Casey Barnes most recent album has been a career-defining one. Which is saying something given the Gold Coast musician’s lengthy career.
It’s his fifth album and it’s hit #1 in the Country Music Charts, but it’s certainly not his most memorable achievement. Nor is being a Golden Guitar finalist. Casey says the biggest thing to happen in his career is still that time he got his big break 13 years ago. And I can’t believe it’s a story I haven’t heard.
It was 2005 when he scored an opening set for Bryan Adams. And that all happened thanks to a corporate gig he’d done for John Eales (of Wallabies fame).
“I met John at one of those events,” he said. “I had that one indie album I’d recorded with Mark Watson (it was pretty average, to be honest). A week went by, John tracked my number down and he rang. It was a crazy call.”
John had been listening to Casey’s CD in his car and was pretty taken with his songs. He offered to help Casey find his feet.
“And I’m like, how the hell is John Eales going to help me in the music industry.”
Long story short, he got offered the support slot for Bryan Adams at A Day On The Green. The only thing is, Casey had never played a big show. He’d never performed in front of a big audience. And even though the gig itself ended up being one of his best, not everything went smoothly.
“In the middle of the set, and the crowd was into it, my little DI that I plug my acoustic lead into, got a flat battery. I was just about to start a song, there was no signal, no sound and it’s the first time I’d done a big gig, I shat myself.”
Casey’s drummer Wazza jumped onto the mic straight away, basically keeping the crowd laughing through the mishap. He told them Casey would be selling and signing CDs after the show, but that he also had a new book. A coffee-table book. Full of nudes. And that it was a 3D pop-up book.
“All these guys running around trying to switch the plug over… and the whole crowd is laughing. It was a really funny moment and the rest of the set couldn’t have gone any better.”
“I got an encore and I’d never had one before. I didn’t even have a song prepared, so I just started playing ‘Your Song’ on my own by Elton John – and then I got a standing ovation.”
“The promoter said go take a look at the merch tent and I spent an hour there, and back in those days, people were buying CDs. I think we sold 200 albums. And the promoter said afterwards, ‘just so you know, you sold more albums today than Bryan Adams’.”
“Seriously, nobody knew who I was.”
Things have changed quite a bit for Casey Barnes since that show, 13 years ago. And his music continues to evolve. This new album – which he feels is a critical one – was always intended to take Casey in a slightly different direction.
“The last album, we recorded with Rick Price in Nashville and it had an organic sound and did well,” Casey explained. “But with this album, I wanted to start from scratch.”
“I formed a really good relationship with Michael Paynter and Michael DeLorenzis (MSquared Productions) and when the three of us get together something magic happens. They’re coming from a really modern head-space and mixing that with my country headspace. We wanted some bangin’ up-tempo rocking tracks – songs that are strong on the album but great to perform live,” Casey said.
‘Good Life’ is an eight-track album and the most recent single ‘Be Mine’ is its fourth single. Casey said the concept of having a shorter album length with strategic single releases has worked well for him. The first single ‘The Way We Ride’ saw Casey nominated for a Golden Guitar award. The other single releases have charted well too.
“You can get more longevity out of it [an eight-track album] because people are going to listen the whole way through,” Casey explained. “It’s worked really worked well. We’ve had positive feedback from fans.”
Casey played at one of the newest country music events in the country this year – CMC Rocks and was stoked to hear the crowd singing his lyrics back at him.
“It was my first time playing at CMC and that’s the first time that’s happened at a big festival,” he said. “I was like, ‘wow, these guys actually know these songs’.”
“The most important thing is that fans connect to your songs and they come to your gigs.”
While he travels Australia and charts across the world with his music, Casey is fiercely proud to be a Gold Coaster and acknowledges the pool of talented people who call the city home. He feels that SEQ is a bright new hub for country music in Australia. Artists like Adam Brand and Lee Kernaghan call the city home, CMC holds its country music awards here as well as its festival CMC Rocks just outside of the city and we’ve got the fastest growing country music event in Groundwater Country Music Festival.
“Groundwater gave me my very first start when it came to country music festivals,” he said. “At least ten years ago. I was knocking on the door trying to get on lineups and Duck [Mark Duckworth] gave me one of my first goes. I’ll never forget that. He’s always been super supportive and now I’m playing main stages in our own backyard. The festival keeps getting better every year.”
“Without blowing too much smoke up his bum, Australian country music needs Mark Duckworth. It needs a shakeup. Even in the heartland, like a Tamworth, it needs a Mark Duckworth to go down there and mix it up,” he said.
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Casey Barnes plays Groundwater Country Music Festival Friday 27 July at 11.20 on the Broadbeach Mall Stage, Saturday 28 July at 4.30pm in the Kurrawa Big Top and Sunday 29 July at 2.50pm at the Surf Parade Main Stage. Get the full program at groundwatercmf.com.