|Casey James waiting in Denver 6/09|
The Casey James story, however, did not begin in Denver. It started more than a decade earlier when he developed a love of music, channeled it into a dedication to become the best guitarist he could be, and focused all his energy on becoming a multi-dimensional singer-songwriter-musician. Denver was the magic key, the enchanted ring, the supernatural "something" that acted as the catalyst propelling him from working to make his dreams come true to actualizing his dreams. Without Denver we might still not know who Casey James is, as there are hundreds of other talented musicians still toiling in obscurity as I type this. He, like them, could still be getting up every day and making that decision -- do I keep trying or do I give up? Do I continue to play in front of three drunk guys or do I prop my guitar up against the wall in my bedroom and go out and get a "real job?"
Casey has said at almost every stop along the tour, and in so many interviews along the way, that the fans who voted for him have made his dreams come true (as they did for the other Idols, he adds). But he could go back and thank the judges who put him through, and the producers before them who sent him to the judges, and the other musicians who encouraged him in the local music scene, and the venue owners who booked him, and the occasional fans who actually listened and shared their appreciation, and his friends and family for supporting him in pursuing a career as a musician and himself for having the internal drive to keep going in the face of substantial evidence that his dreams may never be realized.
This caused me to think about those who chase their dreams like Casey did. How long do you continue? When do you give up? I suppose it depends on how realistic the dream is and how much it really matters to you. I wrote elsewhere about a man I had the pleasure of interviewing earlier this year, Donnie Vann, who wanted to be a baseball player when he was a kid but, after a diving accident left him a quadriplegic, he had to envision a new dream, one that he might attain and that had value to him. Eventually, he found poker and realized his dream this year to play in the World Series of Poker. He also added new dreams -- traveling cross-country with his entourage, visiting famous landmarks along the way, and blogging about it (http://dvann.blogspot.com/).
For a musician, there are some different practicalities to consider in deciding how long to hold on to your dream. How old is too old? How many years of trying is too many? Casey was 27 when he auditioned in Denver -- young to me, but not young to still be trying to break into music. Not just because of Justin Bieber, Miley Cyrus, and the Jonas Brothers, but music is a young person's industry. When, if ever, do you decide you're too old to pursue your musical dreams? That's, I suppose, where the second part of the equation comes into play. How much does it matter to you?
There is no one who watches Casey James perform who does not recognize just how crucial music is to him -- how it is (as I've said too many times) as important as breathing air to the rest of us. Again, I may be repeating myself, but it is almost voyeuristic watching him play the guitar, it is such a personal, emotionally-charged experience. The fact that Casey was able to fight back after nearly losing the ability to play and the fact that he continued to pursue music as year after year went by without tangible, financial success shows how single-minded he was in not giving up on this dream. Was he right to continue? You can't look at the results, necessarily, to decide in retrospect if something was the right thing to do.
But you can look at what people do to try and realize their dreams. And what stood out in the Denver auditions was Casey's comment "I'm willing to do whatever I have to do." That showed me then that this meant everything to him. That his priorities were aligned correctly. Music was number one, everything else was not on the list. If you are going to pursue your dream, you can't do it half-heartedly, you need to commit. Casey missed the Dallas audition because he was doing that -- taking whatever gig he could get and playing whatever kind of music was required. And his leap of faith in listening to his momma's persistent urging that he try out is more evidence of someone who was willing to go full out to make his dreams come true.
So Denver is significant as the place where Casey finally took a step that propelled him much farther than any step he'd taken before. It is that crucial piece of the puzzle that put it all together for everyone to see. But as we focus so much on Denver, let's not forget all the years before then that led up to Casey being able to try out in Denver. He had a realistic dream that was nurtured enough and important enough not to give up on. He had prepared for years for that one moment and made the most of it. Denver was where the dream started to become a reality.
We all have dreams which, if they're not unattainable and if they're important enough to us, we might realize if we work hard enough. Go find your Denver.
ED: After tonight's concert, Casey gave us a hint at what today was like for him, tweeting this: