Cas Haley strummed his way to the runner-up slot on the second season of America's Got Talent -- and even drew praise from toughie judge Piers Morgan. Now, the portly Paris, Texas native has just released his first major label-backed offering, Connections, to further spread the sound of his laid-back, reggae-styled grooves and keeping-it-real vocal style. "If I'm not doing it authentically then I don’t want it," he says. His intended outcome? "To authentically express myself and help others do the same. Because it's a sweet life to be able to do that." I'll say. Want to know much more? Usmagazine.com caught up with him about his latest major breaks.
UsMagazine.com: Why don't you tell me a little bit about how you got into music. I know your parents are musicians.
Cas Haley: It really did start with that. I was raised in a family of musicians, and everybody around me growing up played and stuff. So I sort of fell into it naturally. I decided that I was going to do it as a career in middle school. I'd already made up my mind because I'd entered, this talent show around the time when Sublime and other bands like that were coming out and it sort of steered me in the direction of reggae. To hear new bands like that in middle school made me lean towards that direction They didn't push it at all. They always were open to me doing whatever I wanted to as a career.
US: Did you have a back-up plan?
CH: No! The one thing that I always remember growing up was all my teachers and football coaches saying, 'You need a back-up plan.' But the way that I looked at it was if I had a back-up plan, I was just taking away from the time that I could put into doing this. I never really looked back.
US: Tell me a little bit about America's Got Talent and how you decided to do that?
CH: My best friend was acting as my manager for a long time. I hadn't put any thought into doing it, but he called me the morning of, and I guess I had told him that I was going to go one night at the club when I had had some drinks or something, and I didn't remember. So I ended up going just because he was so adamant. I felt bad because I had told him I was going to go.
US: Is it very long process to get onto the actual show?
CH: I auditioned at the Hilton in Dallas, Texas, and the first day was not like what you see on TV -- it's when you're auditioning for all the producers and stuff like that, which was probably like a thirty, forty-minute ordeal of them, pushing me to other rooms and having me go audition for this person, this group of people, then go audition for this people, then videotaping me for this. At first, I didn't really expect anything, but I got the feeling that they were liking whatever they saw because they kept pushing me around and testing’ me in different areas. And then I went home and it took about probably two to three weeks. They called me back and said they wanted me to come to the LA audition with about a thousand other people.
US: Oh my goodness. Were you nervous? Were you excited?
CH: There was a little something inside of me that was a little bit of both. I was nervous but maybe not for the reasons you would think. I was nervous about if this was the right decision. I didn't know if I wanted to go put myself out to be judged by three people that I don't know were qualified to judge talent. (laughs) David Hasselhoff? You know what I mean? So I was nervous for that. I was excited because of the possibilities, but I really didn't have any expectations going into it. There wasn’t enough time for me to build up any! At the time I was struggling, and I’d just had a newborn son not too long before that. I think he was eight months old when I first auditioned.
US: And what was your experience like with the judges?
CH: I was lucky. That's the way I put it. All of the judges were super nice to me, but I really do think that I was just lucky. There were lots of people that I felt were every bit as talented as I was but got bashed on in front of America.
US: Right. Do you still watch the show?
CH: My wife does and she records it on Tivo! Michael Grimm is as talented as anybody on any of those shows.
US: And your new album is coming out September 14th, isn't it?
CH: Yeah, I'm really pumped up about this album too. Then I'm going to be touring for the next six months or so. Once it comes out we're hitting. the west coast. I think next week I leave for a little mid-west tour. We’re gonna do some dates in like St. Louis, Missouri, Madison, Wisconsin, and stuff, and then we come back to Texas for a couple dates in Austin and Dallas and then the west coast. Then we head to the UK.
US: Very cool. How does that affect your family life?
CH: I have a nine month old, so, it's tough. We're trying to figure out a way to start bringing my family with us as much as possible. I do lots of Skype and lots of stuff like that to try to keep a connection.
US: Yeah. So tell me more about the new album!
CH: I'm really excited about it, and it's an album that I take from all kinds of styles. It's heavy on the reggae, but it's very, very poppy, and very natural and not overproduced. It's quite a bit different from the last album in that it's a little bit more chilled out. Coming off the show, I had a lot of pressure to come up with something great. Since I was in front of America now I have to make an album that’s equally as great as what I’ve just did or whatever for these people to like it. But now I can just sort of be myself!
US: Now what? What are your hopes for the future?
CH: Just to be able to make a living honestly expressing myself, and to keep playing music without any kind of weird pressure!