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Catching Up With 'American Idol' Alum Casey James

The Season 9 finalist talks about the progress of his debut album, what it was like to be back in the 'Idol' studio and his impression of the new judges.

Casey James
Joseph Anthony Baker
Casey James

Performances -- and saves! -- aside, this was an exceptionally good week on American Idol, not just for the contestants, but for audience members who were treated to a stellar show and a star-packed house. Among the cheering fans in the rafters on Motown night? One Casey James, third place finisher and cougar favorite from Season 9 who was born with the blues bug and brought that passion for playing guitar to the Idol stage week after week. So what has the looker -- dubbed Goldilocks last year -- from Cool, Texas been doing since graduating from Idol to the arena stage as an opener for Sugarland? Idol Worship caught up with Casey after Wednesday’s show. 

THR: So Casey, this your first time back in the Idol studio, how does it feel?   Casey James: It's intense. I get nervous for the contestants and I want everyone to do well. Other than that, it's just good to be here and see everybody. You make such deep friendships with everybody that's here. But it’s also been a day of realizing, "Wow, I went through this process..." It's crazy.    THR: Any flashbacks?   James: Yeah! [Laughs] I went in the bathroom and I felt like I was late for the stage or something. I remembered being in that bathroom, getting my mind right and getting into the zone where I needed to be. So I was in there and I splashed some water on my face and looked in the mirror, like, "Oh my God, I'm done! I don't have to go on stage!" It still feels like I was just here yesterday.   THR: What do you think of the talent this year?    James: You know what? I'm impressed! All of the singers are amazing. Everybody is really, really good. But what stuck out to me is that the judges were giving a lot of really good constructive criticism. Like "Hey, maybe you should've hit that high note eight bars sooner." [The contestants] can take that advice and really use it.    THR: Do you feel like your season could have used more of that kind of criticism?   James: To each his own. For me, regardless the outcome of what was said, I feel confident with what I did. And I'm really thankful for the experience. But I think it's good now to have someone leading you in a direction that you might have gone on your own, but you just needed that extra push. It would have been helpful. You never know what might have been said.   THR: You’ve been on the road with Sugarland, how is that going and how does it feel to be playing in front of these huge sold-out crowds?   James: Jennifer [Nettles] and Kristian [Bush], they are unbelievable people and musicians. It's mind-blowing to me. When I got to do the American Idol summer tour, I met a lot of the people who put me here, and now it's kind of like I get to start over again. But I'm playing my own stuff, songs that are from my heart, and to see people singing along is literally, exactly what I want for my life. I've never felt so blessed.    THR: You're still working on your debut album, how are you managing to tour, write and record?    James: By not sleeping very much. [Laughs] No, it's not as bad as you would think. The tour isn’t non-stop, I have time to work when I go back home.   THR: Where is the album at right now? Is it finished?   James: I feel like it's just a moment away. It could be done next week, but it might also be done next month. I don't know.    THR: If it were up to you, when would the record come out?    James: When it's right. I know a lot of people are anxious to hear it, and I could have absolutely had a record out by now, but you know what? I want it to be deserving of the fans that put me in this position. I want it to be worth their money. I want to be able to look back on it and be proud of it. So if it takes me another six months, then OK. But it's going to be really soon. There's something going to radio, so start listening out for my stuff.    THR: Most Idol-affiliated labels want new music out as soon as humanly possible, but it seems yours (Sony Nashville) has been more patient…   James: They are. The label, my management, everyone who is surrounding me right now, they’re all good people and we’re all on the same page. Every single person is like, "We want this to be right." And because of that, there's no pressure and it's just awesome. They understand that, for me, it's been 12 years of playing in bars and six months in the show and here I am!   THR: Word is you’ve written every song on the album, what has been inspiring you lyrically?   James: I'm at an interesting place in my life. Everything is great, but I'm also in a new place where I'm alone a lot -- just me and the dogs. So you pull from that, from all the good and the bad of your experiences in life. It's writing like I've always done but now I'm lucky enough to be working with some amazing songwriters that live in Nashville. They really know the craft and they help me. I might be a word away, and they’ll say, "Well, why don't you try this?" And I go, "Yep, that's it! Thank you!" So it's really a privilege and it just helps my game.    THR: What have you learned about the music business in your experience so far?    James: That it's a whole lot of work. More than even when I was gigging every day. You do so many different things and you have your head in so many different places. I have a list of things that I try to keep up with and it's really ridiculous, I lose track of time. But I’d much rather it be busy than the other way around.   THR: Is there anything you missed about Los Angeles?    James: I didn't realize how much I missed it. I love LA now! It feels like I have a connection with this town and I have so many friends here that I can't wait to come back.