his voice and his guitar. The days of setting up his own gigs, being his own roadie, arranging his own travel, making his own business cards, recording his own demo are over. What American Idol provided Casey was a platform – and he used it well and wisely. Given the chance to be seen by millions, he performed every week not for votes, but to show what he could do. He used the opportunity to show his range of influences and his ease and skill playing in a variety of styles. Every week was an audition of sorts, showing his talent as a singer and as a musician for the world to see.
Sony Nashville CEO Gary Overton liked what he saw and what he heard and made the decision to sign Casey to their BNA label. Casey moved to Nashville and has been hard at work on his debut album, due out early next year. He already has a Top 40 song climbing the country charts and a Top 20 music video to go with it. He has been collaborating with seasoned songwriters and musicians, famous stars and hit makers in their own right, and putting together a catalog from which the first album’s songs have be selected.
Casey has been taking some of the new material for a test run, performing songs that may or may not end up on his record, at dozens of shows over the past nine months, starting in March with a string of opening gigs for the hugely popular duo Sugarland and continuing with the radio tour that has brought Casey to stations from coast to coast, introducing new fans to his music. During this year, Casey went from “former American Idol finalist” to new country music star, labeled as one of Roughstock’s “Ones to Watch” and by CMT as the “Next Big Thing.”
Fans have fallen in love with Casey’s new music, from the sultry, bluesy hit single “Let’s Don’t Call it a Night” to the propulsive “Drive” to the touching (as yet still officially untitled) “Love the Way You Miss Me (When I’m Gone)” to the inspirational “The Good Life.” They can’t wait to see what other songs will join those on his upcoming album and to hear the studio versions of the songs they have come to know from Casey’s many energetic and captivating live performances.
Yet wait is what they have to do. 2010 brought Casey national attention and a record deal, 2011 brought him a hit single and a wealth of new material to pull from. 2012 promises to bring even more. As Casey James knows, patience is a virtue. He waited a dozen years to be “discovered,” we can wait a little longer to “discover” what he has put together for us.