The beloved Gold Coast country rock legend takes out Artist of the Year at the 2020 Virtual Gold Coast Music Awards.
It’s always heartwarming when you see a hardworking artist get a payoff for all their efforts. And this last week or so has definitely been the week of Casey Barnes, who last night beat out a tough field to take home the top gong – Artist of the Year – the Gold Coast Music Awards, hot on the heels of the massive chart success of his album ‘Town of A Million Dreams’.
It was a long road for the Gold Coast king of country, who has been a finalist for the category every year since the awards’ inception. With typical enthusiasm, Casey took to his social media after last night’s hard-earned and well-deserved win.
“[I’m] absolutely blown away to win Artist of The Year at tonight’s Gold Coast Music Awards! It’s been a pretty special last week with the new album coming out and now this to top it off…. even more so when it’s in your own back yard… This has definitely topped off a memorable last week or so.
“Huge thanks to everyone involved in putting together tonight’s awards under challenging circumstances. Extremely humbled and proud to be a Gold Coaster!”
As we are proud to call you one, Casey.
One word to describe any musician to release an album – a personal labour of love, creativity and collaboration without a physical stage to launch and sing it from – is FEARLESS. Casey dared to do this amid COVID-19 drama in mid-April, confessing that the release of ‘Town of Million Dreams’ was one of the biggest decisions he’s ever made in his music career.
And yet one week after launch date this gamble was rewarded with the album debuting at #1 on the ARIA Australian Country Music Charts, coupled with a massive debut of #4 on the ARIA Australian Artist album chart.
Blank Gold Coast’s Tiffany Mitchell Zoomed in with the Gold Coast Artist of the Year, to chat about that very road less travelled in creating this neon bright light of an album, ‘Town of a Million Dreams’.
“I’ve been going back and forth to Nashville for over a decade with writing trips and shows,” says Casey. “Then a serendipitous moment came up with Golden Guitar/ARIA winning producer Matt Fell, who I wanted to work with for ages. He shouted out to any Aussies in town to record some songs in Nashville, it synced up perfectly, and I put a few tracks out with him.”
When we mention to Casey that the album sounds tuned to a wider international audience, with a slight pop production, he says, “Funnily enough I’ve also been working with Michael Paynter from MSquared Music – a gifted musician and producer who also plays guitar for Icehouse and keyboard for the Veronicas – we wrote some of the songs together.
“The guys from MSquared come from a very pop background. When you merge that production with my country influences, it’s just this little magic mix of things that had a heck of a lot of direction on the record – we were going for that modern country sound.”
Reflecting on the international feel and polish on this new album, Casey provides a fascinating insight on Nashville.
“You know the (Nashville) bar is high, but you don’t realise how high the bar is set, you start mixing with those artists and musicians, it’s like getting into the big league and if you’re going to make it you have to be at that level – so you’ve got to be ready for it or you just have no chance.”
If anyone could be ready, it would be Casey Barnes. This popular Queensland artist has hit a new trajectory of confidence; his voice resonates like a bass bow played over steel strings, so too his story writing ability, procuring three-minute visual song lines.
His team, including wife and muse Michelle Barnes have worked hard through the turbulent times within the music industry. Casey gives a candid account of his career so far.
“It’s been a lot of blood, sweat and tears over the years, but probably the most defining thing that’s changed in the last twelve months has been Michael Chugg and getting him on board, and that’s turned things around.”
“What started as a dare, the boys at MSquared gave me this big pep talk as we started recording this album. They both said at the time, this is easily the best album you’ve done, you don’t want to put it out there and not get heard, you need to get a team around you that can help,” Casey explains.
“Michael Paynter asked me who was at the top of my wish list and I said Michael Chugg. The boys said well ‘why don’t you send him a couple of these new songs?’ And it started out as a few emails backwards and forwards. Chuggi listened to them, had heard of me, liked the songs and it all went from there.” he says.
“It was a nice feeling that someone like him, who is so passionate about Australian music, believes in what you’re doing and can see a future of where you are going – and that turned everything around.”
Chuggi, ever-present glass of red wine in hand, gave a proud salute to Casey during last night’s Virtual ceremony, which clocked more than 20,000 views. So it’s safe to say that the team is working.
As the for album itself, ‘Town of a Million Dreams’ is ten songs to fire you into the weekend, an album played on a Friday or Saturday night blaring as you (in these times) virtually head out. Driving guitar songs such as ‘Heartbreaker’ and ‘We’re Good Together,’ have rocking John Mellencamp anthems mixed with Zac Brown Band impeccable instrumentals with the hint of a floating banjo in the distance – still anchoring us to that country music genre.
Asking Casey about his duet with Missy Lancaster, on ‘No Other You’ – a rousing song that brings the tempo back to slow-mode – he retells the story of co-writing with Hayley Warner, a LA based Australian songwriter who has found international success in writing songs for Katy Perry.
“Missy Lancaster is an up-and-coming country artist and I love her voice. I sent her the lyrics Hayley wrote and she said ‘I’m in’ straight away. It was important on this album to have balance,” he says.
“It’s a break from people getting their ears pounded from country rock all of the time,” he laughs.
‘Fine Wine’ the other anthemic ballad co-written with Hayley Warner also diffuses the evocative whiskey laced power songs. This is why ‘Town of a Million Dreams’ has converted an equal amount of interest with his female fan base, because of the beautifully written songs about women.
This result confirms that Casey’s staunch fan base is growing like crazy – the musical timing impeccable as we all have a little more time to listen to a whole album. And the streaming analytics don not lie, proving this is what country music fans are loving in isolation; 10 out of 10 tracks of good-time music mementos.