Monday, October 4, 2010

The Casey James Band

With the announcement that the Casey James Band was now listed on the BNA roster, questions have swirled about the band. Since it was formed in 2008, it has been a trio, lead by Casey on guitar and lead vocals, with his brother Billy Cole on bass and background vocals, and Jacy McCann playing drums. Their sound, according to BC, was the same type of hybrid music that Casey was known for as an American Idol contestant – a little blues, a little country, a little rock. But it wasn’t the band that went on American Idol, just its lead singer-guitarist. He was the one Sony Nashville signed to a record contract. Still, the name on the artist roster is not Casey James, but The Casey James Band.

So who will be in the Casey James Band?

There has been no information disseminated as to the composition of the band to date. Fans have wondered, will the group continue to be a trio? That seems highly unlikely.  While a trio is the perfect size for a blues band, Billy explained that the size of the band was more a function of not finding another reliable guitarist than anything else. So they don’t seem to be locked into a three-person format. But, whatever its size, will it include the same original members?

While there has been no formal announcement as to who will be part of the Casey James Band, it would be a surprise if BC were not standing next to his brother, bass in hand, as he was this past May at Casey's homecoming visit to the Keys Lounge.

Casey James and BC James at the Keys Lounge
Billy Cole has been playing with Casey since Casey picked up a guitar in his early teens and has been an integral part of Casey’s two previous eponymous bands. We also know, as I’ve learned from my many interviews with BC, that he, like his younger brother, is quite knowledgeable and passionate about music. 

Billy had picked up the bass before Casey even started playing guitar. He was about 17 at the time, Casey would have been 10 or so.  Billy had started out playing the guitar, but soon switched instruments.  Back then, nearly everyone BC knew was playing guitar -- family members and friends from school -- and it seemed to him that if he played bass he could play with everyone.

Because of their nearly seven-year age difference, for a while he “was waiting for Brother” to be old enough to start playing with him.  At first, they played with their mother, Debra "Bybee" James, playing mostly folk music.  Eventually, the two set out to form a band where they could play the type of music they wanted, "mostly blues, classic rock, some country," music with a harder edge. Finding a good drummer was hard, but keeping one proved even harder.

Eventually they found a drummer, Bryan Lepard, and they recorded a few songs under the name Casey James and Crossover. BC wrote or co-wrote about half the songs they recorded. Their sound was an amalgamation of Texas blues, rock and country, not surprising for a band of brothers whose two main musical influences growing up were bluesman Stevie Ray Vaughan and country’s Merle Haggard.

Billy counts among his biggest influences on the bass Stevie Ray Vaughan’s bassist Tommy Shannon. “He played with everybody. He’s a bad man,” joked Billy. “That’s who I took my bass stylings after. “ Billy is also influence by bassists Noel Redding, from Hendrix’s band, and John Paul Jones of Led Zepplin. And he continues to be influenced by and learn from other bassists. “Recently, I’ve discovered, through Casey, Pino Palladino. He is like Tommy Shannon but way more technical. He played with John Mayer, he’s played with everybody. He has that James Jamerson feel, that old Motown sound - funky without having to do that slap and pop.”  I didn't know what "slap and pop" was, but BC is a patient tutor and talked me through a brief history of the various styles of bass playing. 

Since he and Casey were usually in a trio (first with Lepard, later with their current drummer McCann), BC studied the techniques used by Shannon and Redding who each played in a similar musical format. As BC explained it, “From them, I learned how to fill space.” In the rare occasion when they had an extra guitarist sit in, BC enjoyed getting to do something a little extra like John Paul Jones or the bassists in Lynyrd Skynyrd or Black Sabbath. “Doing leads on the bass, getting to cut loose. You’re not so bound to just carry the rhythm, you can do more” when there are more musicians playing together.

But keeping the rhythm, being solid, is what BC has done for Casey since they started playing together. I asked Billy if he’s ever been part of another band, and he said quite emphatically now. Billy has only ever wanted to play with his brother. “I don’t want to play with anyone else. There’s no one else on planet earth I want to play with. Basically, I just had to wait for him. Being a bass player, I’ve had lots of offers for jobs, but I didn’t want to play with anyone else.”

In one of our first conversations, BC explained his role as Casey’s bassist. “My whole point in being is to provide Casey with a bigger launching pad in order to make him sound better. To fill as much of the back space as I can.” Then, he added a line that has stuck with me ever since as reflective of their strong bond both as bandmates and as brothers, “That’s why I’m sucking air here.”


  1. Sharron Grissett Mobile, AlabamaOctober 4, 2010 at 1:51 PM

    I do believe the bond of brothers is one of the strongest bonds God gives two people. I love the Billy and Casey are so close, and I hope and pray that Billy and Jaycee are both a part of Casey's band. They started out together and its the way it should be......I do believe the Lord is going to open doors for all these boys, an even though Casey is already inside of one door, I think more are coming his way. I wish all of the best of luck and hope to hear some news soon. Since the tour I miss them so much!

  2. Thanks for the article, Shari. I can't wait to hear who the official band members are. I am sure you will be one of the first to know and I am sure you will let us know as soon as you can!

  3. Rhonda rjnelson785October 4, 2010 at 3:24 PM

    Wow Shari, that last line gives me chills every time I read it. Thanks for reminding us that BC James is a very integral part of Casey's personal as well as musical life. Where in the world are you going to find that kind of, not only loyalty, but also knowledge of his musicianship and how best to accompany him? I do so hope the label listens and understands how important it is to keep The Casey James Band together!
    Thanks, once again for your research and your insight-love it!

  4. Wonderful article!! The following is my opinion only---I've always said, there is only one Casey James Band. I expect Billy Cole & Jacy McCann to be included in the band, among possibly others. Otherwise, they wouldn't have posted it on the wall that way. I also think the picture Casey tweeted of it, was his way of telling us all before the "Offical News!!"
    Of course, I also expect them to be BIG!!! Their music is awesome!!! Casey has a beautiful Momma--as Yall know-- who writes songs, too!!! I can't wait!!!!! They are gonna set Nashville on fire!!

  5. It probably be decided by what kind of contract Casey got to sign with Sony BNA but as it is on the wall as the Casey James Band I think it looks pretty good that he will have players with him. We are hoping that it will be Billy but they could say only he can use studio muscians to start with. Label are funny as they want to be the boss since they are spending the money

  6. Love this Shari!! Love the quotes from Billy. Beautiful!! For the record, I am optimistic that Billy and Jacy are going to be in the Casey James Band!!
    Heather aka thankyoublues

  7. Sony's has the control , true, but labels are in it for the money and my guess is that they are seeing dollar signs in Casey and are fully aware of the trust he has in his bassist. He could eventually build that sort of trust with someone else, but why would Sony want to take that chance? Billy knows Casey better than anyone. He knows his style and how it evolved over time, and more importantly, he knows exactly where Casey wants to go with his music and can back it in a way that no one else can at this point. Billy's not just a band member, he's a part of Casey's artistry because wherever he goes with his music, he knows Billy's there backing his every move. From a business standpoint, it's a fit. Why mess with it?

  8. And besides which, how many bassists do you know who already have 1080 fans on Facebook?!?!

  9. I sure hope that it works out that Billy will be the bassist in the Casey James band! He would be such a great addition as far as being an experienced musician for the band. He also is very close to Casey and would be great brotherly support for him. Hope we hear something soon as to the status of what is going on with this!

  10. Thank you Shari. Loved this.

  11. Thanks for the great article, Shari! I always love to hear what BC has to say. Casey is SO lucky to have a big brother like BC who wants to support him any way he can. I do hope and pray the BC and Jacy get to be members of Casey's band, it just wouldn't seem right if they weren't! Wish Sony Nashville would say something soon about who is actually going to be in the band. The suspense is killing me!

  12. i do love these people!

  13. Well we can guess all day long but it all comes down to what type of contract they offered Casey---and Casey signed. Here is hoping they offered one where he has Billy and JC included but the could have just have Casey with studio musicians on the albums and let Casey have Billy and anyone he wants for his touring band. In Nashville most bands used on albums are studio musicians other than Tim McGraw who had to battle to have his band on his albums and that was after he had 2 or 4 number 1 hits and several albums out. Then he had to battle the label to let him use his band instead of studio musicians. Then you have studio musicians who are union and are not happy because Tim was changing the music world and Nashville does not like change or be challanged but it work and very sucessfully and it seems Nashville has loosened up the last couple of years also. So I feel certain we will see Billy moving to Nashville in the near future and will also start seeing a lot of Casey in the next coming year when he gets a single out. I heard Crystal on the radio today so she has already made it to radio play. Casey will be next.