The Hot Seat | Indie
After reviewing Casey’s debut studio album Take the Good, I received the opportunity to talk with him about his work, inspirations, and future plans.
Richard: Now that you have your first album out, how does it feel? Do you have a lot of stress off your back now that you finished it?
Casey: It’s been nice to get it done with, not necessarily saying that it was a big point of stress. I’ve released EP’s and I’ve released shorter works before, but it was nice to get out one cohesive body of music. So, I’m really glad I had that benchmark, and I really have something to spring forward off of into new projects.
Richard: Is it different making an album than it is playing live music? Is there any major difference in how you played?
Casey: From a strictly guitar perspective, for the majority of songs and their vocals, I actually try to keep the recorded versions and the live versions pretty close to each other. Then for 3000 miles, the piano part is exactly what I play live. You can actually hear that if you listen to the live album I released back in July; It’s pretty much spot on with the arrangements. As far as being different, obviously getting to layer music creates a very different feel. It’s nice to be able to explore that path and look back and say this works and this doesn’t. You really have the full range of every instrument to take advantage of.
R: You said that there’s mainly guitar on the album. Why did you choose guitar? Is it because it’s your favorite instrument or did it just go the best with the songs you had?
C: So, really, it comes down to what I write on most of the time. Piano was my first instrument and I didn’t really start seriously playing guitar until the end of high school. I wound up writing most of the songs on guitar. I didn’t have a piano with me when I was at school, so I found myself writing a lot more on guitar. While I’d say I’ve probably played piano and guitar now for an equal portion of my life, I found myself using guitar much more as an instrument to write with, than really anything else.
R: I saw online that you played multiple instruments; what are they and how many, total, do you play?
C: That’s a great question. I’ve never actually counted. I think I did mandolin, banjo, guitar, piano, and the ukulele, for the whole game of thrones thing. I also play violin, actually, I can use saxophone and trumpet, bagpipes which is a real fun one. You can have fun with those obviously. I can’t very well sing a game of thrones song while I play bagpipes at the same time so… I tried to limit myself to what would make for a nice video. At some point it gets to be variations of the same instruments. I play bass, I can also do upright bass, and then there’s a lot of random instruments that I've collected over the years that are somewhat similar to each other. I’m probably not playing them in the correct traditional style, but I can make them sound nice to a point.
R: Did you teach yourself all of those, or did you take lessons for them?
C: I took lessons for piano, violin, and then I did saxophone in school. I’ve taken a couple lessons with a guitar teacher around me, but those were more, sort of, collaborative playing around with a couple different playing techniques. For the first, probably, 6 years of playing guitar I was self-taught.
R: What made you decide to become a musician? Who inspired you?
C: There are a couple points along the way. I think what inspired me really to pick up the guitar, was… did you ever see the movie back to the future? That scene where Marty goes up and plays Johnny B. Goode at the high school dance back in 1955? I just thought that was the coolest thing ever, and I was like, “I need to learn that riff”. So I went out and bought a Chuck Berry boxset and I got my first guitar and wound up not learning that riff for quite a while, but I sort of stuck with it and I think that’s what really made me pick up the guitar at first. As far as being a musician, I don’t know that that was so much a conscious decision as it was something that I’ve just always done. Whether it’s singing in church as a child, or taking piano lessons in maybe first or second grade, it really progressed naturally.
R: So you were destined to be a musician from birth! Were there any certain musicians who influenced your work?
C: Yes, definitely! John Mayer and James Taylor are both huge. Just in terms of versatility in their songwriting, but also just that there’s honesty in the lyrics… I wouldn’t say I want to emulate someone specifically. Everyone has their own voice, and you can’t just copy what somebody else does, but I think the way that they were able to maintain their own voice and create something that was accessible, yet authentic, is something that really spoke to me. Early on when I was first shuffling a good amount of new music, and I just tried to bare that in mind. There are countless other artists that have inspired me to this day, inside my genre as well as out. So, Ryan Adams for instance, is a very honest songwriter, has a fantastic body of work.
R: Are all of your songs inspired by events that happened in your life, or do you take some stories that you make up into your music?
C: I was saying that to my friends a couple weeks back, how much easier it would be if I could just separate it out, make up a story and write a song about it. But, yeah, everything is inspired by an event in my life or an event in someone else’s life that I’ve sort of been involved with. If you’re listening to “Gravity Defying Tears” or “Second Guessing”, those are about two different friends of mine, those who have gone through their respective difficult times and I just tried to sum up some of the advice I gave them. If you wind up giving your friend advice in a situation and it’s a bit of an ongoing situation, you get emotionally involved in that as well. So in a sense, even though it’s not your problem, it becomes a bit of your problem.
R: Are these events happening when you write about them, or do you go back later and remember them and write a song then?
C: It’s really different depending on the song. “3000 Miles” I wrote when I was still in a long distance relationship. “Shadows” I wrote relatively soon after a breakup, but that was an example of a time that I was able to digest the event a little more; I was able to see things more clearly and have a complete picture of the situation. It definitely does depend on the song and I really don’t try to stick to one set form. If there’s something going on inside today that I feel compelled to write a song about, and it happens, then by no means would I stop it just because it’s an ongoing situation. At the same time, I have no problem going back years at a time to pull for a new situation. I just wrote a song last week that was pretty much wholly inspired by events that took place three or four years ago.
R: Are you currently recording for your next album, or is that song just a single?
C: I always have an ongoing… it comes and goes as far as how much I’m writing, so there’s a bit of a flow. I’m heading down to the studio in three weeks and I think I’m going to do three or four songs that I will hopefully be able to release next year.
R: Is there a certain place you go or something you do to help your writing process?
C: I like my basement, something about that; it’s just sort of nice. Somewhere really quiet where I won’t be interrupted works for me. I know some people thrive on being surrounded by a lot of noise and that’s inspiring to them, and a lot of distractions. I find myself a little more methodical when it comes to writing down the lyrics just having uninterrupted time for least for a few hours, it just really helps me focus and write down the correct lyric.
R: You said you were planning on having a couple songs release next year, are you planning on producing another album? What plans do you have for the future?
C: That’s interesting because that’s something that I just started discussing a week ago. I tried to write a few songs, sort of focus around one thing and sort of see what came out and I wound up with a lot more ideas than I meant to find, so I’m on the fence right now, do I just keep it two or three songs and release those on their own, or do I really double or triple down and go for a sophomore album. So I think that’s yet to be decided. I certainly will be recording plenty of new music and releasing it in the coming years.
R: Have you thought about collaborating with another artist or bringing in a band for a specific song?
C: I have some musicians I’ve worked with before, playing live shows. I think it would develop naturally if I was on the road with certain people and we had to play things on the road. I did a tour with Tony Lucca back in April and May and he had a band called The Rollaways and Keaton Simons backing him up. They wound up writing a lot of songs just sitting in the green room waiting for shows to begin. I feel like if something happened like that, it would make sense and it would just work, but for now I still have a fair amount of material I would like to get out on my own, and then maybe I can approach the subject of collaborating in a more thoughtful manner with another group.
R: Can you tell me more about your experience opening for Tony Lucca?
C: Yeah, opening for Tony in April and May, and then Pat McGee probably four or five days over the summer, and then I did a week with Howie Day in August. It was a lot of fun. All three of them were different, but it was great. With Tony, I was traveling in his van with him and the band. That was great getting to know those guys, getting to hang out with them. We saw so much of the country. I’m an amateur photographer on the side and I had fun putting pictures of the American West, and the South, and wherever we went up on my musician page on Facebook to everyone around. It was a really great experience! That was really my first long distance US tour. Getting to spend it with those guys was a real treat. Then to hang out with Pat, we play a show in Chicago as well as Atlanta. Going around the South with Howie was also a lot of fun. I really like meeting people all the across the country, getting to share the music with them, and then seeing all the reactions to it. It’s getting to see things I wouldn’t otherwise get to see if I wasn’t a musician.
R: Have you ever thought about combining your photography with your music? Possibly making your own album covers?
C: Yeah, for this album I kicked around an idea of using a photo for the album cover. Someone said, “Oh no no, it’s your first album you should go with a picture of yourself on it”. It was also that I had the opportunity to do a photoshoot with Shervin Lainez, who wound up doing the album photography. He is such a fantastic photographer, I knew I would want to take the opportunity and I wound up absolutely loving the photos. So I wanted those for the Album shoot. Certainly in future projects, if I find the right photos, whether it's single art or art for the full album, I’d love to be able to combine those.
R: Is there anything else you would want to tell your fans?
C: Thanks for listening, stay tuned. I’ve got more stuff coming up!