Interview: Casey Barnes on new music & the change in direction of the Gympie Music Muster

It feels like only yesterday I was talking to Australian country-pop, singer/songwriter Casey Barnes about his latest release – but here we are again. His latest single, the catchy “Keep Me Coming Back” was written with MSquared Productions’ Michael Payter and Michael Delorenza; the team behind his two previous hit singles – “Just Like Magic” and “The Way We Ride”. We spoke about the new music, performing at the Gympie Music Muster and celebrating his wedding anniversary.

“The Way We Ride” and “Keep Me Coming Back” have been released within months of each other, which is quite a short time between singles. Do you have a favourite between the two?

It’s funny; I use my kids as a barometer [and my daughters] both like “Keep Me Coming Back” because it crosses over a little more from Country into Pop. I love both! I love performing “The Way We Ride” but I think “Keep Me Coming Back” might have that crossover sound a little more than the other. We played both of those songs up in Gympie at the Muster and that was incredible! “Keep Me Coming Back” [has] just been added to the iTunes Hot Tracks chart in America, which I’ve never done before – which is absolutely huge!

You’ve performed in America before, including Country Summer Music Festival opening for Lady Antebellum – but with the single included on the iTunes Hot Tracks chart, could that lead to a full International tour?

That would be a dream come true! There’s hundreds and thousands of singles released in America, so to actually get that exposure … I guess when people are going to iTunes they might give it a listen and go, “Jeez, I haven’t heard this bloke before” so just another way of getting yourself out there I guess.

When we were talking about the “Just Like Magic” you made it clear you didn’t want to dance in the music video. Now with the release of both “The Way We Ride” and “Keep Me Coming Back” having even more so of a danceable beat, you’re dancing a little in both the new videos. Does this mean you’ll be adding dancing into your stage repertoire?

We’ll have to get along to a live show because there’s a bit of that goes on now! Those three songs are different because it allows me to put the guitar down for a few songs, move around onstage and do my interesting dance moves which are good fun. Now I’m actually enjoying it.

“The Way We Ride” and “Keep Me Coming Back” will feature on a currently unwritten and unrecorded future release. Typically you complete an album before picking the best tracks to become singles. Do you see disadvantages in releasing stand alone singles when better songs may feature on the full release?

I think until you’re an International megastar it’s difficult to compete and cut through with an album. It costs so much money to invest in a full album and then you might be lucky to get say three or four tracks cut through and be released as singles, so I’m going about it a little differently. I’ll probably look at an album or an EP in the New Year. After this single, I’ll have a break for a few months and work out a strategy of how we’ll go about the next release – there is method behind the madness.

With country sometimes it takes a while to build momentum. “The Way We Ride” is starting to kick on now with a lot of radio networks and [Country Music Channel] starting to play the clip a lot. Even though it’s been about three months in between singles, I want to keep new music out there. I don’t think there’s any given particular definite method that works. The good thing about these two singles is “The Way We Ride” is probably going to get some great traction at country radio and “Keep Me Coming Back” might get a little more support at commercial networks. We’ll see.

Are you planning on writing and recording all tracks off the new album or EP with Michael Payter and Michael Delorenza from MSquared?

I think I’ll keep going in that direction. There’s a theme happening with our sound, the production, the way we work together and we’re all on the same page. We’re on to a good thing with the three of us.

In comparison to your previous album Live As One, their influence is quite evident.

 Yes, [it] is. A majority of the tracks on the Live As One album I co-wrote and produced with Rick Price and there were quite a few trips to Nashville. I love those songs equally as much as these ones I’ve just released, but [they’re] totally a different sound. Rick has a different headspace with the way he produces with different directions in the way we wrote those tracks.

This new sound, that I’ve found with the boys at MSquared; there’s not many other country artists going down that road here in Australia at the moment. There’s plenty of organic Country-sounding artists but there’s not a lot that are really touching on that modern American country sound I love. It’s getting me out of my comfort zone as well, so it’s good.

It took four years for the Live As One release after your previous, so as long as you bring something out by 2020 you’re right on track.

(Laughs) I can guarantee you, to be well before that. We’re on a roll at the moment with some exciting things to look forward to. I’ve got a good gut feeling about the next 12 months.

You mentioned earlier you performed at the 2017 Gympie Music Muster back in August. Was your unique sound evident in comparison to the other artists?

The good thing about Gympie is it it’s now being marketed as the Gympie Music Muster (previously it’s been known as Country exclusive), so you had the likes of Reese Mastin, Jessica Mauboy, Busby Marou – those type of artists were there this year, so it really does open up a wider audience. I still definitely fall into the country category. I guess when you look at country music now, it’s probably the most diverse category of music there is. You’ve got your real old school country and then you’ve got country pop and country rock.

We did four shows over the festival, so by the end of the weekend, we gathered a bit … I don’t know if hype’s the word, but people had seen us on the first night and the crowd started building by the end of the weekend. We had a really great crowd! On Saturday night, we went up against Jess Mauboy (who was on at the same time and we were on a side stage next to her) and we still got a great crowd! [It’s] hard to compete with Jess – she’s got such a massive, polished show. It was a challenge. But instead of looking at it as a negative, we’re like, “We’re going to make sure we bring people come and check us out,” so it was a really, really good weekend.

The first time we spoke you mentioned having to earn your stripes within the Country music industry. Do you feel like you’re there or at least made progress, especially after performing at something as iconic as Gympie?

Yeah, absolutely! This year in particular, things have turned around in a big way. Really, “Just Like Magic” was the turning point. This year I’ve really noticed a whole change in the momentum building now. I’m accepted a lot more and people taking what we’re doing really seriously. Gympie was a great opportunity to get out in front of more people and meet a lot of industry people as well. We walked away with a lot of positives out of the whole thing.

What is “Keep Me Coming Back” about?

It’s not based on a true story or anything; it’s more of a fictitious story line. Let’s picture someone like Justin Bieber, Keith Urban, or me on a much lesser scale. When you’re out touring, I can only imagine what it would be like for Justin, Keith and all these guys that are having fans throwing themselves at them all the time; but it doesn’t mean anything because it’s not the same as when they go back to the one they love. For me, it’s my wife and I’m happily married with two girls – so you go out on the road and have a great time with the band, but it doesn’t compare to coming home to your family. That’s where the whole concept of the song came about.

Ironically, your wedding anniversary fell on one of the nights you performed at Gympie.

Yeah. I did a special shout out to her on stage, which was pretty cool. We had our 10th wedding anniversary last year and we went all out, renewed our vows and had another full ceremony. It was a pretty big affair! So this year, the fact we weren’t together was disappointing but we understood; we’re both pretty crazy busy. We make sure we keep working on our relationship. We’ve been together for a very long time, but it also helps we’re best friends.

Is it hard to make a marriage work working in the music industry?

It can be difficult if you let it consume you and don’t get the right balance between going out on the road and recording, and family life and being there when you should be. I get to spend a lot of time at home and hang out with the girls, and we’re planning a trip away as a family. I love my two girls more than anything. I love being part of their lives and doing as much as I can with them. I’m lucky that when I am home, I can be a hands-on dad – I’ve got time to take them down to the park, hang out and go to events with them. I absolutely love being a dad!

“Keep Me Coming Back” is out now.


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