Home Interviews Interview: CASEY BARNES


18 min read

Gold Coast singer/songwriter, Casey Barnes, has always had music in his life.  He remembers, as a child, singing Nursery Rhymes for twenty cents at his aunt and uncle’s house and singing at family gatherings. He credits his high school music teacher with being a big influence on him and pushing him out of his comfort zone. “He wanted me to get up and perform in front of our high school assembly for the first time,’’ he recalls. “I didn’t want to do it. I was really nervous and he said ‘No, no… you’ll be fine.’ I did it and it went well and I thought ‘This is a bit of all right. I could handle doing this a bit more often.’ So I sort of started from there really. I started gigging when I was eighteen and probably a good five years later I’d been doing cover gigs three nights a week all around the traps. Then I moved up here to the Gold Coast and I’d been doing the same thing here and a guy stopped me at a gig I was doing at Surfers Paradise.  He was the lead singer from a band called the Butterfly Effect and he was sitting at the bar and he gave me this big pep talk and said ‘You should be doing your own stuff. You should be writing.’ He sort of gave me a kick up the backside and made me stop and think about doing my own stuff.”


And since that day, Casey has gone from strength to strength. This month sees the release of his latest single, ‘Livin’ Like a Love Song’, the fourth single spawned from his third album ‘Jet Trails’. Casey collaborated with Jamaican singer Mark Shine on ‘Livin’ Like a Love Song’ which they recorded in New York.  “I was in New York late last year,” he explains. “And a guy showed me this track and he said ‘Are you interested in collaborating on this song?’ We recorded it while I was there and one thing led to another and it’s now been signed to a label in Europe called Black Hole Recordings. It’s a little bit more of a pop/dance sort of vibe. It’s funny how it all panned out.” While the song is a departure from Casey’s usual musical style and he admits that dance music is not really his passion, he points out that he has had some success with the genre in the past. “Back in 2008, I was approached by another DJ to just sing on a reworking of a version of ‘Tiny Dancer’ by Elton John and that song went really well. It went to No. 1 on most dance charts in Europe and the UK and still doing pretty well now, a few years later and that’s funny because it’s not a genre I would normally concentrate on, but it’s fun to mix things up a bit on occasion. It keeps you interested and keeps the fans interested as well and I guess it grows your fan base a little bit too. I guess if you listen to my current album, there’s something on there for everybody. There’s a bit of a cross section of lots of different stuff.”


Crossing over from rock to dance seems to have worked for quite a few big name artists in recent years, as Casey points out. Like Bryan Adams, for instance. “His was the first album that I ever got when I was young,” he tells me. “It was his Greatest Hits album. I’ve always loved his stuff but he’s also collaborated on dance related stuff.” As a long time fan of Adams’ music, Casey couldn’t believe his good fortune when he was given the opportunity to open for him a few years ago. “It was like a dream come true,” he shares. “It was just being in the right place at the right time. The thing is, with the music industry, you can knock on doors as many times as you like, but it does come down to a bit of luck.” And luck was certainly on his side on this occasion. Casey had been doing some corporate gigs for John Eales who used to captain the Australian Wallabies rugby team. Eales had been using Pete Murray for his events. “And Pete got signed to Sony,” explains Casey. “They needed somebody to play the same sort of role that Pete had been playing and so they asked me to do it. I did a few shows and I’d given John a copy of my album and he called me up a couple of weeks later out of the blue and said ‘G’day, John Eales. How are you going? I’m just ringing to let you know that I’ve been listening to your album in the car and I think it’s great. What are your plans? What do you want to do?’ And I said ‘Well, I’m independent at the moment and I’m trying to get a break, if I can.’ He went away and didn’t say anything but he obviously knows a few people and he’d spoken to a friend of his, a music promoter, and the next thing I get a call from them and they offered me the spot to open for Bryan Adams at A Day on the Green concert series.” Casey thought it was some kind of staged radio prank but soon realised the call was, in fact, genuine. That was when the singer realised that he was on the right track and he hasn’t looked back since. “It was just one of those days where everything went to plan from the first song til the end.  I think we even sold over two hundred copies of my album and the promoter came up at the end of the day and he said ‘We’ve had a lot of big acts perform here and you’ve sold more albums today than any act we’ve had play at A Day on the Green to date.’ It was one of those things where you thought ‘Maybe I’m doing something right.’ It was good.”


Another opportunity that gave him great exposure was when the singer auditioned for Australian Idol in 2009. It was not something he had ever really planned on doing, preferring to put in the hard yards and make it on his own but after some considerable encouragement from other people who obviously believed in his talent, he decided to give it a go and made it through to the top twelve. In retrospect, he says that, if he could do it all again, he would probably have approached it a bit differently and made more of the opportunity. However, as he tells me, “It was a good opportunity to grow as an artist and that opportunity was really helpful as well and I made some great friends from being on the show too.”


Casey has just returned from Nashville, where he has been working with ex pat Aussie singer/songwriter, Rick Price, recording an EP of songs that they have written together. Casey met Rick in Nashville when he was there last year doing some shows and writing songs. “It’s an interesting story actually,” he tells me. “There’s a place in Nashville; a chain of health food stores called Whole Foods and little did I know that you go there and every second day you see someone like Keith Urban and Nicole Kidman. That area of Nashville is where a lot of the local musicians and singers live and that’s where I was staying. I was there ordering lunch and Rick was standing behind me. He heard my accent and he said ‘What are you doing here in Nashville? I recognise your accent.’  I turned around and it’s Rick Price! This is a guy that I used to listen to growing up as a kid and he was all over the radio when I was going to high school. I started chatting to him. I talked to him about the whole reason why I was there and invited him along to a show that I did that afternoon. He came along and really enjoyed the gig and came up to me at the end of the gig and gave me this hug and we sort of hit it off and the next day we got together and started talking about how he made the move to Nashville and he said ‘Have you got anything you’re working on at the moment?’ So I played him a track that I had started writing. He loved it straight away and a couple of days later we’d written our first song together and it sort of just continued on from there.”


Rick comes to Australia a couple of times a year to tour and the last time he was here, the two got together to write some songs. They narrowed it down to those they thought were strongest and Casey then returned to Nashville to record the tracks there. “In Nashville,” he explains, “you’re very fortunate to have so many amazing musicians and better studios and it’s also quite cheap to record over there as well. It’s not all just country music over there now. A lot of people presume that, when you’re in Nashville, you must be doing country music but you’ve got the Black Keys over there and Kings of Leon and a bunch of different acts that aren’t country acts so I was lucky to go over there and come away with well recorded songs and it’s exciting to see where it all leads now.”

Download Casey’s latest single here…


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by Sharyn Hamey

Copyright © 2013 Sharyn Hamey All Rights Reserved

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