American Idol fans who followed Season 10 would be hard pressed to forget the face and voice of Casey Abrams. The jazz-trained singer and musician brought an entirely different kind of energy to the Idol stage. He charmed viewers and the judges with his quirky personality, so much so that he was saved from elimination during the Top 11 results show.
Since leaving the show, Casey struck a record deal with the Concord Music Group and released his self-titled debut album. We spoke to Casey exclusively about his experience on Idol after his album release, his music career, and who he thinks would make a great American Idol judge. (Hint: His nickname is Ginger Bear.)
Wetpaint Entertainment: You’re not like the typical American Idol contestant. Why did you try out for the show?
Casey Abrams: I figured everyone else is doing it, just kinda peer pressure. But no, my mom had been watching the show, and I’d walk past the living room, and I’d always make fun of it. I’d be like, ‘You know, I could do that mom.’ And she’s like, ‘Alright, I believe in you. You should go try out.’ And I did. At the time I was just a jazz bass player, and she's like, ‘Wouldn’t it be interesting if you brought your upright [bass] onto the show?’ And I said, ‘Yeah, it would be kind of interesting. It might be good TV.’”
What were the highlights for you?
I think the fact that I did get to play some upright bass on there. I sort of love the bass, the jazzier side of things.
Were there difficult moments for you?
I’m gonna say yes. Being on the show really let me grow confidence in playing what I want. I had to deal with [recently fired] Jimmy Iovine a whole bunch and I had to say no to him, which kind of built up courage. I think that has to help me in being in the industry.
He doesn’t really seem like someone you can say “no” to.
He’s kinda like a mob boss. But you know, I say that with love, and I think he does have the best interest for people.
How did the deal with Concord Music Group come about?
I was in New York doing one of the Idol tour dates, and Randy Jackson brought a Concord guy along. I played a couple songs and he saw me perform. And then a couple months later, I got signed.
As a new artist, what were some of the important things you wanted to showcase with your debut album?
I really wanted to show that I can play music with instruments... not just with a voice. On every track I try to play one or two instruments. It’s usually the bass, but there’s guitar and drums and cello, a little bit of melodica as well. Also, I wanted to tell stories, some true, some fun.
You worked with some big songwriting names on your album. What was that like for you?
It’s weird, because I grew up with Garage Band. I always worked on my own arrangements and I’d do my own harmonies and stuff like that and play all the instruments and write my own songs... I think collaboration, that’s what music is. It’s not even people, it’s two notes together. That's collaboration, to make a good chord.
You’re pretty busy with the new album and everything, does this leave time for things in your life like dating? There were rumors that you and Haley Reinhart were dating...
I’d definitely be bragging about that... but no... we do hang out every once in awhile. We show each other music, it’s always fun. And the other Idols as well you know, Stefano [Langone] every once in awhile, even Paul [McDonald].
Did you watch Idol after your season at all?
Yeah, I felt like I had to, since I’m like an alumni now.
What were your thoughts on the contestants in Season 11?
(Jokingly) We were way better. I think there’s some incredible standout voices, and i think it’s cool that Phillip Phillips won, a real musician. Everyone who’s on that show is kind of a winner. Josh [Ledet], Jessica [Sanchez], and Elise [Testone]... I think that just her soulful voice, it’s just incredible.
Who do you think would make good replacement judges?
I think I'd make a good judge. [Chuckling] I think we should start building that up, I think I should be it. I mean, I did come in 6th place, so maybe not. And then Adam Lambert though... It’s a crazy time. I say they bring in, maybe just all three of the Jonas Brothers. Nah, that’d be boring, wouldn't it? I think you have to have a musician, you have to have a hot chick, and then you have to have a crazy dude.
It’s been talked about that Idol is likely to undergo a lot of creative changes in the future. How would you change the show?
It’s cool leaving it up to America to vote but I think maybe the judges should have the final say, you know what i mean? Maybe that. And also, there should be an original song week, or something like that. But then again, maybe it’s not a good idea because there are some people who can sing their a** off but maybe can’t write a good song. But you put them in a room with a whole bunch of songwriters, something will happen.
During Season 10, you battled some health issues due to ulcerative colitis. How is that affecting you these days?
I still have it but it’s definitely not an issue at this point. I’ve been looking after myself, and trying to not be stressed out all the time. It’s been working. I haven’t had a symptom in about a year, so that's a good thing.
Is there anything else you want to share?
I would just say, I encourage people to try and learn all of my songs and try and cover them and put them on YouTube. Just for my pleasure... it might be a good learning exercise.