The Grand Ole Opry brings country music legends like Bill Anderson and Jimmy Dickens, today’s superstars like Carrie Underwood and Blake Shelton, and up-and-coming artists together on one stage creating unforgettable shows every week. Into The Circle introduces the newest Opry performers as they make their Grand Ole Opry debut and step into the circle for the first time.
“I’m just so blown away by the whole thing. For the first time in my life, I don’t have anything to say. I’m just speechless,” Casey said backstage after his Opry debut on Friday night (Jan. 27) at the Ryman Auditorium.
Casey James first emerged on the national scene during his third-place run on Season 9 of TV show, American Idol. Having performed most of his life, Casey was encouraged by his mother to audition. As a native of Cool, TX, he grew up playing guitar and was almost always surrounded by music. Both of his parents played guitar and sang, as did other family members.
“This is the tip of the top,” Casey said of playing at the Opry. “I remember my family talking about this as long as I can remember. This is just a magical place. It’s a huge honor just to be a part of it. I’ve listened to so many things that were recorded here. It’s just amazing.”
Casey’s wide-ranging influences include such artists as Merle Haggard, Vince Gill, ZZ Top, and Bonnie Raitt, with a mix of ’70s rock, blues, and outlaw country are all helping to shape his style. Following his success on Idol, Casey began touring with Sugarland in early 2011 and playing his own shows while working on his upcoming album.
His debut single “Let’s Don’t Call It A Night” provides a taste of what to expect on his self-titled debut album, set for release March 20. Casey had a hand in almost every part of making the album, which he says was important.
“I was there for every second of it,” Casey said. “There’s not anything that went on that I wasn’t a part of and that’s just because I wanted to be there. It’s important for other people to know how much I put into it because this is as close to my heart as it gets. This CD really came out sounding like I wanted it to sound.”
But the sound he was aiming for on the debut album didn’t just happen. It took long nights, a lot of stress, and hard work.
“I really stressed about trying to get it right, and I feel like I did that,” Casey explained. “I’m really thankful to all the musicians and all the people at the label for letting me do that. I know how blessed I am to get those opportunities.”
And the whole time, Casey tells us he never stopped learning.
“You learn a lot about the business. You’re learning the whole way. There’s nothing that you’ve known and unless you’re in show business, you don’t know anything. So, you learn everything – talking to cameras, interviewers, you learn how hard you have to work sometimes and how if it’s a 20-hour day, you might not get to eat or sleep and maybe you’ve got to go back to work the next day and do the same thing. If you’re paying attention, you learn a good work ethic. Really, it’s all new, so if you’ve got your eyes open and you are paying attention, you learn a million things.”
Casey performed his debut single during his Opry debut, which he co-wrote with Terry McBride and Brice Long. Believe it or not, the song was written in about an hour.
“It was the first time I had ever gotten with Terry and Brice,” Casey said. “I walked in, and we just hit it off. Terry’s from my hometown, so we’re just kindred spirits and we both kind of have that bluesy soul type thing. I think I played a lick, or he played a lick, or somebody played a lick. You know, when you’re writing a great song, when you’re both in it, nobody knows who does what. Somehow we got started and we wrote this song in probably an hour. It just kind of came out of us, and immediately became one that I really loved.”