Casey Abrams. (Yvette Roman Photography )
Casey Abrams was very much an “American Idol” anomaly.
His quirky, affable demeanor, unkempt facial hair and regular-guy chic earned the singer more comparisons to Seth Rogen than vocal studs.
But with a bluesy growl rooted in rootsy rock 'n' roll and jazz vocalizing, as well as a deft hand at the kind of re-interpretations the show's judges beg for, the 21-year-old became an instant favorite. He seemed an early lock to win Season 10 of the aging franchise.
Despite turning so-called-untouchable cuts like Screamin' Jay Hawkins' “I Put a Spell on You” and Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” into rather off-kilter performances for the reality show stage, Abrams finished sixth, even after the judges saved him from being voted off the series by viewers.
Now signed to Concord Records, Abrams has quietly issued his post-“Idol” debut. The self-titled set, released June 26, doesn’t venture too far away from the bluesy, jazzy foundation he displayed on “Idol.”
Pop & Hiss caught up with Abrams to talk about the album and his time on “Idol.”
There is always a rush for contestants to put out their debut around the conclusion of their season, but a new winner has been crowned before your album is out. When did you start recording?
It started in my brain since I was born I guess [laughs]. I would always write out songs and draw album covers … but when things really started to get in motion was right after the "Idol" tour, after I knew I was going to get signed. I just started writing with songwriters. Then in January, I went to England to record and write some songs as well and up until then I’ve been busy trying to get it out.
What drew you to “Idol?” At its core the show is looking for a pop act and you were so far from that traditional mold.
That’s a great question because I can remember watching it and my mom screaming and wishing some people would win and some wouldn’t. Me and my dad always thought it was so stupid [laughs]. But then she showed me, oddly enough, Adam Lambert performing a version of "Ring of Fire." He did it completely different and took a huge risk and it paid off so well. I was so enthralled by what he was doing. It kind of inspired me to think I could go in "Idol" and do my bass and my mom was like, "See what happens." Oddly enough, it kind of worked.
There’s been this cycle where contestants quickly become a flash in the pan. Were you nervous about releasing the project considering how closely people pay attention to “Idol” debuts?
Absolutely. It was constantly on my mind because there are so many people out there that you have to please. You have to please your audience. You want to get a new audience, obviously, but you want to keep the old one. How do you not alienate all these people? I’m sure if I did a song one way, one group of people would ask why didn’t he do it jazzy, and if I did jazzy some might ask why wasn’t it more fun to listen to. You have to find a good compromise and I think we did. I was constantly thinking is this song catchy enough, does it stay true to myself, does it have great musical qualities that not a lot of other songs have?
It has been some time since people have seen or heard you. Do you feel you have to reintroduce yourself?
Yeah, I do have to reintroduce myself. It’s a great situation because yes, I do have a fan base that’s been following me and still is following me, which is very exciting because the new season of "Idol" (rehearsals) is just starting up and it's been two years. But there’s still people who stop me on the street and say, "Hey, I remember you." The ones that have been watching you, you get to show them you still have the "mojo." But then you have to show you’re a musician and you mean business to the rest of the world.
Debut albums have to be stressful. Any nerves creeping up?
Yeah, I'm a little worried. But I’m happy where I am at this moment in time and who is noticing me and what my music is sounding like. I’m very content with what’s going down right now. I’ll be honest: I’m a tiny bit worried that maybe people will get bored. But hopefully I can connect with some people.
Any touring plans at the moment?
As of right now I think I might just get in my car and drive around America and play little clubs and gigs. Maybe even street corners every once in awhile.
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