Casey McQuillen is a real firecracker. She “popped” on the video I watched of her before I agreed to interview her. Her voice is gorgeous. Her personal style is so effervescent. She makes shaking up a bottle of soda seem tame in comparison.
You can see what I mean here in this cover of Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off”!
As you will note in the podcast (embedded below) that I did yesterday (4/8/2017) on the phone with Casey, I don’t dive into an interview quite that way with most musicians that I don’t know. I ask a lot of basic questions and for some reason, I felt that I didn’t need to do that with Casey. She is exceptionally accessible and very willing to talk and share her personal experiences. While we didn’t talk about her time on American Idol, we did talk about her “cause” or purpose -which is deals with bullying.
We also talked about the importance of being a good business person and why she had a double major at Berklee College of Music. She majored in “sing/songwriter” and “music business” because it’s a key to becoming a successful musician. She’s light years beyond where most singer/songwriters are in terms of understanding and directing where her career is going. As we talked, we covered the music video she was shooting today (4/9/2017) and how she spent a good chunk of Saturday finding a great dress for that music video. You can hear why she had to do that and how she approached solving that “not-so-small” problem the day before a big video shoot.
(photo credit: Shervin Lainez)
Casey is a thoughtful singer/songwriter with a ton of “cred” via her experiences on American Idol Season 13. It comes up a lot when she performs at various high schools in her efforts to expand the conversation about bullying.
Casey didn’t set out to become an anti-bullying advocate; it just happened. What began as a favor to a former middle school teacher snowballed into a piece of her career that sets her apart from her peers. The songs Casey wrote alone in her room at thirteen became the foundation of these school performances. The “You Matter” Tour is an interactive concert that allows Casey to connect deeply with students about bullying and self-confidence. She is, simply, a singer who has an effective program about self-love.
“I have never met a 15-year-old who thinks they came out of middle school unscathed,” explains Casey. “It is so hard to hold on to self-confidence at a time in your life when you have so many insecurities, whether it be about your appearance, your grades or your friends; it’s universal.”
Casey’s goal is to help students define their own sense of self-worth, regardless of the opinions of others. They might not be able to control what happens to them, but they can reject the notion that it defines them. Casey gives these children a voice through her songs and stories. A former Season 13 contestant on American Idol, Casey uses her appearance on the show to highlight this idea of self-doubt.
“Students are always so excited that I was on American Idol. At the beginning of the “You Matter” Tour, they perceive me as famous, confident and successful. But as I walk them through my experience on the show, they start to see it from my perspective. They see the pressure I placed on myself, my fear of disappointing everyone I knew, and the shame I felt for being cut. By the end of the story, they can see how my insecurities distorted my perception of reality. When I finally recognized this duality, the success everyone else saw and the failure that I saw, I realized that I was holding myself back because I feared what people would think. I think the students deal with these same insecurities on a daily basis, whether it be auditioning for the school play or running for student council. It’s all universal.”
Casey walked away from that experience with new confidence and her own version of the golden rule: It’s not just about treating others the way you want to be treated, it’s also about treating yourself the way you would treat others.
“You would never judge your friend for only making JV, would you?” Casey asks. “You’d think that was awesome. So why do you judge yourself that way?”
At the end of each performance on her “You Matter” tour, Casey sings “Beautiful” – the first single off of her new EP. It focuses on a specific moment in time when, at 17, she looked in the mirror and noticed everything she wished she could change. That secret belief that life would be better if only she were beautiful still occasionally haunts her today.
Another thing that we talked about during this podcast is that Casey is performing at the Hotel Cafe here in Los Angeles tomorrow, 4/10/2017 at 7 PM in Room 2 (2nd Stage). We talked about her prep for this event and how she takes the time to be ready for her first performance at one of the most important venues for the indie/alt singer/songwriter. You can find more information about Casey’s show on Facebook HERE.
There’s a lot more to this conversation.. and Casey is “present” and shares openly issues that some might never think about (like how hard it is to do a 10 hour video shoot among many other things!)
Here is the podcast embed. You can listen to it here or head over to my SoundCloud page and listen to it there. I apologize for my scratchy voice. I have been getting over bronchitis and allergies.
Casey McQuillen doing a cover of Katy Perry’s “Dark Horse”.
Casey McQuillen – Come Back To Me (Live Performance)
Follow Casey McQuillen on these social platforms:
Thank you to Casey McQuillen for her time during this interview. Surprisingly, it was a hair under 30 minutes!
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