Sunday, August 15, 2010

Casey James Fans: What does it mean to be signed?

On Tuesday, it is expected that Sony Nashville will announce that they have signed Casey James to record under one of their labels (either Arista, RCA, Columbia or BNA). This is, of course, the news all his fans have been waiting for and what Casey has wanted at least as far back as when he, his brother and bassist BC, and their original drummer first recorded a demo way back in 2002. Now Casey and BC have a new drummer, Jacy, and hopes for a record that will reflect their music and will connect with the fans. But how does that happen, what are the next steps from here?

Getting a record deal is not the end of the road for an artist, but the start of a whole new road. You have to put together the band (easier in this case, as Casey already has one), you have to pick the right songs, you have to choose the right collaborations (if any), it has to be produced well, it has to be promoted well, it has to be publicized well. It's a tall order.

From a fan's perspective, there's not a lot to do at this point but wait and hope for the best. When the record comes out, that's when the fans can do their part. Not just the obvious, buying it and not illegally downloading it or "borrowing" it from a friend, but recommending it to others and calling their local record stations and requesting songs.  Voting for the songs, tweeting them, sharing them on Facebook, these are all things that can be done after the record is released.  But what kind of a record it will be and how it is marketed is up to the record label under which Casey is signed.

The big pressure is on Casey to make sure he doesn't get lost in the recording, but that who he is -- his musical vision -- still comes across. Based on what he's done in the past, I would say that his new album should have a blues-rock feel, even if it is a country record. It should have a lot of guitar in it. I'd like it to be stripped down, just a few instruments, not layers and layers of sound to obscure the raw, natural power of his vocals. Nothing too twangy, nothing corny.  Some hard-edged, rough-and-raw Southern rock mixed with some tender country-infused ballads and some blues guitar licks to kick things into high gear.  That's what I hope to hear on the record.  

Who produces Casey's record and who works on writing the songs is crucial. This is the work of the label's A & R department and what they choose can make or break an artist. There is no better example than the talented Adam Lambert who seemed destined to defy expectations until the Pink co-written song "Whaddya Want From Me" stormed up the charts and into our collective hearts. That song kept him on the map and, if he gets more like that, he could be a big star and not an American Idol footnote.

For Casey's sake, we can only hope for a producer, engineer and writing collaborators who understand how best to harness and unleash his natural talent.  But even after the record is made, there is more work to be done. The marketing department works with publicity and promotions on a battle plan for how to get the record out to the public and get it sold. The publicity department gets his name and face out there, whether it's setting up interviews, getting him on TV and on radio, or arranging for him to be at other covered events. They are the ones who make sure you don't forget about Casey. Basically, they do what I've been doing for the past three-and-a-half months, only they get paid for it.

Then there's the promotions department who works on getting his songs played on the radio and videos played on TV. They work with the new media department to think of creative ways to let the public know the album is out there and reach a wide audience of both old fans and new ones.  With his guitar skills, personality, sense or humor, and connection with his fans, there should be endless possibilities of how to promote him.  I hope that they realize that his huge, untapped potential is with men and don't just think of promoting him with women.  He can get the Stevie Ray Vaughan fans as well as the Keith Urban ones.

As you can see, there's a lot more involved than sitting down with your guitar and laying down some tracks. To be a successful recording artist you need not just the talent, but a little luck and a whole lot of people working hard behind the scenes who believe in you. I think that Casey will bring not just a great, versatile voice and killer guitar skills, but also a positive attitude and willingness to work hard that should endear him to the record label. Hopefully, they will work magic together to make his debut album the big success his fans expect it to be.


  1. Shari, I agree with almost everything that you stated in your article. I am a huge country fan, and while I know alot of Casey fans are not "into" country, I am hoping that he mixes some country into whatever he decides to record. I am willing to hear what he is putting out, but I have to be honest when I say I won't be buying if it's not something that hits home with me musically. I love Casey(Don't and You'll Think Of Me my two personal favs.), and I do believe he is a wonderful performer (he was amazing on the tour). I'm eager to hear what he has in store for us. I am so hoping he keeps all his blues fans happy, but his country fans, as well. (There are alot of us, too.)

  2. @CJFan_Audrey (Twitter)August 15, 2010 at 11:50 AM

    It will be a lot of pressure to come up with this first album. A lot is riding on it. Like you, I'm hoping it will incorporate that blues-rock vibe he loves so much and all of us grew to love about him on AI. IMO, I think that would have more global-appeal. It would be interesting if he did a duet with an established artist to bring more interest/visibility to the album too :) Casey has immense talent and I can't wait to get my hands on that first album :)

  3. Anon 11:32 a.m., thanks for giving his blues fans a shout out. I think his country fans have less to worry about. Country is more commercial, and therefore more marketable. If he has one or two blues-tinged songs on his album, I'll be more than happy. I'll just wait a few years til he does a full out blues album ala John Mayer. It's awesome Casey has all of his musical influences meshing so beautifully -- so ingrained that they are always there no matter what he plays live. My hope is that it doesn't get "produced" out of the final product just to push more product. Casey needs to be working with people who truly "get" what a rarity and awesome gem he is.

  4. While Adam Lambert's and Kris Allen's singles may have been successful, they were victims of orchestral over-production on their first post-Idol albums. I pray this will not happen to Casey.
    Why would Casey have to wait to do a blues rock album? Isnt the idea to produce a successful album? Casey and his band, Crossover just blew me away when he sang blues numbers during his Idol Homecoming visit. And it was amazing to watch so many fans jump on board the Casey train after seeing the Homecoming videos on You Tube, all blues! And I think everyone's favorite on the show was John Lennon's Jealous Guy purely not country. Although, I hope that he has someone like Shania Twain to write with him, and that he begins by putting out a video version of the bluesy That's When I Need Your Love by Peter Green with a great guitar solo. Many country artists have done pop, and there is no reason why Casey should do a straight up country album. Would also love to see him open for John Mayer on a concert tour. And no talk show appearances unless he can just go on and jam with the band like John Mayer does.

  5. Shari-- Thanks so much for providing Casey and his fans a forum to promote his great talent. I am not a country music fan at the heart but I love southern rock, R&B, blues as well as pop. Crossover music makes life so much richer. Casey has made me relook at this genre and be more open to it.

  6. WOW! ISN'T CASEY JAMES THE GREATEST!? He has brought together so many music lovers of different music types! He has southern rock fans, country fans, R & B fans, the blues fans! He is so super-amazing! I have faith in Casey and his talents so that all of his fans will be satisfied with what Casey plans to put on his first album! So happy for him!!!

  7. Shari - Appreciate the insight into the various functions of the record label.
    I am confident that Casey will assert his opinions strongly into the production of his CD. He has a vast knowledge of music that allows him to communicate clearly about musical arrangements. He would like to record a CD of original songs. (Lee DeWyze told me that all the songs on his initial release will be originals. So why not Casey, too)? He is prepared to re-work some of the music that he has already written and recorded on two previous (unreleased) CDs. He also has a firm understanding of the balance of musical genres that he would like to include on the album.
    The burning question is whether he will be allowed to bring along his former bandmembers, BC and Jacy. Will the label insist on studio musicians? For Casey's sake - and the sake of his musical vision - let's hope the contract includes his bassist and drummer!


  8. Years back I wasn't into Country much. But now, I love a lot of the singers/bands. I can see Casey doing some songs like one of my fav's Keith Urban. Keith combines a little country and a little bit of Rock & Roll. I don't see Casey having a problem with that! I think he is an amazing artist and won't have a problem getting fans (look at all he has now!) His music will shine through and I do believe he will make a great cd! I wish him nothing but the best! :)

  9. Shari, you are first and foremost Casey's Advocate of representing all Casey's Fans. Also you are an awesome teacher and a leader of Casey's fans. I hope Casey's new album represents what he is and who he is. Good Luck Casey!

  10. Great article. Casey is an amazingly talented artist and I can hardly wait to see his very bright future unfold. As long as he stays true to himself and has people around him that are looking out for his best interest, he will do great things! So proud to be a fan!

    Thank you Shari!

  11. You are so right on with all your comments, especially Casey's blend of genres. He always seems to give a song the "Casey treatment" and make it better than the original. Hopefully, his label will see that he knows who he is and has amazing talent and knowledge and that people are responding to that.
    I couldn't agree more that he needs to be marketed to men as much as women. He doesn't want to be just a pretty boy. As a huge SRV fan, I can see so much of that in him, and if he does not become known just as the object of screaming girls, I think he will have a huge male audience, too.
    Thanks for a great article and for being such a champion for Casey.

  12. Shari, thank you for providing some insight into the workings of the music industry. Casey is about to walk into some very unfamiliar waters.
    While it is pretty much a black hole that he is entering, I am intent on remaining optimistic.
    I hope and pray that he is able to work the best of the best. Most importantly, I hope they are people who really love music for the sake of music, appreaciate his talent and promote him as he deserves to be. I believe Casey is capable of producing some really great music and being wildly successful too. I am looking forward to his cd and because there will be a cd, then there will be a tour to promote it - I am ecstatic over this !
    I will be buying his music, supporting and promoting him in any small or large way that I am able. And I will be going to see him perform at the very first opportunity because I know that "Casey James live" is going to be a HUGE treat..he's already proven that to me.

  13. I know it won't be easy for him to please all his fans. I personally like old school, but hate country music today! If he has more than one or two country songs on his album I'll just download the songs that are blues/blues rock. To me he's a Stevie Ray Vaughn/ Kenny Wayne Shepard/ Allman Bros./Hendrix/ Eric Clapton/Howlin Wolf, all rolled up in one ball. Love his blues and blues rock!! Best true artist I've seen in years!

  14. I have no worries for Casey James. His musical talent will speak for itself. His first CD should be marketed as widely as possible,though, and not just down the Country road. He is more versatile then he may even believe. Like nature, TALENT finds a way to survive !!!! :)

  15. Casey using his band on the album is something the label will decide----Tim Mcgraw was and is the only one so far that has his band on all albums. He had to fight the label, producers, and you name it to get what he wanted. It takes a lot of proving it can be done as labels usually use studio musicians and it may well be that way for Casey. He may get to have his brother with him and they may have been the reason on the long wait. But again Tim was and still may be on the only one that did the battle to have his band in studio with him. He won but it cost him for awhile as he had about 4 - 5 albums out on radio before he went to battle to do it. Now he only uses his band. He wanted the sound that they sound like on the road and not in a studio. Labels even pick your songs for you and I hope Casey got some of that down in writing that he can do a few things he wants---Labels are the ones that play the politics to get winners for the CMA and so on---When your label does not play the political game you are not going to win---It is very political and radio play is a must. Tim just won an award for the most radio play in the last 20 years of all genre's---that is huge and he has only one Entertainer of the Year 1 time. His label did not play the game.

  16. You're right Shari, there many bells & whistles behind making a successful record. That first single is a crucial mark in seeing how things go. Many meeting & listening sessions will be made in the process of deciding what it will be. That first single will introduce Casey to many non-Idol fans that haven't heard of him. It's a first impression. What song will grab the attention of the audience, stop & make them listen or set him apart from all the other next-best-things? Casey has a head start with the Idol exposure. Will it last? I say yes. Not because we're partial to our local guy but because he has that IT factor. Besides having the obvious musical skill, he can sell it to the audience too. He seems very comfortable in front of the cameras while giving an interview. No stumbling over his words etc. Being outgoing & putting yourself out there is a key part. It tells the record label you are in control,not scared & that makes them push harder for their new artist. Mr. James will do great & hopefully he'll have the whole Sony team behind him.

    When it's time, Team Casey will be there once again gettin' the word about the record.
    Good luck man!

  17. I agree with all that everyone has said... Casey needs an awsome management team... AND WE FANS need to stay involved too...

    Keeping the "electronic" news up is important.. and in today's electronic age -there is nothing more important than "viral" feeds on the internet. Casey still needs to embrace everything that is out there... FaceBook, continue Tweeting, weekly "video" feed ie... the #LateNightSandwich follow-up...

    Casey needs to get the "lists" of all fans and use those to "direct feed" and attract them to his OWN web page....

    It wouldn't hurt to pick up some endorsements that get his name / face out to the masses either... along with a "little singing/playing" that highlight him to the rest of the world that didn't watch AI.

    Interviews and singing/playing for outlets with extreme exposure ie... Oprah - has tremendous impact and many people who have not heard of Casey could see him... We should all write to Oprah / David Letterman - others requesting Casey on their shows....

    Casey should reconnect with the song writers that have reached out to him... Aimee Mayo etc... if he likes what they can offer him.

    Need to get lots of folks BUYING... and going to the concerts that he puts on. Nothing speaks stronger than MONEY....This means we all need to request radio time - country, blues, Christian, and so on...

    Carrie Underwood is playing across many genre's and this has helped her to move up the charts.

    A fantastic music video is critical - this makes a huge difference in exposure...

    Marketing is KEY - Great product (Casey) - needs lots of marketing across all venues...

    Prayer never hurts either... I'm so excited and happy for Casey and his family.

    He so deserves it and we'll continue being super fans & doing all we can to help him.

  18. Kathy,

    Great comment, great ideas! I think your comment should be posted on FB, at the CJCC, Billy James and CJH pages?

  19. AGREED... do you want to post?