There is a certain tone to Casey Lee Hurt’s voice. It is a kind of stoic tranquility that draws you in until you find yourself fixed in a state of rapt attention. In the study of vibrational healing, the human voice is regarded as a powerful tool which can be used to raise the vibrations of the energy body to higher and more positive levels. With that in mind it is not far-fetched to think of someone like Hurt possessing such a power in his voice, especially given the nature and intent of the energy he pours generously into his craft. His music is all heart and soul; passionate, radiant, transcendent, and transparent. With the release of his new album, Mended Souls, he is aiming to grab listeners by the ears and hearts, and give them a little something that will move their bodies and lift their spirits as well.
YNLA: Your music has been called a blend between Americana, folk, and soul – Honest Americana Soul. What would you call your music? In your opinion what gives music “soul”? Who are some artists that epitomize “soul” music to you?
CH: “Honestly, these days it’s hard to tell. It feels like my music has been on a constant shift over the last few years. I’d have to say that I’m straying away from the Americana side of things recently. It just doesn’t exactly fit with what I’m doing anymore. I suppose I’d have to call it Indie-Soul. It’s kind of a mix of singer-songwriter, Motown, and soul. I’m no music historian, but I think the major defining attribute that most soul music has had over the years is the ability to move a mass of people. Soul music maintains a humbling amount of honesty and transparency and at the same time can motivate people to get out of their seats and move. It’s almost like the movement brings a sort of redemption and hope to people’s lives that can become a catalyst for change.The main artists that come to mind when I think of soul music would have to be Bill Withers and James Brown. Both incredible musicians and both fully possessed the ability to lead people and bring hope.”
YNLA: Why has your musical style strayed from the Americana sound? What do you feel prompted that shift?
CH: “The move from Oregon to LA. In Portland the music is kind of influenced heavily in one direction. There’s a certain sound. In LA, there are so many diverse types of music and I felt really freed up to step out and take risks. It also brought me back to a lot of the music I grew up listening to.”
YNLA: What can you tell me about your new release that’s slated for April? What can the listeners expect from you this time around? As an artist, what are your hopes for this particular album?
CH: “Oh man, I’m really excited for this album. It’s set to drop April 9th, and it’s gonna be crazy. This album really feels so much bigger then me because I’ve had the chance to work with such amazing people on it. My producer and engineer Chris Hughes has just made the creative process so seamless for me. I was able to really come in and flesh out all the crazy sounds that were in my head. 6brooks and I did a hip-hop collaboration on the song “Babylon” and the amazing Evan Roman featured her beautiful voice on “Higher”. The main goal of this record was to give people a chance to move. Every song has a vibe to it that makes you either want to tap your foot, kiss your girl or get out of your seat and dance. It’s by far my most produced record and, from start to finish, the record that I wanted to make.”
YNLA: In a previous interview you stated that any one who plays music is displaying God whether they believe in it or not. I like that sentiment. Do you believe that every artist creates from a sacred space? Are you implying that creativity and spirituality are one in the same?
CH: “I don’t think that I would say creativity and spirituality are one in the same, but I absolutely believe that they overlap a lot of the time. My personal belief is that in the beginning God created all humanity in his image. Now since I believe that God is a creator, and I was made to reflect his image, that must mean that when I create something, whether that’s music or art or a family, I’m reflecting Him. In a lot of ways, that’s what this next album is about. It’s stepping out of the formal idea of spirituality and faith and seeing it in the everyday, in the movement of a body, or the lending of a hand to a friend in need. I’ve chosen in my life to try and see God in everyone I meet; I just pray that my music reflects that.”
YNLA: And you are a minister, correct?
CH: “Well, I was a vocational pastor for four years and then I did some volunteer work as a pastor for another five years. I went through seminary and all that and it was a very important part of my life…but I felt my greatest gift and my greatest ministry would be through my music and through moving in the community.”
YNLA: As always, there’s a lot of new talent coming out of LA; are there any new artists buzzing right now who have caught your attention? Is there anybody that you’d personally like to collaborate with or produce for?
CH: “I feel really blessed to be able to work with a lot of the artist that I love and respect. I’m part of an artist collective that surrounds itself with extremely talented people and tries to support them in any way they can. I really believe the band Socks and Chimes is gonna’ melt people’s hearts once they get a hold of their debut album. I’m very proud to be a part of that work. I’m also incredibly proud of the new 6brooks album; it’s free and amazing. I’ve herd that the Brian Buckley Band has a new record coming out this spring and Brian and the crew have been a favorite of mine since back in the day. Love those guys and really think their gonna blow up soon. Oh man, there’s so many – Parker Ainsworth, Jessy Payo, BJ Allman. This city is full of amazing artists, and I’m just glad I get to be a small part of that. I think my dream collaboration would be with Fiona Apple, Smokey Robinson, and Wycleff. That would be one hell of a collaboration.”
YNLA: Yeah that would be a pretty dope combo of artists. Why those three? Also, I’m intrigued. Tell me a little bit more about this collective that you’re a part of. How did that come about?
CH: “One of the first memories I have is of watching Sesame Street, and there was an episode with Smokey Robinson in it, and he was singing a song about the letter U. There was something magical about it, and that’s, I think, what started my love of soul and R&B music. Wycleff is a brilliant producer and artist; The Score was a record that was really big for me. Fiona is an extremely talented singer and songwriter and is one of those artists who took the idea of spirituality and put it into a song in a way where it was ok to ask questions. The collective [The Alto Nido Arts Collective] was this thing that came about kind of organically. I had a good friend that lived here in the area, and when my wife and I moved to LA, we ended up moving into the same building. From there it just grew. I live in a really great community. You have a lot of people in LA, I think more than any other place in the world, who moved here trying to make it. We support each other. We keep each other grounded. It’s not about just trying to be successful; we push each other creatively to stay true to the craft. The Socks and Chimes record was a real collective effort. We all work to give something back to the industry not to just take from it. It’s not just about what we can do for ourselves as individuals; it’s about the bettering of the collective.”
YNLA: I caught the video for “Little Bird” by Socks and Chimes, which you had a cameo in, and I noticed that your wife, Lauren, was the director of photography. I know that she’s also shot the covers for your albums. In what ways do you feel that you have fed and enhanced each other as artists? What is the collaborative process like between the two of you?
CH: “Oh man, I’m so lucky to have my wife. I don’t know what I’d do without her. It’s interesting because we are very different people creatively and I think that’s what we love about each other. She has an amazing creative eye and the ability to learn and follow through and perfect a project like no one I’ve ever seen. I think the biggest inspiration for both of us is that we believe so strongly in each other and our respective crafts. We’re always pushing each other to work harder and really give back to the world what we can creatively. She’s the best.”
YNLA: Your live performances that I’ve seen are very powerful in the sense that it’s just you, your voice, and the music and you have such a great command of the stage. When it comes to performing, a lot of artists say on stage it’s like an alter ego comes out. What is the experience like for you? What goes through your mind before, during, and after performing? Are there any musicians that you could say shaped or influenced the way that you approach performing live?
CH: “Being on stage for me is a lot like being a catalyst or conduit. Before I even step on stage I can already feel the energy and direction of the room. I think when people come out to a show they want to be entertained, but even more then that, they want to be led somewhere. They want to be given an experience. That’s what I try to do with every part of me. Sometimes it’s like being transcendent. I’ve stepped off stage before not knowing what happened, just being aware that it was something much bigger than myself. I think the two artists that made me fall in love with performing were James Brown and Lauren Hill. It always seemed like they both became something so much more then themselves when they were on stage. Maybe it was that they were the most themselves when they were there. “
YNLA: Where is it that you want to lead your audience through your performance? What experience do you try to give people?
CH: “I believe that since God created us, He knows better than we do [about] who we are. So I feel like you have to open yourself to letting God show you who you are. When I think of people being on stage and being the most themselves, I think of people being the conduit for God to speak through them and allowing that divine nature to flow through them and over the crowd. If I can push myself to be the most divinely creative I can be on stage and allow myself to get out of the way and be the conduit the audience will see that. They will be seeing something as true as they can.”
YNLA: This year has been a busy one for you. You’ve got the new album coming out, you’re producing albums and tracks for artists such as Reason, 6Brooks, and Socks and Chimes, and you’re going to be doing quite a bit of touring. How does it feel to have all of this creative energy blasting off around you? What are you most looking forward to this year in regards to what you’re doing musically?
CH: “I love it! This year has already been so filled with new music and collaborations; I can’t even imagine what will come next. It really feels like everyone around me right now is just swinging for the fences whether that’s with music or acting or dance, just whatever. I think we’re all just trying to keep up with and support each other. I think the thing I’m most excited about this year is my new record Mended Souls. I really feel like I’ve turned a new corner in terms of inspiration and style this year, and I’m excited to have a record out that really displays that. “
YNLA: What’s one of the biggest misconceptions that people have about you that have been brought to your attention?
CH: “This is kind of a strange one but a lot of people think that the tattoo on my left arm is actually a scar from a whip that got wrapped around my arm. I know it’s crazy but I get stopped about that all the time. “
YNLA: At the close of 2011, what’s the one thing that you hope to accomplish as a musician? What’s the ultimate thing that you would like to see take place in terms of your development and maturation as a singer-songwriter and performer?
CH: “I’d love to have one of my songs placed in a major movie this year. That’s definitely one of the major goals. I also would love to tour the east coast this year. I have a lot of fans back that way, and I think it’s about time I go pay them a visit. In the long term I’d love to tour the world, especially Europe, win a Grammy, and sell a million records. Yeah, that sounds about right.”
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