Master of His Own Domain
By David Jenison
“I tried to contact him once, and he didn’t respond, so I was kind of pissed,” laughs American Idol finalist Casey Abrams, whose preferred domain name was already taken by Casey Abrams & the Mysterious Strangers. “His website must have gotten blasted during the whole American Idol thing. I actually listened to a few songs and liked them, but as far as the website, damn, he beat me to it.”
The soulful star from Idyllwild—who picked up iamcaseyabrams.com instead—has reached such heights that there should be no confusion. The 21-year-old singer appeared in the transformational tenth season (hola J.Lo and Steve Tyler, adios Mr. Cowell), where Abrams won over fans with his unabashed passion for jazz, blues and old-time R&B. He was eliminated in the Top 6 round, but the fuzzy-faced singer spent the next summer on the 2011 American Idols Live Tour.
As far as joining the competition, Abrams admits, “There was some cattiness and I did not trust a lot of people during the show, but all of that cleared up as soon as we all went on tour. I still hang out with all the contestants all the time—Haley [Reinhart], Jacob [Lusk], all of them. Stefano [Langone] and I are two completely different personalities, but it is actually really fun to hang out with him.”
Though he didn’t claim the gold, the singer recently released his self-titled debut with Concord Music Group, the music company Paul McCartney calls home. To promote the album, Concord released two radio singles, “Simple Life” and “Get Out,” to highlight the singer’s range.
“We are trying to show two different sides,” explains Abrams. “‘Simple Life’ is about putting down technology for a second and exploring the real world, while ‘Get Out’ is a heartbreak song. A chick dumps you, you cannot stop thinking about her 24/7, and she couldn’t give a shit. Excuse my language, but that is the only word that fits there.”
Abrams performed masterful covers on Idol, but the eponymous disc features just one, Ray Charles’ “Hit the Road Jack.” Fans of the show will appreciate it because the song pairs Abrams with his frequent Idol collaborator, Haley Reinhart.
“I have known that song my whole life, as long as I can remember,” says Abrams. “I thought, ‘Why not get a chick to sing on it?’”
The reason Abrams always knew the song is because he was born to creatively inclined, musically hip parents. His screenwriting mother plays piano and sings, and his father teaches film production at the Idyllwild Arts Academy. After attending a summer arts program at the prestigious academy, the son officially enrolled and gained proficiency on a wide range of instruments. After graduating, Abrams continued his music studies at the University of Colorado at Boulder, but a successful American Idol audition in Austin changed everything.
Though the show exposed him to a wide audience, Abrams wanted to stay true to his ’50s- and ’60s-era influences on the album. Abrams headed to London to record with a trio of top producers, and he co-wrote and played several different instruments, including the bass, acoustic guitar, drums and Wurlitzer.
“You have to go with what your gut tells you,” he says of the album. “We tried to put catchy melodies over music that a jazz musician would play. I think that is interesting for a person who does not necessary like pop but who does like cool changes and catchy melodies. It is basically a vibe thing.”
Idol fan or not, most everyone can vote for that.
Casey Abrams at The Key Club, 9039 W. Sunset Blvd., W. Hollywood; www.keyclub.com, iamcaseyabrams.com. Tues, Aug. 21. 7pm. $15; at Wiens Family Cellars, 35055 Via Del Ponte, Temecula; www.wiencellars.com. Fri, Aug. 24. 7pm.