Casey James finished third on Season 9 of American Idol behind Lee DeWyze and Crystal Bowersox.
Later that year, Lee and Crystal released debut albums, in time to capitalize on the holiday shopping season.
Casey James fans waited. And waited. And waited some more.
In March, two full years after his Idol audition aired, Casey’s self-titled country album landed.
But this wasn’t the case of an Idol contestant being coerced in an ill-suiting genre. And Casey says he’s glad no one coerced him to release the album before it was ready.
The result: “Casey James” debuted at number 2 on Billboard’s country album chart and number 23 on the Billboard 200. Lead single “Let’s Don’t Call It a Night” climbed to 21 on the country chart. “Crying on a Suitcase,” the followup, looks like it might do even better, moving from 34 to 30 in the past week.
And Casey James is York bound. He’ll play a 6:30 p.m. show Saturday, Sept. 9, at the York Fair on the WGTY Great Country Radio Stage. The show is free with the cost of fair admission.
Here’s what Casey had to say about his album, his career direction and his upcoming show when I spoke with him last week.
Idol Chatter: “On Idol, it seemed like you were portrayed as the rocker. Then you release a country album. Why is that the direction you decided to pursue? And did it take much of a transition on your part?”
Casey: “It’s always interesting to hear what people considered me on the show. I’ve heard people say, ‘I really saw you as the ballad singer-songwriter guy.’ Some people would say, ‘I really liked your blues stuff.’ And some people would say, ‘You really rocked it out.’ So I think, when you’re talking about contestants on a TV show such as American Idol, it’s very, very person specific as to what they thought I was. On a show where you can only do covers, and you only have a small list of songs to pick from week to week, and the genres are picked for you, you just kind of do what you can to go as far as you can go so you can get an opportunity to do what you really want to do, which is your own music.
“As for what I’m doing now, it’s really an introduction to me as a musician and an artist. As I grow musically and age in life, my music will change accordingly. Right now, this music I’m making is exactly what I want to make, what I want to promote and what I want to represent as an artist.”
Idol Chatter: “How about the two-year gap between your season of Idol and the album release? Looking back, did that help or hurt?”
Casey: “It’s definitely a double-edged sword. I mean, you’ve got so many people urging you — and I don’t mean this in a business sense, but just in general — the feeling of ‘you need to get this album out. You need to make a record soon. Strike while the iron’s hot.’ That’s the quote that I heard a lot. And, if you don’t do that, then without a doubt you lose a lot of the people, a lot of the name recognition that comes along with the show.
“But at the same time that is actually the upside. I’ve worked my whole life to be an artist and a musician and the 10 years before the show I had been doing just that. I think the time that passed in between the show and the time I released my record kind of showed that I wanted to be perceived as an artist and a musician rather somebody that might come and go, cause I’m always going to do music.
“And, honestly, the time it took to make the record was what it needed to be. Had I did it any quicker, the end result would not have been an album I could look back on in the future and be happy with it. I’m happy with it now and I think 10 years when I look back on it, I’ll be able to say, ‘Yes, that’s exactly where I was at that moment and I couldn’t have done it any better when I was in that moment.’”
Casey: “We give some surprises, but we stick really close to the album. After years and years of having to play covers, I have an album out now that I feel very strongly about, and a lot of the people who come to the shows that are there to see me specifically have the album and want to hear it in a live setting. So we really do our best to play as much of the record as we can. And then, at the same time, I like to throw in some covers to catch people off guard and be able to branch out and have some fun with the band.”
Idol Chatter: “Now, you just released the video for ‘Crying On a Suitcase,’ and you star in it in sort of an acting role. What was that like?”
Casey: “It was a blast, actually. The whole process of doing a video is obviously new to me. I had my very first music video with ‘Let’s Don’t Call It a Night.’ And in that video, I’m just performing. It’s really just me playing the guitar and singing, which isn’t a massive stretch for a guitar player.
“But this last video is something totally brand new that I’ve never done before. I was actually playing a part in the video. I was this guy that’s torn up because he’s made mistakes for whatever reason and his lady’s gone and he’s going to try to cross that line in his own mind as to whether he’s going to go get her or not. He’s kind of beating himself up with all this internal anguish and guilt. And the video shows the back-story, the good and the bad and all these memories playing in his mind.
“And I got to do that. It was a little bit scary at first. Now, when I watch it, I feel like it’s believable and I enjoy it. Hopefully, it comes across to everyone else. That (song) has been one of my favorites from the beginning and it’s one of the two songs on the album I didn’t write. I don’t know what that says about me as a songwriter.”
Well, Casey co-wrote the first single. And, if you haven’t heard the album, I’d suggest checking out the fine disc-closing ballad “Miss Your Fire,” which he also co-wrote.
For a blog on why Casey thinks Keith Urban would be a fine choice as a judge on Idol, head here. And for a complete rundown on this year’s Country Stage performances at the York Fair, head here. The 6:30 p.m. show on Saturday, Sept. 15, features another former Idol contestant, Lauren Alaina.
Now, here’s the video for “Crying on a Suitcase.”