Tassie’s Casey Barnes on “Just Like Magic”, Christmas in Australia & hitting the road

I spoke to Australian singer-songwriter, Casey Barnes back in October following the release of his ARIA Top 10 album, Live As One. We recently caught up again to discuss the new single “Just Like Magic”, dancing and the most wonderful time of the year.

You’ve been labelled a country singer in the industry, but the new single “Just Like Magic” has received a lot of commercial radio play. When you were recording it, or even when considering releasing it, did you consciously think it had potential to crossover to a more main stream audience?

Yes, I did! I was keen to team up with the guys from MSquared, in Melbourne, Michael Paynter and another writer, Michael Delorenzis. These guys, majority of the time, they write commercial music for the artists that are signed to the major labels like Sony, Universal and some of the guys that are on The Voice, so they’re used to writing that mainstream commercial sort-of pop sound. They were keen to work with me to see if we could come up with something that was a crossover song that would get played on country radio, community radio and mainstream radio.

Somebody said to me the other day, which I thought was spot on, the song’s like Keith Urban meets Bryan Adams with a modern pop twist to it – which is a pretty good description. It’s time country music in Australia caught up with the times and embraced a more diverse sound. There’s that traditional old school country sound, which is still great, but I think it’s time to embrace a more modern country sound as well. There’s a time and place for all different types of country music.

With all the extra radio play, is there more of a demand on you to tour?

Yeah. We’ve just been down in Sydney this week [to do] The Daily Edition, which is one of the talk shows on Channel 7. We chatted about the tour coming up. Then we got my first play on KIIS FM, which is the biggest station in Sydney. Even my mother-in-law, she lives down in Yamba in New South Wales; every day she’s hopped in the car this week, they’ve been playing my song on the radio. She’s been videoing and sending it to me. (Laughs) It’s refreshing to know that finally it’s a song that is getting a fair bit of support and traction. I’m really stoked.

You mentioned a tour, where can we expect to see you?

We’ve just announced a tour – it’s called the Live As One tour. It started last weekend in Tassie and we’ve added a bunch of new dates. They’re all up on my website. We’re getting to Tamworth in the New Year. I’m doing some shows with McKenna Faith from America, who I played over in California with in June, and she’s a little like an up-and-coming Taylor Swift. She’s incredibly talented!

I will be coming back up to Queensland and playing up in Brisbane. Then there’s a few more festivals that we’re announcing [and] they just announced all the main acts of a brand new Caboolture River Country Music Festival. It’s gonna be good fun.

You’re doing four different shows in Tamworth which is quite a lot for over a ten-day festival. Is this part of keeping that momentum going?

Yeah, Tamworth is an important festival to be a part of. It’s one that I’ve really wanted to do for a long time and I wanna do as many shows [and] meet as many people as I can. A lot of people down there probably never seen a show. It’s a melting pot of the best country music in Australia and I’m going to enjoy sitting back and being a spectator as well, catching some shows, listening and enjoying it, because there’s a lot of that that you can do as well.

You mentioned on The Daily Edition that your daughter was the one who came up with the idea of the “Just Like Magic” music video. Can you talk a little bit about that?

In a roundabout way, yes she did. We wanted to do something different to the clichéd country music video. We were brainstorming ideas and my 8-year-old, Charlie; she piped up and said, “Why don’t you just shoot it at my dance studio?” Both of my daughters, it’s their favourite track on the album; they always wanna hear that one. Charlie helped pick the dancers. It was a little family affair and it ended up working out really well.

You don’t dance in the video. Did they try and teach you some dance moves in between takes?

Nobody needs to see that! Let me tell you! It’s in everyone’s best interests – dancing is not my forte. My wife was the camera director and a good friend of mine was the director, were trying to force some extra moves out of me but I think they got the best they could. The funniest part was my wife was the one directing the girls dancing; I was already feeling awkward enough with these young girls dancing around me – obviously, my wife’s there. But she was the one saying, “Cut. Let’s do it again! This time, can you guys get a little bit closer? I want you to get right up close to Casey!” It was very funny. (Laughs)

It’s Christmas this week and above everything else, it’s about family, so let’s talk about the holidays. What was a Christmas like growing up for you?

Christmas is definitely some of my best memories as a kid. Christmas as a kid down in Tassie was always a big family event and always involved. Lots of good times, food and obviously, cricket on Christmas Day, and sometimes, if we were lucky, we’d get someone who’d dress up as Santa Claus [to] drop off some presents. At some point, music would be involved – whether it was guitars, a sing-along or my Mum had a reputation for getting out the piano accordion or the squeeze box, which is an acquired taste, let me say. (Laughs)

Do you have a favourite memory and/or gift from when you were a child?

One of the coolest things that happened was my Mum and Dad played a big trick on me one year. All I wanted, when I was going through high school, was a drum kit. On Christmas Day, we all got up and I noticed that my sister had at least got double the amount of presents than me but I didn’t wanna be rude and say anything. They let it go pretty much half the day. They’d bought me a drum kit, set it up in one of our spare rooms and then took me in blindfolded and surprised me. That was probably one of the coolest Christmases I can remember … I don’t think my neighbours were as impressed.

They say you can’t fully experience the joys of Christmas as an adult until you have children of your own – do you think this is true?

Yeah, definitely. Christmas is more about my kid’s getting to experience all that Christmas is about and the looks on their faces on Christmas morning. Even driving around at this time of the year with all the Christmas lights everywhere, it’s just a great time for families. I absolutely love it!

What is a Barnes family Christmas like?

This year we’re spending Christmas at home. Where we live at the moment is very much like where I grew up as kid. We live close to the beach, so at some point, we’ll go for a swim. We’ve got family coming over for the traditional Christmas lunch and we’ll open presents in the morning with the kids. It’s all pretty normal; nothing too out of the ordinary.

Are you involved in present shopping and/or cooking? What is your role on Christmas day?

My wife’s a gun in the kitchen so I don’t try and get in the way of that! I’ll be helping out in all other ways around the house and leaving [the cooking] up to the experts. [But] this year we’re doing a Secret Santa so we all get assigned somebody in the family to go out and buy for. We thought that was the best way rather than going all out.

Sometimes you can go a little bit too silly with Christmas. I grew up in a family where you didn’t get a million presents on Christmas day, but I’m so glad because we had other friends and family where you could literally not walk through the lounge room because it was a sea of presents and gifts! As a kid, I thought that was awesome, but you look at sometimes how kids turn out when they get overly spoilt and get too much stuff, I don’t think they appreciate life as much. I think it’s more about family and being together and appreciating what Christmas is about as apposed to getting too much stuff and material things. I don’t think that’s a good thing.

What are you hoping your Secret Santa gets you?

I think I already know what I’m going to get this year! (Laughs) It’s pretty boring but I think I’m getting some new clothes and shirts to wear. I’m not too fussed about getting presents – I’m more about the rest of it, so it’s all good.

Do you decorate the house at Christmas time?

Yeah, we do. We all decorated the Christmas tree at the start of December. We’ve got a few decorations up around the house and a few things out the front. Where we live,  there’s heaps of houses that have got in the spirit and got the Christmas lights happening, so we have a few lights at the front as well. It’s good community spirit.

Do you get photos taken with Santa every year?

We have yet to do the Santa photo this year but we’ve done it previous years. We need to pull our fingers out and get to the local shopping centre and see Santa, but we’ve been literally that busy, it’s been pretty frantic.

Have you ever worn “ugly sweaters” in your photo with Santa?

I would so do that! Absolutely, no hesitation – I love doing stuff like that! My wife and I, we’ve both got that sense of humour, we love doing silly stuff and not taking things too seriously. Charlie is quite the opposite – she’s very serious and she gets embarrassed; so I’d love to do the ugly sweater thing just to see her reaction but I think she would die.

What is your favourite Christmas movie?

Elf – that’s definitely it! That would be my favourite. Will Ferrell’s the funniest human being on this planet. He is so good!

What is your favourite Christmas song?

If I’ve ever done a carols event, there’s two songs that I normally love to play – “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” and then my favourite, “Happy Christmas (War Is Over)” by John Lennon. Even though it’s not a traditional Christmas carol, it’s a great song. My wife and I recorded a version of it [but] I don’t think you can buy it anywhere.

Would you ever record a Christmas album?

No, that’s an easy answer. Unless something dramatic changes, there is no chance that will be happening. I will leave that up to Michael Bublé.

And lastly, do you have plans for New Year’s Eve?

I do, but I rarely get to enjoy New Year’s Eve as I’m always performing somewhere. This year, I’m doing a massive show with the band, my wife and a bunch of different performers at Jupiter’s Casino on the Gold Coast. It’s a pretty huge affair, so that’ll be good fun and I’ll [be] with my wife as well, so at least we’re together – some people aren’t on New Year’s Eve. I’m sure we’ll have a sneaky couple of drinks [after we play] (Laughs).

“Just Like Magic” from the album, Live As One is out now via Social Family Records.


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