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.