Casey James recently played at the Rock Brothers Attic in Ybor City. He was on Season 9 of American Idol and was in the Top 3. He got a record deal in Nashville with Sony and recorded two albums which had a couple of tracks chart. Casey has since left Sony and now has a brand new CD called “Strip It Down” on an independent label doing it his way. He took time to talk to us about what he is doing now!
SP: Let’s start with where most of us got to know you, on American Idol. Top 3! What was the experience like for you? What was it like to work with Bret Michaels and have you seen him since?
CJ: The show (American Idol) was a great experience. I can’t really explain it, but in a few words, I would have to describe it as life changing and unreal. Working with Brett Michaels was a great example of what I mean. For a local musician like myself (at the time) to have an opportunity to play on stage with Brett is pretty crazy. He was an absolute gem of a human being, and I have spoken to him since a few times. He always takes the time to chat, and couldn’t be more humble and kind.
How long have you been living in Nashville? Has it been a big change from Texas? Do you play gigs around town when you are home?
I moved to Nashville right after the show so that I could make my first record with Sony Nashville. I didn’t really like being in Nash and moved back home to TX as soon as I could. I ended up spending a crazy amount of money and time flying back to Nash just to get on a bus to go somewhere else, so I decided to move back to Nashville again. That was close to 4 years ago, and I’ve actually come to terms recently with the fact that I will need to live in this town to do what it is I want to do with my life. It’s very different from TX, but I am beginning to adapt and accept the change. I will always be a Texan in my heart. I don’t play a lot of gigs in town really. Not enough time to go gigging. I would like to do a lot more of that, and I know that I will in the future.
If you would, share the story you told me about Keith Urban helping you out.
I was at an event with Keith Urban during the time I was recording what was to be my second record with Sony Nashville, and as Keith and I chatted about gear, I mentioned that I was having issues with one of my amps (a 1957 twin tweed fender). He kindly offered to let me use some of his amps when the time came for me to get back into the studio. I thought that it was kind of him to say, but really didn’t think that he would remember due to the fact that it would be at least a week before I was going back to do more tracking. When I did finally show up to record, I walked in to find about 6 of his amps lined up for me to use (one of which was a 1957 twin tweed exactly like mine…but nicer). I reached out and thanked him. He is just a quality dude.
Tell us about the concept of your new album “Strip It Down”
Strip It Down is really the idea of being able to take the thoughts and ideas I have for my record, and deliver the final product with as much accuracy to that original vision as possible. That way when folks listen to the record, they are hearing what I want them to hear, and not what some random group of business people want them to hear. To do that I stripped away all outside influences and stayed 100% true to my vision for the project. At every turn I kept things simple. One photographer captured all the pics on the record. No team of hair, makeup, and wardrobe. No touchups. Just real-ness. I wrote the songs and didn’t allow someone else to decide what would make the record. All the way down to what I wrote inside on the actual physical CD. There really was no outside influence at all. I just wanted to make a record that meant something to ME, for the right reasons. To not judge it by its “success”, but to feel proud of it no matter what anybody else thought of it. I think that’s the only way to really be true to who I am because if I don’t look at it that way, I begin to make choices based on the wrong reasons.
You wrote a song on the record with blues great Delbert McClinton, how did this happen?
The Delbert connection happened in the way a lot of things in Nashville happen. Someone I knew someone that knew Delbert. That type of thing. They knew I was a blues man, and that I loved Delbert. So I got a writing appointment with him and we hammered out Bulletproof. I started playing it on the road that very weekend, and it’s been a part of my show ever since. I wanted it to be on my first record with Sony Nashville, but that wasn’t what they were looking for from me, so I wasn’t able to make that happen. Once I had the ability and freedom to make the record I wanted, I knew that Bulletproof would be there. And I couldn’t be more proud of the fact that Delbert honored me by joining in on the track.
You going on Delbert’s Blues cruise In January with some heavy hitters like Marcia Ball and Marc Broussard, any idea what you will play?
Delbert’s cruise marks a big moment for me. All I have ever wanted in life is to be a part of that musical community. To be able to interact with TRUE artists that have a passion for the same things I have a passion for. To be asked to be there is something that brings me a ton of joy and pride. I’m honored and so thankful to finally be moving forward into the world that I feel I was born to be a part of. I will be listening, watching, and learning for the entire cruise and I couldn’t be more excited to play. As far as the set goes, I plan on playing my normal set. I could easily overthink my set and try to get cute or fancy, but Delbert asked me to be there because he likes what I do and the new record. So I will honor that and do my best to play the show as true and well as I can.
Congratulations on your new baby coming and thanks for taking time to talk to us!
Thank you (regarding my baby). I am beyond excited and thankful.
photos by Vicky Sullivan / Rock the Lens Photography