Interview: Casey Barnes gears up for this year’s CMC Rocks Festival

With the release of his catchy third single “Ain’t Coming Home”, off his upcoming new album The Good Life, Casey Barnes’s star continues to rise. Nominated for a prestigious Golden Guitar Award earlier this year, I spoke to the Tasmanian-born now Gold Coast-based country music artist about his latest release ahead of his performance at the sold-out-in-one-hour CMC Rocks Festival.

In a sense, a lot of people first came to know of you when you made the top 12 of Australian Idol in 2009. With Idol contestants Anthony Callea, Casey Donovan and current season’s Shannon Noll also competing in the reality series I’m a Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here! Would you ever follow in the footsteps of your fellow alumni and go on the show?

I’d love to do it, but I reckon I’d struggle with those food challenges. [Shannon] is doing great. People are getting to see a different side to him and it’s going to be a huge positive. He seems like a decent guy and I really like his latest single. I think he’s going to have a good year.

You’ve also had a very good year since last we spoke, you were nominated for your first Golden Guitar Award in the Qantaslink New Talent of the Year category. Congratulations on such an amazing achievement. Where were you when you found out you were nominated?

They announced the finalists for each category at a function in Sydney at ABC studios, so I was there. I didn’t expect to be announced as a finalist. I’m stoked! It was a pleasant surprise! It’s exciting for a lot of reasons but also the fact that my style of country is a little non-traditional and it’s pushing the boundaries in modern country. It’s nice to see that the Tamworth fraternity and the Country Music Association have got an open mind now to at different spectrums of country music.

Brad Butcher ultimately ended up taking home the award, but as they say, it’s an honour just being nominated. Did you have a speech prepared on the night in case you won?

Not really. Aleyce Simmonds has been nominated as a finalist seven or eight times, in seven or eight times she sat down and prepared a speech and every time she missed out. [This year] was the one time she didn’t prepare a speech and she ended up winning, so it’s quite funny.

If I ever have been fortunate enough to win awards, I usually prepare a couple basic things, but I always talk from the heart and go with the flow at the time. I didn’t go into the night expecting to win. Brad Butcher was my pick. I ran into him that same day of the awards. We were chatting about it, having a bit of a laugh and I said, “My money is on you to take it out.” I’m stoked for him.

The Golden Guitar Award Ceremony is a part of the annual ten-day Tamworth Country Music Festival in January. You’ve performed there many times before; was it different performing in Tamworth this year as a Golden Guitar nominee?

Yeah, it definitely helps. Forever, at this point onwards, I’m a Golden Guitar finalist and it opens a lot of doors and creates more awareness to people that might not have heard who you are. There’s already been a lot more offers for festivals and shows already all around the place this year so it’s a great thing.

I love Tamworth. It’s such a great experience and festival! You’ve got to cope with the heat but it’s worth it. Anyone that ever gets the opportunity to go needs to put it in their diary! I noticed a lot more people [at my] shows; they were great. It was a jam packed schedule but we got a great turnout.

We closed the set at one of the band shows with my single. It’s a bit of an anthem and great to do live because we can get the crowd to start singing the lyrics back in chorus. It was pretty cool. The chorus, it’s sort of chant-y. This song is all about somebody who works a nine-to-five job they probably don’t love and all they’re thinking about is getting out on the weekend and doing whatever it is they love the most. Whether that’s going to the footy, live concert, hitting the road and going camping for the weekend, going to the PBR or any number of different things. It’s all about everybody having something they love to do and looking forward to doing it on the weekend.

You’re performing at the three-day CMC Rocks Festival the third weekend in March. What can audiences expect?

By far, it’s the one festival I’m looking forward to the most! I’ve been keen to play at it for years. It’s got such a huge international presence with different artists they’re bringing out, especially from the States. The line up this year is amazing! I’m a huge fan of so many of the acts playing – Luke Bryan, Kelsea Ballerini, Brothers Osborne, Darius Rucker (I’ve been listening to him since I was going through high school). Dan and Shay are incredible.

It’s perfect timing for me because this new sound I’ve got now fits perfectly with that modern country vibe that CMC seems to be all about. I’m just thankful to get the opportunity. We want to make sure we put on a really good show. That’s the priority and then we can sit back, enjoy the rest of the day and watch some great acts.

Your latest single “Ain’t Coming Home” is on the new album The Good Life, due out at the end of this week. What can people expect to hear on the album?

I’ve been working with the boys from MSquared now for over 12 months. All the tracks we co-wrote, recorded together, they produced them and there’s a real definite theme throughout the whole album. You can tell it’s an MSquared album. It ties in perfectly and the boys have done an incredible job. I’m absolutely stoked with how it’s all turned out.

I’ve recorded albums in the past where I’ve experimented with more than one producer and different studios, but this time, it’s all been the one theme and producer, and it’s worked really well. They really represent the direction I’m heading musically. I can’t wait to get this album out!

Your wife Michelle sang on three tracks on your previous album, Live As One. Last time we spoke you mentioned hoping to get your wife on the new album, does she make an appearance?

No, we did look at a duet but it didn’t end up happening. We were going to record a cover of a track that we absolutely loved called As The Crow Flies (from television’s Nashville). That’s not to say we might still record it as a bit of a one off somewhere this year and just bring it out anyway.

Where did the title come from for the album?

It comes from one of the lyrics in the “Ain’t Coming Home”, and it’s all about living the good life and doing what you love. We thought it ties the whole album together really well. There’s not really a bleak feel to it. It’s a very positive and uplifting album.

The album cover sees your face half lit in shades of blue and black. What was the idea behind the cover art?

The whole idea was emerging from the darkness and coming into the light. I got approached by photographer Mick Roughan, who wanted to take this really specific shot. It was his idea to add this sprinkle of colour in my ring and tattoo. He’s one all-round talented people I know! He’s an incredible photographer, an ex-champion bull rider and he’s also a stunt coordinator and rigger for a lot of big budget Hollywood movies like Mad Max: Fury Road and a whole bunch big budget films over in America.

There’s a bit of a little cryptic theme as well. There’s an little anchor on the front cover that ties in with the album and one of the tracks as well, which is the one main ballad on the album, called “Set Sail”. The album is dedicated to my father-in-law, who I was extremely close to, and he passed away suddenly midway through last year. The anchor ties in with him. He was a fisherman all of his life and loved the ocean and going out on his boat and that’s where it all ties in.

The Good Life is out March 9th.