By Will Estell
It’s a hot sunny Saturday in Montgomery Alabama, and there in a dusty steel arena, kicked back in a folding chair, watching her three children, and husband, compete in various rodeo events sits Casey Kearney. An unassuming thirty-something who I watched, just two weekends before, at a live concert as she filmed the video for her first single to achieve country radio airplay, “Better Days”.
One day after a weekend full of rodeo events and out-of-state travel, this same mom/songwriter/performer/teacher was partaking in this interview. Because she had to get it in on a Sunday so she could homeschool her three kids on Monday. Well, that, and there are always horses to feed, chickens to gather eggs from, and the typical never-ending chores that go along with farm life. Did I mention she also has a new album dropping soon? That’s what you call a balancing act, and that, my friends, seems to be the real-life and times of small-town country girl turned popular Northwest Florida music sensation, Casey Kearney.
Your inspiring entrance into writing and performing came once you were already a wife and mom. Tell me a little about your musical background and how you came to be Casey Kearney the performer.
I honestly did not know I could actually sing until my late 20’s. I could not play any instruments and I had never written before. Both of my parents sang when I was growing up and both were amazing, but I never did. Songwriting started as an outlet to release feelings I was dealing with at the time, then evolved into something I really enjoyed. I had an extreme case of stage fright and that took a lot of work to get over. Learning to play instruments between nap times and laundry loads was challenging. I had two little ones and was pregnant with my third.
When I meet musicians that have played their whole lives I think, wow, don’t take that for granted, I’ve been playing catch up my whole career!
Around 2010 I played a few gigs with musician friends. It just didn’t seem to work. In 2016 I reached a now or never moment. The kids were slightly older, and I knew that music was something I absolutely had to pursue. I really buckled down on learning to play guitar, and I went to Nashville to record my first EP. It was expensive, but I charged it on a couple of credit cards, determined to pay for it myself before the interest hit me hard. I did and it felt so good. I just continued to press on from there, learning several other instruments and developing artistically.
Where does your desire to create come from, and where do you want to take that? What does the ideal future hold for you?
I think the desire to create is a gift that God gives us. Whether we choose to use it or not is on us. It is one of those things that is just in you.
If I am not making music I am building, remodeling, painting, or creating something, somehow. It’s who I am.
I’ve always been impressed with your ability to cover tunes in your own voice, but moreover your writing and lyrical content in your original tunes. Where do you draw that inspiration from?
Real-life. I would consider myself a literal writer. I can paint a picture with words, but its typically going to be a pretty clear message, not as flowery and abstract as some. So much of what I write comes from pieces of my life, stories I hear, and things I am feeling or am passionate about. I need to connect to the words on some level.
I’ve asked everyone from Jimmy Buffet to Kenny Chesney to Darius Rucker if they consider themselves writers or more so performers, and which side is more important and fulfilling for them as artists. What about for Casey Kearney?
That is super hard for me to answer! I started out dealing with an extreme amount of stage fright it was a huge hurdle to overcome. I eventually learned the power of stage presence, how to connect with an audience. I realized how much of a performer I am, even if I didn’t know it was in there. As for songwriting, When I write something that I connect to so deep it brings a smile or tears, that’s when I truly realize what songwriting is. I honestly feel very connected to both almost equally.
I know you recently completed a new album in Nashville. I’ve heard the new album, and particularly like “Waffle House”, “More to the Story”, and your first title track, “Better Days”. Tell us about the new album, and what it’s like to hear “Better Days” being played on country radio’s Sirius XM for listeners across the country.
Thank you for that! I am so excited and proud of this album. I started working toward this project a couple of years ago. I released other projects here and there, but this full album of originals was what I really wanted. It is full of songs and stories of my life and friends’ lives. There are lyrics from the depth of my soul and some dripping in sarcasm. The whole project very much embodies pieces of my personality.
We had enough done on “Better Days” to move forward and release it as a single. When I have introduced this song at shows for the past year I would say, “This song is a pep talk that things won’t always be rough and better days are coming for you.” It couldn’t have been more perfect timing. Hearing my song played on Siruis XM The Highway was something I never thought would happen. When Buzz Brainard said ‘Welcome to The Highway Casey Kearney!’ my jaw dropped. The whole experience feels like a dream… I thought it would be the coolest thing of 2020, but then a few weeks later I was invited to sing our National Anthem for the Atlanta Braves and that was just over the top awesome. Especially as a lifelong Braves fan! Even though I had to film it in the hallway of my house seeing the video of it playing in the stadium was a moment I will never forget. They have invited me next year to the stadium to perform when things are back to normal. I can’t wait!
You started out playing gigs along 30A, and a good number of your local shows are still in this area. Tell me about that and what impact the 30A beach communities have had on your musical career.
30A has had a HUGE impact on me being able to do what I do. Going on the road for months at a time is not an option for my family, but in one night I can play to something like 10 different states and countries, all while they’re visiting our beautiful beaches. Then do it all for a completely different group the next night. 30A as a tourist area close to my home is a blessing, but 30A being one of the most beautiful, desired beach destinations in the country is amazing! I am always so grateful to be a part of the 30A community and all the people and friends, like the 30A Company who support me so much and help make this whole ride possible.
What are some of your personal favorite spots to visit, and things to do, on 30A when you’re not playing music here?
If I am not playing I usually like to meet up with friends at some of my favorite restaurants like Great Southern in Seaside, The Bay, and Shunk Gulley… and I eat the exact same thing every time! The Artists at Gulf Place usually have something fun going on. Also, my family likes to fish all they can, and we do that along some of these beautiful beach towns. I really like Grayton Beach and it’s such a cool spot to just hang out and have fun. The Hub is another favorite of ours too.
I know artists, at every level, who are so ready to get back to the stage and the road and play, and I know you’ve been blessed to continue to book shows throughout the summer. What has the whole playing through a pandemic been like for you?
It has been such a strange time for everyone, and as a musician I joked a lot that we found out how “non-essential” we were. When restaurants aren’t even allowed to be at full capacity hiring a musician for only 25-50% occupancy doesn’t make sense.
I feel so extremely blessed to have been able to play for venues that got us back to work as soon as possible. Several even made sure to book make-up dates when we opened back up. I have played more private parties this year than I ever have. I love being a part of special events, whether it’s celebrating a milestone occasion, a vacation bonfire, or one of many corporate parties lately.
My gig schedule is unique because I choose not to play every night. I homeschool my three kids, and they are very active in rodeo so I like to be there for as much as I can. I typically play 2-4 nights a week. This year, on average 1-2 per week have been public shows and the others private.
I think your life is more country than most any country artists I personally know. Tell our readers about the Casey Kearney behind the scenes, the farm living wife and mom, and some of the activities beyond the stage.
Yes, we live in the woods. Three miles of orange clay dirt road. It is a very small rural area about an hour from the beach. At home, we have horses, cows, dogs, goats, and chickens. My husband and three kids all rodeo. My favorite thing to do, besides music, is to ride my horse, but I don’t put in the effort they do to get as good as they are in the rodeo event. I got shows to do and can’t afford to get hurt.
Where do you want to be in five years professionally? What’s the dream Casey Kearney is working toward?
It sounds really nerdy and cliché, but my ultimate dream is to enjoy whatever stage I am on, or at in life. I just want to play music that I enjoy creating and do it for people that like it.
I am blessed to live in a region that is so supportive of musicians and creative people of all types.
I love my family, and I love making music, and I strive to find balance in both. Sometimes I get it and sometimes I fail miserably. I just want to look back knowing I tried and did my best at both.
Any parting words for your fans and readers?
I am just so thankful to the faithful fans I have come to know over the past few years and for all of the support. Not only do they hire me for shows, share my music with their friends, and enjoy the happenings of my crazy family life on social media, they truly do care and have taken an interest in helping me succeed. It has been a journey that I will appreciate forever. If we haven’t connected I would love to get to know you and your stories, and have you along on this ride.
When and where can fans get your newest music/album?
The new album will release digitally on October 2, 2020.