Cas Haley and Big Hope: Cas Haley is breaking out on his own terms. Connection, his Easy Star Records debut, is aptly named. It’s all about those deep-running connections that make him what he is—those unbreakable links between artist and audience, between styles of music, between art and life, and most of all, between all people. As Cas points out, reggae’s core message is, after all, "one love." His crystalline voice and funky, easygoing beats earned Cas a second-place finish on America’s Got Talent, which in turn netted him a measure of fame and a following. But the contest also locked the Texan singer/songwriter/guitarist into a major label deal that didn’t feel right. So, not wanting to be turned into a manufactured product, he struck out on his own. The superb result: Connection, a collection of songs basking in the philosophical and musical maturity that comes from staying true to his artistic vision. Raised by musician parents, Cas grew up surrounded by the sounds of blues and 60s-70s rock. He got serious about the guitar at age 12 and was "taught by the tribe" of musicians passing through the house. "The kitchen would be turned into the practice room or for jam sessions, so I was pretty much born into that lifestyle," he says. And from the very beginning he was more inclined to create his own music than to slavishly learn covers. Also prominent at home were the Bob Marley records his mother would play, which made a profound impression. After a period of heavy immersion in the sounds of the ska/punk/skateboard culture, Cas was blown away by the classic reggae-pop of bands like UB40 and Sublime, and his mature style began to take shape. Those pop-inflected island grooves and his joyful, versatile voice helped bring Cas to the brink of stardom on America’s Got Talent and sell 30,000 copies of a debut album with virtually no promotion. And they’re fundamental to the soul of his music—what he calls the "relaxing, effortless playing where everything fits together." Elements of soul, blues, and pop swirl through Cas’s strong reggae beats. Just like disparate musical styles, "we’re way more connected than we think," Cas says. "We separate ourselves in so many different ways, but the whole theme of the album is that we’re all connected." "Every color," he sings in the title track, "is created from the same light." Easy Star, the leading U.S.-based independent reggae label, is the ideal home for Connection. The label has been stretching beyond its strictly roots-reggae format, signing progressive bands and artists like John Brown’s Body, Tommy T, and The Black Seeds. “Cas’s sound is unique, accessible, and a great way to keep expanding the Easy Star audience," says CEO Eric Smith. "And it’s not often we come across a singer-songwriter this talented, regardless of genre, so we had to work with Cas.” Mixed by Danny Kalb (Ben Harper, Beck), Connection bristles with chill grooves, rocking guitars, and funky horns, all fueling Cas’s irresistible melodies. Meanwhile his lyrics effortlessly balance simple, spiritual truths with thoughtful reflection. Cas’s songs recognize the complexities of life—love, family, worldly troubles and uncertainties—but always come back to the central message of connection. It’s the journey that matters; Cas is aiming for success on his own terms. "If I’m not doing it authentically then I don’t want it," he says. His only goal: "To authentically express myself and help others do the same. Because it’s a sweet life to be able to do that."
Casey Abrams: 21-year-old singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and American Idol finalist Casey Abrams, proves he is here to stay with his self-titled debut album on Concord Records.
Casey, co-wrote sang played bass, acoustic guitar, drums, Wurlitzer and even recorder. Casey Abrams opens with the finger-snapping cool of “Simple Life,” affirming there’s a genuine artist at work here. “Ghosts” and “Get Out,” prove Casey’s capability as a contemporary songwriter, “Wore Out My Soul” shows his R&B balladeer chops and he makes musical mini-movies on both “Great Bright Morning” and “Midnight Girl.”
“Blame It On Me” features Casey’s soulful bass line and vocal agility. Romantic desire is made sexy on “A Boy Can Dream,” and he delivers a vocal tour de force on “Dry Spell.” To cap the disc, Abrams pays homage to Ray Charles on “Hit The Road Jack” performed as a slinky duet with fellow Idol contestant Haley Reinhart (produced by Steve Jordan).
Casey Abrams’ story is that of a born natural, but it’s also the story of a person who studied diligently and worked extremely hard, striving toward his dream of a life in music. He was born in Austin, Texas to professionally accomplished, extraordinarily creative parents. Casey’s mother, Pamela Pierce, a screenwriter and teacher, also plays piano and sings. His father, Ira Abrams currently teaches at Idyllwild Arts Academy, the distinguished private school in the mountains above Palm Springs, California that proved instrumental in shaping Casey’s musical life. The walls of Casey’s childhood home resonated with, “the music of the 1950s and ‘60s,” he states. Even then, he was “hearing those blues riffs and little things that make a song what it is.”
At ten years old, Casey moved to Idyllwild and attended the Idyllwild Summer Arts program prior to enrolling in the academy. By sixth grade he began playing the electric bass guitar and in time gained proficiency on guitar, upright bass, cello, drums, even the sitar. In middle school he started recording orchestral arrangements of his own voice on his karaoke machine. “It was a dream,” he says of the school that cultivates students from diverse backgrounds in music, theatre, dance, visual art, creative writing, moving pictures and interdisciplinary arts. His jazz and upright bass instructor, Marshall Hawkins, played with Miles Davis and Roberta Flack. “He changed my life,” says Casey. “I’m a musician now thanks to Marshall.”
The incredible exposure to the entire range of timeless popular music had an intense influence on Casey’s development. He waxes rhapsodically about jazz icons like Oscar Peterson and Thelonious Monk and “the one song that really changed me: Cannonball Adderley’s version of ‘Autumn Leaves,’ Miles plays on it.” That’s just a small part of his inspiration. He lists James Taylor, Freddie Mercury, AC/DC and even Jack Black as major influences.
Abrams tried out for American Idol in Austin. “I had a heart attack when they chose me,” Casey recalls. “I was like: this is the ticket. As soon as I got that foot in the door I knew I could make it. I was so happy.”
Not too long afterwards, Abrams found himself in London recording his debut album. “It was the best experience, so fun,” he enthuses of being in London, working with producer Martin Terefe, whose credits include Jason Mraz, Train (the hit “Soul Sister”), Mary J Blige, KT Tunstall, a-ha, James Morrison, Martha Wainwright, Cat Stevens, Jamie Cullum and others. “I walked to work every morning to Kensaltown Studios, an amazing workshop filled with musicians, writers and producers. I buzzed the big green door, went up three flights of stairs into the room with the big green couches and just chilled. It didn’t feel like I was making an album, just having a good time, hanging out and making and writing music with friends. London’s just such a creative place.”
Casey Abrams reflects the organic creativity he found with his collaborators and the ensuing natural ease that was a hallmark of making it. Even though his prodigious artistic gifts and widescreen creative vision augur many great things in the future, his ambition at heart remains very simple. “I want to make music that people love.” And so he has on his first album, and will continue to do for some time to come.
Jonny and The Jones: "Texas born guitar singer, Jonny Perdue grew up heavily rooted in blues & rock n' roll. In his most recent musical endeavor, Jonny & The Jones, Jonny fuses hard-driving blues with indie overtones. Growing up influenced by the likes of Howlin' Wolf, Muddy Waters, Sam Cooke & Ray Charles, Jonny carved out his sound for the 21st century blues and rock n' roll. After opening shows for acts like Robert Randolph and The Los Lonley Boys, Jonny's live performance is ramping up and his debut EP 'Javelina' is to be released next summer."
Whitney Steele: Award-winning singer/songwriter Whitney Steele has most recently shared the stage with Kenny Loggins, Dave Mason (of Traffic) the Gin Blossoms, Eddie Money, Shawn Colvin, J.R. Richards (of Dishwalla), Roger Clyne and The Peacemakers, and Tyler Hilton. She can also be seen every Saturday night as one of the judges on the CBS television show 'Lucky Break'. Whitney was selected as 1 of 5 finalists from more than 300 AT&T/Cingular Music Studio artists nationwide to compete for a chance to perform 'You Won't See Me Crying' on an episode of the hit television show One Tree Hill on the CW network. Gretsch Guitars selected Whitney to debut one of the four guitars in the Gretsch Americana series in her music video for Storm Warning. In 2007, she was nominated for best pop single of the year for the Hollywood F.A.M.E. Awards. Whitney swept the Phoenix Music Awards in 2008, winning best singer/songwriter, best single of the year, and best music video of the year. Continuing her successful rise to national stardom, Whitney also received a nomination for best music video of the year at the Los Angeles Music Awards. Whitney captured the attention of Scotty Johnson (lead guitarist of The Gin Blossoms), and he immediately supported her career, believing in not only Whitney's talent, but also in her unparalleled drive and passion. Scotty joined Whitney and her band on stage to perform at The Arizona Broadway Theatre. Robin Wilson (lead singer of The Gin Blossoms) lent his unmistakable vocals in Whitney's original song, 'You Won't See Me Crying.' Whitney’s self-titled second album was released in 2009. Scotty Johnson and P.H.Naffah (former drummer for the Refreshments and current drummer for Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers) both jumped on board to contribute to the CD. It's no surprise that Whitney has earned the respect of industry greats. She is truly one-of-a-kind, a rare blend of innate talent, pure determination, quirky humor and a love for music that emanates through each and every one of her songs and performances. Her hard work is paying off and Whitney is poised for a level of success reserved only for the most deserving of artists.