Five albums down, and Gold Coast singer-songwriter Casey Barnes keeps taking things to the next level.
And his freshly released album Town Of A Million Dreams is the best collection of songs he has released to date.
The album is a much-needed dose of hope and happiness that will have you smiling along long past the half an hour or so it lasts. Alongside Barnes, acts like Morgan Evans and Kasey Musgrave, are fuelling a country music renaissance – not only in Australia, but right around the globe, and with their music finding radio, chart, and award success, they’re paving the way for country music’s next golden era.
Across ten stunning tracks, Barnes delivers huge rocking guitars, warm country spirit, enough earworm hooks to ensure this record is in your head for days, and a slick pop-edged production that keeps everything sounding crisp without losing any of the unbridled joy and energy that has made Barnes’ live shows so highly talked about.
But Town Of A Million Dream is so much more than just that. Barnes’ voice is captivating and believable, his songwriting is honest, and whether he’s delivering a stompin’ bar-room anthem or peeling everything back for a floating ballad, Barnes with have you wrapped up in every second of it.
From the beginning
Casey Barnes: “I was lucky enough to grow up in a musical family and had an amazing high school music teacher, so in a way, it was inevitable that I’d eventually get into creating my own music.
“I remember about 15 years ago, at the time, I was doing an acoustic covers gig and a guy called Clint Boge from Aussie rock band The Butterfly Effect happened to be in the crowd. He took me aside in one of my breaks and gave me an amazing pep talk and kick up the backside to start writing and recording my own music and that’s where it all started.”
What you’ll hear
CB: “I’d probably fall under the New or Modern Country banner. Proudly country, but with a bit of a commercial twist. I’d put this down largely to the type of music I grew up listening to which was a real mix of lots of different genres. I loved going through my mum’s old record collection.”
Inside the creative process
CB: “[The album] started two years ago with a phone full of ideas. I’d come off the back of my previous album, The Good Life, and had such a great response to the collaboration with both Michael Paynter and Michael DeLorenzis (from Msquared) that we decided to continue the magic. The boys had a large part in co-writing and producing a lot of the tracks on the new album.
“I’d also wanted to work with Aussie (ARIA award-winning) producer Matt Fell for several years and an opportunity came up to record with him in Nashville so that was also amazing. Along with collaborating and teaming up with some incredible songwriters like Hayley Warner, Mark Duckworth, and Nashville-based writers like Kaci Brown and Sam Gray.
“The creative process has, thankfully, changed a fair bit since my first record. But for me, it still comes back to the basics; an idea or real-life inspiration that sparks a song. I usually start with a musical idea first and then build it from there. What’s probably changed the most is being able to collaborate with like-minded songwriters and producers that take the ideas to that next level.”
Tell us the story
CB: “The album really is a snapshot into my life and is based on real experiences over the last two years. The album title in particular Town of A Million Dreams is a lyric out of one of the tracks on the album called ‘Bright Lights’, which is all based on my own experiences over the last few years going back and forwards to Nashville, missing home but chasing a dream. Nashville is this incredible melting pot of talent with an energy that you can’t explain unless you’ve been there.”
Down memory lane
CB: “Hard to narrow it down to one [favourite memory] as there have been so many, but to share a single example, I was over in Nashville midway through last year on a multi-purpose trip doing some showcases, music meetings, recording and songwriting. It was a jam-packed itinerary and there was one day in particular that I had a writing session lined up which was right on the outskirts of Nashville but then had to be back on the complete other side of town by a certain time to make another meeting.
“I nearly had to cancel the writing session but had the attitude of you never know when you’re going to get these opportunities again so you have to make the most of them all and what resulted was a track on the album called ‘Sparks Fly’ which is my current single and my first ever Music Network country radio number 1, so it’s funny how things work out.”
Overcoming struggle town
CB: “I think, to be honest, we’re living right now in the biggest challenge we’ve ever faced. It’s such a crazy time for the music industry on a global scale and we’ve toyed with the idea of whether it actually is a good idea to release an album right now, but more than ever I think people need music, we need an escape from reality and some positivity injected into our daily lives.”
The global country music renaissance
CB: “That’s such a great point and couldn’t agree more. I think, as we come out the other end of this situation we’re in at the moment with coronavirus, we’ll find more and more people are going to be turning to music that tells a story, music that’s real and honest.
“Also, because so much of what we’re hearing on commercial radio often sounds the same, I think people are actually warming to hearing real instruments again and the change in the sound/production of modern country is redefining how the average person perceives ‘country music’ too.”
For the love of music
CB: “What I love most about making music is the connection. You just can’t beat it and that’s what I probably am missing the most right now. I love writing music, I love recording it, but taking it out on the road and playing it live is my favourite part by far. Hearing people sing the lyrics back and the connection you have with a crowd is what it’s all about.”
CB: “There have been a few big achievements. My first big break in music getting to open for Bryan Adams in 2005 is still, to this day, one of my favourite ever shows we’ve done, but more recently it was taking a gamble and reaching out to Aussie music legend Michael Chugg and him believing in what I was doing.
“Having Chuggi on the team, along with Andrew Stone and all the crew at CM has been incredible. And to think it all started out as a bit of an idea in the studio 12 months ago while recording the album. The boys from Msquared made a point of saying that they thought this was going to be the strongest album I’d recorded to date, and that I really needed the right team behind me. I jokingly said ‘Well I’d love Chuggi to manage me as he gets Aussie music and is so passionate about it,’ and the boys said ‘Well, why don’t you send him an email?’ So I did, and here we are.”
CB: “Largely, I want listeners to find a bit of relief from what we’re all going through right now. I’ve poured my heart and soul into this album, so I hope they can feel that too when they listen to the songs. There’s something on there for everyone, some heartfelt ballads and some up-tempo country-rockers too. Busting to get back out there and perform them live now.”
Say it in a sentence
CB: “Town of a Million Dreams is 44 minutes of happiness and in a world where most of the news seems to be bad news, this is the perfect remedy.”
Casey Barnes – All I Need
“This track came about off the back of a real-life experience at last years CMC Rocks Festival where it rained all weekend and was a complete mud bath. Driving home from the festival, getting stuck for ten minutes at road works, and wondering what the poor guy out there in the elements back story is? So, the song is actually really relevant right now. It touches on topics like living with the bare necessities, trying to make a better life, but regardless the most important thing is having the ones you love by your side because it’s all you need.”
Casey Barnes – A Little More
“This was the first single off the album and has such a positive message behind it especially in the age of social media. It’s all about getting the message across from a partner’s perspective, that they shouldn’t change the way they look or worry about their smile, how big their bum is etc, because all of those things are the reasons you love them ‘a little more’ in the first place.
Casey Barnes – City Girls
“A track that we’d actually started playing in our live sets and has already become a bit of a fan favourite. It’s a story all about a real-life country couple who live out of town. but on the weekends the guy likes to show his girl a good time so they pack their bags, head to the big smoke, and show the city slickers how it’s really done. I think a lot of Aussie country fans can relate to this.”
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