"People talk about having videos and stuff like that, and I honestly never thought it would happen," marveled Casey James, the American Idol finalist whose self-titled debut was released Tuesday (March 20). "I just kind of crossed my fingers that [the video] would be on TV at some point."
That video, "Let's Don't Call It a Night," is now playing on CMT, while the song itself is steadily climbing up the country songs chart. After 11 years of work, everything seems to be coming together for the tall Texas native, and he couldn't be happier.
His album arrives two years after his time on the hit talent show, so he was initially worried fans might have forgotten him. The single's success seems to say that they haven't, though, and James is ready to jump into the spotlight. Fans will get a close look at him as a songwriter since he co-wrote nine of the album's 11 tracks with elite members of Nashville's songwriting community like Dallas Davidson, the Warren Brothers, David Lee Murphy and Scooter Carusoe.
James recently stopped by CMT's offices to celebrate his first music video and hit song. He also talked about lessons learned on Idol and deciding not to kiss the pretty girls in "Let's Don't Call It a Night."
CMT: One thing everybody is going to notice about the video is that it's very steamy, but you don't have any scenes with the ladies. How did that happen?
(Laughs) Well, you know what man, I felt really comfortable just being myself, and I feel like that was a great introduction to me as an artist, rather than just some guy coming out of the blue making out with all these chicks on screen. I didn't really feel like that was the way to go with it. Luckily, I had an amazing director [Roman White]. With my music, I kind of want to represent good and positive things. Not like making out with a girl is bad, but I just didn't think it was a good way to introduce myself.
"Let's Don't Call It a Night" is your first video. So even though you seem like more of a music guy than a video guy, does it mean a lot to you?
Absolutely. Like you said, I'm more of a music guy than a video guy, so it's interesting and a whole new experience. I mean, I had a little bit of experience with that type of situation just being on American Idol. It's a weird and different place to be in. You kind of feel like you don't know what's going on and you just have to trust people. But when the end result comes out, it's exactly what you hoped for.
I'm sure you had to trust the people around you on American Idol, too. How does this compare?
It's exactly the same, actually. When you see a shot on TV, the time and effort that goes into making it look that way is so above and beyond. There's times when you think, "Well, there's no way this is going to look good." Somebody's telling you what to do, and you just say "OK," because you're not going to argue. You feel funny and go, "Oh, no, I'm going to look really dumb right here." Then you see the shot -- and you don't. It's the same exact thing. You have no doubt that they're going to make everything as good as it can be.
When you auditioned for Idol, you had never even seen the show. Why was that?
I've never had TV channels. I think it was like first grade or second grade when lightning struck my house and blew out the antenna with the TV, and we never had the money to fix it. It wasn't really important. It's just that I didn't have a TV. Plus, I was working every night playing gigs, so even if I did have a TV, I couldn't watch it.
When you auditioned, were you taking it seriously? What was your mindset?
That's funny, no one has ever asked me that question. The real truth is, no, I didn't think I had a chance whatsoever. Maybe it was reckless abandon that pushed me through, to be honest with you. There was a point where I was like, "Oh, my gosh. They're honestly taking me seriously and think that I can do this." In the beginning, I thought that I would just go sing and then they'd kick me out and I'd be done. I tell people that, like my mom, and she just says. "Well, there had to be some part of you that believed you could do it, or you wouldn't have made the trip." In a way, that is true, but I didn't really have that much of it. I just thought I'd go up there and do my best, and if it continues, then that's God's will.
It's taken you a long way. What's left on your list of dreams?
I'm there. My dream, it always has been, is to play music for a living. I've been blessed to be able to do that for the past 11 years. I haven't had money for the past 11 years, but I have an opportunity now that I never had before, which is to have a CD in stores. Also to have music out there on CMT and on the radio, playing shows at nicer venues, getting the opportunity to get out there and do what I love to do. That's my dream, and it's come true. There's no way that I could ever go back to where I was. I think it will always be a little better no matter what happens from here on out. That being said, my life is good. The dream has come true.