It’s always neat to chat with artists for the first time, and my recent conversation with Casey Abrams in no exception. As an American Idol finalist and YouTube regular, this talented young man has several albums out and is on tour supporting his latest release, an EP called “Uncovered.” That current tour will bring him to the Waterville Opera House on Friday, March 6, and to that end, I gave him a call at his home in Southern California.

Q: I was unable to access Spotify, but I have been watching all the YouTube videos you have out now to prepare for this interview.
Abrams: Oh, cool — the live YouTube vibe, right?

Q: Yeah, exactly. … That way I could see what you do in concert.
Abrams: Well, sometimes the live (version) is even better than the track, you know? It’s in the moment — very fresh.

Q: Have you ever played up in Maine before?
Abrams: Yeah, I’ve done a couple of gigs in Rockland and I actually played with an orchestra up there once, so yeah, I’ve been to Maine before. It was a beautiful drive and a beautiful place to stay — it’s a nice secret getaway, I feel.

Q: When you come up to the opera house, will this be a solo show or will you have the Post Modern Jukebox folks with you?
Abrams: It’s going to be pretty much me and a bass. I might have a saxophone player come along and I might have a guitarist or a piano player — I have a couple of people in mind. But yeah, it’s going to be just me and an upright bass, and maybe a piano doing some jazz stuff.

Q: Yeah, I saw that in your bio and watching your YouTube videos, that comes through loud and clear.
Abrams: Yeah, I studied jazz at Idyllwild Art {Academy} — a little place two hours east of L.A. I was taught by this awesome bass player named Marshall Hawkins, who played with Shirley Horn and Miles Davis and all the greats, and he taught me how to play the bass. … I studied jazz for four years at this high school.


Q: I’ve seen you do some covers, but do you do your own material, too?
Abrams: I have a whole bunch of original material. The first album that I did after American Idol was self-titled and it was all original songs, though I did have “Hit the Road, Jack” on there, but everything else was an original that I wrote. I’m constantly writing original songs, but as you saw on YouTube, I like going back to my roots, which is jazz, you know, the jazz standards. When I’m with the Post Modern Jukebox, they do a lot of pop songs that sound like jazz — it’s taking old traditions and putting it with new pop songs, you know?

Q: Yeah, I do and I love it, quite frankly. But I’m curious to know what your show will be like at the Waterville Opera House — what can folks expect?
Abrams: There’s going to be some interaction, I might make up a song on the spot, I might make up my own words to songs and I might go out into the audience — I might have an audience member come up on stage — it’s going to be very interactive, and nobody’s safe, really, you never know what’s going to happen.

Q: I observed this quite often on your videos — you have serious fun on stage, man, you really do.
Abrams: Yeah, that’s true — it’s kind of hard not to.

Q: When you were on American Idol, you were a finalist on Season 11 — did I get that right?
Abrams: It was Season 10 in 2011…

Q: I knew ‘11’ came in there someplace!
Abrams: (Laughter) Yeah, right — and usually it’s the Top 10 and I was Top 11, so it was crazy. Lots of ones and zeros … a kind of binary-code thing going on.

Q: How binary of them! But seriously, it’s neat that you were able to bring this genre of music to a television audience that probably had never experienced jazz before — that was very cool.
Abrams: That’s right, it was a good feeling, for sure, to bring that whole genre to a pop generation.


Q: And what is music anyhow but a synthesis of what’s gone on before — the interplay of the genres and what can happen when that happens, you know what I mean?
Abrams: Right, you can create a new genre if you want.

Q: Is that your intent?
Abrams: I think my intent is just to create music that I like, and sometimes that crosses genres. So when people ask me what’s my genre, I’d like to say, when it comes down to it — because I play the upright bass — it’s a little jazz. But because I sing the way I do, it’s a little bluesy and a little rock ’n roll. So overall, I’d say jazz/rock — that’s what I like to do. And I’m even playing a show every Thursday — I have a residency here in Hollywood — and it’s just me and an upright bass … jazz/rock.

Q: Hey, it works for me, and it certainly working for you.
Abrams: It feels good, yeah, people keep coming out. At first I was like, “I feel guilty because I’m taking the spotlight!” but it’s like, “No, I need the spotlight — it feels good and I need to jam out —that’s what I was born to do.” I’ve been practicing all my life just because I like it — it feels good.

Q: I understand completely, and here’s something else that should make you feel good: Joan Baez stood on the stage of the Waterville Opera House and proclaimed it one of the most acoustically perfect venues she had performed in.
Abrams: Oh, perfect … I’m excited to go there!

Q: With that thought in mind, is there anything, Casey, that you’d like me to pass on to the folks reading this article about your debut appearance in Waterville, Maine?
Abrams: “Do what you love and then everything’s good!” That’s all I have to say.

Lucky Clark has spent over 50 years writing about good music and the people who make it. He can be reached at [email protected] if you have any questions, comments or suggestions.

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