Gold Coast Music Awards People’s Choice winner, Casey Barnes is a humble family man. He speaks animatedly about meeting his wife Michelle at a café / bar in Broadbeach and the challenges of juggling kids, travel (for both Casey and Michelle) and being home with a 2yo.
“I’ve had her home with me every day for two years,” he says of their youngest daughter. “Michelle works for Dreamweaver and does corporate events – not just here but around the country.” And the he runs me through the tag-team, high five approach they have to parenting. One of them travelling, one of them at home, the other gigging, all of them at a festival. Like many couples with young kids, life sounds crazy.
Casey first came to prominence when he reached the finals of Australian Idol back in 2009, at which point he’d been living on the Gold Coast for ten years. Gut that wasn’t his first introduction to music – he’d already released a bunch music before starring on the show.
“Its funny… I always said I’d never ever go on a reality TV show,” Casey told us. “Prior to Australian Idol I’d already had a few lucky breaks opening for Bryan Adams and momentum was starting to build, however enough people got in my ear to at least audition for Idol so I decided to… and it turned out to be a good decision.”
“I was always anti-reality TV and probably still am, if I’m being honest,” Casey said. “It’s sad what it’s done to the Australian music industry. It really is sad that a lot of really super talented musicians feel like it’s the only way they can break through and get exposure. I feel as though major record labels are just being lazy.”
He has come along way, both in his musical career and as a person since then. He says his biggest lesson is to find your own sound, and then you will find your audience.
“I’m now creating and writing music that represents me the best way. It’s true to me, it’s something I’m very connected to. I’m not writing stuff and thinking yeah, that’s going to appeal to commercial FM radio. I just write it and go yeah, that’s a good song,” Casey said.
Not surprising, Casey also says being a dad and being married has had an impact on him as a person too. “I’ve become more settled and comfortable in my own skin,” he said.
That family is so central to Casey’s days is no surprise. He harbours fond memories of a childhood home full of music. He’s previously told Blank about concerts at his auntie’s and nan’s homes – where he’d stand up on a box and sing nursery rhymes for twenty cents. And if you follow Casey on Periscope you’ll know he doesn’t care whether the audience is live or at the end of a mobile phone. He interrupts his songs for a hello, hi, how ya going. He’s got to be one of the nicest guys in music.
Crediting his penchant for performing to a teacher who pushed him out of his comfort zone, you’ll find Casey at the broadest range of venues: just as much at home on stage with the Hussy Hicks, He’s performed on The Morning Show as well as the Marngrook Footy Show, he’s popular with festival organisers and often pops up opening for football games – and last year he also opened for Mariah Carey. But he didn’t always have that confidence.
“I was always a bit shy and nervous performing in front of a crowd as a kid so I have to largely thank my parents for encouraging me,” he said. “Then a major pivotal moment was when my high school music teacher Mr Edwards convinced me to perform in front of the entire school. At first I was very against the idea as it was WAY out of my comfort zone but I got over my nerves, performed and have never looked back since!”
“If someone had told me at the start of my career that I would get to open for the highest selling female artist of all time I would have most likely laughed in their face,” Casey said.
As well as performing with big names, are there people he’d die to perform alongside? Casey says Bryan Adams, who he’s also shared a stage with, was the first CD he ever owned.
“I grew up listening to The Beatles, James Taylor, Elton John and Gerry Rafferty so have been heavily influenced by their music,” he said. “I’d LOVE to open or play alongside guys like James Taylor, Elton John or Rob Thomas.”
Perhaps surprising to anyone who don’t know the parties involved, he’s also champing at the bit to do some writing with the Hussy Hicks. “I think they’re phenomenal musicians and songwriters, they’re doing the hard yards and I have great respect for them,” he said. “It was actually Julz who suggested Nick DiDia for my new single. She was the one who put me through to him.”
Casey’s single Flesh and Bone was a finalist for Song of the Year in last week’s Gold Coast Music Awards and as well as being a finalist for Artist of the Year, he was also voted the People’s Choice winner. Casey said the awards have been positive for the local scene.
“Just the fact that the awards were on this year has been awesome,” he said. “And it’s great that so many different artists were acknowledged – so many diff types of acts represented, a great spread. That was brilliant.”
“The People’s Choice, it was amazing how it took off and then spread like wildfire. It’s amazing what social media can do and how small the world is. We had – even on twitter – mates that play in the AFL and Lynn from Home and Away and then the exposure we got on Periscope and that American TV show telling everyone to vote. It went nuts. From the People’s Choice, there’s probably a few hundred people who didn’t know who I was and do now.”
Watch Casey’s short acceptance speech here:
Just one day before accepting his People’s Choice award, Casey signed a worldwide management deal with major US company, Arrow Entertainment. Headed up by Chris Sobonya, Arrow has offices in Nashville and Seattle and a roster of artists from the US, Canada, Sweden, The Netherlands, UK and Germany.
Casey believes the union will help build his profile internationally. “It’s a pretty big deal,” he said. “I’ve been going backwards and forwards to the States for a few years, chipping away and building relationships. They’re different to a lot of companies. They have their finger on the pulse as to what’s happening right now, how the industry is changing and different approaches you need to take. I’m keen to keep building here on the Gold Coast and Australia but it’d be great to try and branch out and get some traction overseas as well.”
The record deal was announced just days after Casey recorded his yet to be released single The One You Love at Byron’s Studio 301 with a legendary US producer who is now based in Australia and as mentioned previously, was recommened to him by Julz Parker (Hussy Hicks).
“It’s a song I’ve wanted to record for nearly 12 months. I was very lucky to team up with Nick DiDia who has produced the single. Nick is a US producer and has worked with everyone from Bruce Springsteen, Pearl Jam, Train, Powderfinger and Kasey Chambers…. I can’t wait for you guys to hear it!”
Casey’s previous single Hard Times released in April 2015, was filmed at Miami Marketta and was co-written and produced by Rick Price, who Casey says he has a lot to thank for. “Rick had been like a father figure or big brother really… we’ve become very good friends and he’s taught me so much about becoming a better musician, performed and song writer,” Casey said.
Marlena’s minute with Casey Barnes
- If I went to jail it would be for? Road rage ha ha
- My passion is? Music, family and health
- In ten year’s time I will be? Winning a Grammy
- What posters were on your wall as a teenager? Lots of music posters, surfing for some reason and I don’t surf now.
- Country or city? Can I say a mix of both?
- First car? A little Mazda 323,cost me $1000 from memory
- My favourite ice cream? Chocolate!!
- Drink of choice? Easy… coffee
- To relax I…? Love going to the movies or a long run to think and listen to music
- My pet hate is? People who don’t indicate at round-abouts ha ha
- Favourite food? Coffee (oh that’s not a food)
- Favourite holiday spot? USA or Thailand
- First job? Flippin’ burgers at McDonalds
- If I wasn’t doing music I would be? Travelling the world…. working as a travel agent OR I’d be a primary school teacher.