Q&A with guitar virtuoso Randy Casey - his original compositions push the boundaries with a rock and roots soul.

"In music, as in life, be careful who you trust. Not everyone is your friend. When you do find those friends that you truly trust hang on to them."

Randy Casey: Americana Blues

Randy Casey’s music career spans more than three decades of twists and twangs. From the stages of CBGB and Whiskey a-go-go to a recording gig attended by Bob Dylan, Randy Casey is a commanding front man and an engaging solo artist who rocks roomfuls of revelers with classic covers and captivates jaded music heads with his own emotive, evocative songs. His original compositions push the boundaries of what’s expected from a guitar virtuoso with a rock and roots soul. His beautifully crafted songs evoke the Rolling Stones jamming with Andy Griffith; a surprising and delicious blend of corn pone meets Brit rock. From session work to live stages, Randy is a human jukebox, instantly recalling, recreating and reinventing generations of music and musical styles. In the studio, he’s a producer’s dream: a talented session ace able to explore alternatives while always delivering on mark.

Randy Casey’s 8th album, "I Got Lucky" (2018), was inspired by a guitar that Casey beat out Rick Neilsen of Cheap Trick to get. In fact, Casey was getting it back; the 1969 Gibson Les Paul Custom was the first guitar Casey had ever played as a kid. When decades later, the neighbor who had let him play the guitar back then got an offer from Neilsen to buy it, he offered it to Casey first. Casey dug deep, and the neighbor let him make payments, but at last, his first love was his. Immediately, songs began to flow from the guitar, Casey said. It’s that guitar that produces the swampy slide of “Bed Bug Blues,” “Broken Arm Blues,” and “That Train,” the Stonesy rock of “One Step Ahead,” and the moody overdrive of “Strange.” Casey is a consummate guitarist; as Shannon Curfman’s first music director, he has played the largest of stages with the biggest of stars. He’s also gotten his instrumental work placed on NPR’s “All Things Considered” and other national shows. I Got Lucky reveals Casey’s other prodigious talents as well, including creative and clever songwriting that captures the essence of classic blues while contributing tasteful innovations to the genre. The result is a collection of songs that is at once impressively eclectic and firmly rooted in tradition.

Interview by Michael Limnios

How has the Blues and Roots music influenced your views of the world and the journeys you’ve taken?

I was a sideman for a young up and coming blues artist named Shannon Curfman (Arista Records). In the band with me was Keven Murphy, the dude who started Rufus and who gave Chaka Kahn her start. We opened for some pretty heavy artists: Jimmy Vaughn, Robert Cray, John Mellencamp, Melissa Etheridge, the Fabulous Thunderbird to name a few. This gave me an up-close view of how roots music can pull people together. There was nothing contrived about any of these people. They are all honest performers and that is how I wish to be perceived.

How do you describe your songbook and sound? Where does your creative drive come from?

I have always walked a fine line between Blues, Folk and Country. If you asked me, I'd say that is the definition of Americana. Andy Griffith jamming with the Stones.

Which acquaintances have been the most important experiences? What was the best advice anyone ever gave you?

Peter Himmelman has been a great influence on me. He helped me record one of my first songs. He even wrote a bridge for it. He can write a song about anything; a garbage can, a gum wrapper...anything. From him I learned the importance of good song writing. Another guy who influenced me greatly is an old neighborhood friend named Kurt Paulsen. When I was a kid playing the violin Kurt turned me on to all kinds of great guitar players. The first time I ever heard Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton, Johnny Winter, Rory Gallagher etc. was in the Paulsen's basement. Kurt designed the album cover for "I Got Lucky". He's still an influence.

The best advice I ever got was from my father. When I was seventeen and playing in a band, he sat me down and asked me what I wanted to do with my life. I told him I was already doing it: MUSIC. He knew I loved it and he was very supportive. He told me, "It's a long life so make sure you do what you love and love what you do". He was a Depression-era, World War II survivor who worked a labor-intensive blue color job all of his life.

Are there any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?

Once, at a rehearsal for a recording session I met Bob Dylan. Dylan is Peter Himmelman's father in law. I wasn't aware of it at the time but Peter invited Bob to a rehearsal. He came in while we were running through a song and he stood behind me. I did a little double take over my shoulder. Holy crap...it's Dylan! What made the whole experience super freaky was two weeks before that my sister, a huge Dylan fan told me that I was going to meet him.

What do you miss most nowadays from the music of past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of?

Great records are made by people playing in the same room at the same time and it was real. That seems to be disappearing. Now, music has gotten so digitized and sanitized that the life has been sucked out of it. There's no spirit. It's more impersonal now. In many cases its no longer performance based, it's computer based. Although I use digital formats to record my music, I try to keep it as real and performance based as possible and my hope is that more artists will come back to that. Also, concert tickets have gotten so expensive that the average music lover can't afford to go to every show that they'd like to go to.

If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?

People used to buy an LP, get together with their friends, listen to both sides and talk about it. Today's music consumer seems to barely have time to listen to a whole song, let alone the whole album. If I had my way, people would slow down and really listen.

"Everybody gets the blues and everyone can relate to it. Blues and Roots music crosses every perceived cultural, racial and social boundary. It has influenced every genre of western music. And that music has the power to heal and unite people and we need that now more than ever."

What touched (emotionally) you from the Seattle music scene? What characterize the sound of local scene?

I grew up in Minneapolis. The music scene was vibrant. The Lamont Cranston Blues Band, Willie Murphy and Doug Maynard introduced me to local blues. The Replacements, Soul Asylum and Husker Du were the DIY kings of garage rock. The first time I saw Sussman Lawrence (Peter Himmelman's group) I wanted desperately to be in that band. Bob Dylan and Prince were the high-water marks. When people learn that I grew up in Minneapolis they always ask me, "Did you know Prince?"

What are some of the most important lessons you have learned from your paths in music circuits?

In music, as in life, be careful who you trust. Not everyone is your friend.

When you do find those friends that you truly trust hang on to them.

What is the impact of Blues music and culture to the racial, political, and socio-cultural implications?

Everybody gets the blues and everyone can relate to it. Blues and Roots music crosses every perceived cultural, racial and social boundary. It has influenced every genre of western music. And that music has the power to heal and unite people and we need that now more than ever.

Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really want to go for a whole day?

Chicago. South side. Muddy Waters' house. Johnny Winter, James Cotton and Pine Top Perkins are there. Muddy was the real deal surrounded by amazing characters. That would be a riotous education!

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