'American Idol's' Casey Abrams' Debut Album: Track-By-Track (Exclusive)
In his own words, the season 10 finalist reveals the inspiration behind each song on his self-titled first album, which is out this week.
Casey Abrams is a jack of all musical trades. Not only does he have the sort of vocal chops that took him to sixth place on season 10 of American Idol, but the 21-year-old Idyllwild, Calif. native is also a talented player, boasting a staggering 11 musical instruments in his repertoire.
Abrams grew up among artists and attended the Idyllwild Arts Academy, where he studied classic bass instruction and improvisation. He proved his musical prowess as a contestant on Idol in 2011, and when Abrams was prematurely voted off in 11th place, the judges used their one “save” to give the beloved bearded wonder another chance to wow America. As things turned out, it was the first year that the American Idol tour featured its top 11 performers as opposed to the traditional top 10.
Good fortune seems to follow Abrams in all his endeavors, and after some post-Idol consideration, he signed with Concord Music Group and promptly flew to London to start working on his debut album.
Working with such acclaimed producers as Martin Terefe (Jason Mraz, KT Tunstall) and Rune Westberg (Daughtry, Adam Lambert), among others, came a little bit easier, Abrams tells THR, because Idol prepared him not just for the recording process, but for the rest of his musical career: “[The show] taught me how to say ‘No,’ which I think is a big thing," Abrams reveals. "People try to push songs down your throat, and sometimes there are some songs that aren’t ‘you.’”
Still, Abrams admits he didn’t have to use the word very often during the creation of his self-titled album. “Concord has been so helpful… They really just left it up to me, which is great because they care about what their artists think.”
Abrams co-wrote and sang every song (fellow Idol alum Haley Reinhart joins him for one cover, "Hit the Road Jack") as well as played bass, acoustic guitar, drums, Wurlitzer and even recorder on the album. With singles “Get Out, and “Simple Life” available on iTunes early, Abrams runs through the rest of his self-titled debut (out this week) in this exclusive track-by-track.
“I wrote this with [producer-songwriter] Toby Gad, and I remember sitting in my hammock, rocking back and forth and realizing that how fun it is just looking up at the sky. It’s good every once in a while. So that week, I went to Toby's little studio in the hills and he started playing this bass line on the piano. I was like, ‘Oh my god, that reminds me of that good time on that hammock.’ We were talking about how nice [it is] to put down technology for a second and just look outside."
"I was at a friend’s house and didn’t know the area too well. I wanted to go play guitar behind the house and be in nature, but I got really scared as I was hopping the fence. So I was like, ‘Why am I scared? I’m 20 years old, why do I think there’s a ghost around?’ So I tuned my guitar down to a dropped D and said, ‘I’m not scared of ghosts no more.’ I took it to Rune [Westberg], and we made it into a song…It goes even deeper than that. I’m saying that I’m not afraid of ghosts anymore, but I’m still the same with you. We can be afraid of things, but you and I can still get along.”
“There are some people out there that this song could be written about. It’s a heartbreak song with a very simple, ‘I hate you, but I love you’ kind of vibe. I wrote this on guitar with Rune Westberg and Jason Reeves, then some pop instruments came into play, and I liked it. I think it turned out pretty cool.”
“Great Bright Morning”
“‘Great Bright Morning’ is a friendship song. I wrote it with Andy Stochansky and Jamie Hartman, who are awesome, and I kind of had my dog in mind. Us walking through the hills of Idyllwild. It’s a very good dog song, saying, ‘Let’s just get lost together and go exploring.’ And the hills there are so magical. You can watch a sunset, and the only other person to enjoy it with you is your dog."
“Blame It On Me”
“This song is kind of like this chick wants to go home, but she says, ‘Oh I need to go feed my dog,’ when really she doesn’t want to blame it on the fact that I’m so sexy. That’s what’s going on in that story... It's like, 'Yeah right, you have to go feed your dog, you’re just afraid because I’m so hot'… It’s probably the least ‘me’ song, but I’m playing a character. I would never really say that."
“Wore Out My Soul”
“I wrote this one with Ian Barter. He’s a genius. He had this whole tune thought out. He had the arrangement, and I just ‘free sang,’ I improvised a made up a melody over it. Then he was being funny and said, ‘What if we just made it about shoes?’ And I said, ‘That’s hilarious, let’s do it.’ He was kind of joking, but I took the [soles] joke to the next level. We disguised it pretty well, too. We made it sound like it was a love song about a chick, but it’s actually about shoes.”
“Stuck In London”
“I was walking in London…and I came up with this melody and brought it back to [producer] Martin Terefe. He said, ‘I love it, but let’s reverse the chords of the chorus and let’s make this party jazzy.’ Then I loved it. He just went along with my madness and made it into the Caribbean dance party fun track… To be honest, I’ve probably eaten mangos three times in my life, but ‘eating mangos in a mango tree’ is fun to say…I want to paint a picture in people’s minds, and it definitely paints a picture in my mind of two lovers sitting on a tree at sunset eating mangos.”
"I wrote this with Andy Stochansky and Jamie Hartman , the guys who did ‘Great Bright Morning.’ I wanted people to think: 'Who cares what the person you love looks like? Do what in your heart feels right.' I had a relationship where I’m sure all my friends turned against me saying, 'What are you thinking?' and I was like, 'No, it works. It’s a dream; you know it’s right, how could it not be?' That’s what I wanted to get across."
“A Boy Can Dream”
“I went to a wedding once that happened on New Years Eve, and I met a chick, and there was something a little special there. Kind of cinematic in the way it happened. Then we didn’t really talk afterward. But what’s crazy is, while I was in England, the song came in for me… and it said, ‘I met her on the day of New Years Eve.’ I thought, ‘Woah, that’s kind of eerie.’ Then all the lyrics were of what had happened. I changed a couple of lines and made it my own… and I feel like it fit me pretty well. It’s about a relationship that came and went, and I’m just dreaming about what could have been.”
“This is just [about] desperation. It’s probably the jazziest one on the album. Writing it was really fun; laying down the bass track was awesome. It’s like, ‘I’m a mess, I just need to let loose tonight, baby.’ We all thought it would be funny if we started the album off really happy and then got to the negative content. But I think it’s a fun downward spiral.”
“Hit The Road Jack” feat. Haley Reinhart
“When we recorded the track and needed my vocals, we thought that it was missing a chick; we needed a chick singer. And people said, ‘What about Haley?’ and I said, ‘Oh yeah, I’ve done that before,’ and they were like, ‘Yeah, you’ve done it about three times, what’s wrong with number four?’ and I was like, ‘You’re right, let’s do it!’ Haley was kind enough on her free day from writing her own album to do it. She got up and came into the studio with me, and we sang it face=to-face. It was awesome. With Haley, I’m not afraid to hit notes. I’m very comfortable around her."
Watch Abrams perform "Stuck in London" on THR's original web show, Idol Hangover, below: