July 05--(EDITOR'S NOTE: This is one in a series of stories previewing acts for this year's Decatur Celebration, Aug. 2-4.)
DECATUR -- Compared to most musical stars as children, Casey Abrams was an unusually shy and reserved kid.
He began playing guitar in sixth grade but says he never really imagined himself as the front man of a famous rock group. Instead, he pictured himself playing bass somewhere in the back, close enough to appreciate the audience but without all the pressure.
"I always saw myself as like the soulful back-up bass guy, standing at the edge of the spotlight," said Abrams, an alum of the 10th season of "American Idol" who will perform Friday, Aug. 2, on the Decatur Celebration's Back Lot Stage. "I was always a shy guy, so that was like my compromise."
Eventually, though, Abrams overcame any shyness. His passion for bass remained, and he studied jazz bass in college for a few semesters before dropping out to pursue music full time. It was then that he decided to make a serious effort at getting himself on "American Idol," which has been a launching pad for so many other careers. He scheduled times and dates when he could appear at multiple auditions, but as it turned out, it only took one.
"I feel like I knew that I could really succeed at it," he said. "I walked into the auditorium with confidence, kind of screamed a song at the judges and it actually turned out alright."
The singer had a challenging run on the show, battling throughout with bouts of ulcerative colitis, an illness that has affected him for years. During the course of the show, he twice had to visit the hospital for severe stomach pains. The program's judges agreed circumstances hampered his performances, and made the executive decision to directly save him from elimination in the top 11 results show, only the third time in the show's history that happened.
Abrams eventually finished sixth, performing Queen's "Fat Bottomed Girls" with Jack Black during the season's finale. Since then, he has occasionally wished he could have infused a bit more of his own personality into those performances.
"I did wish that I could have been wearing just my regular clothes and stuff on the show and not the suits they had me in," he said. "That's not really my style. I would have liked to play a bit more bass and done some more simplified versions of songs."
That's what Abrams is trying to do now, to an extent. His self-titled debut album was released in the summer of 2012 and performed well, but it still represents a "transitional" Abrams, slowly moving away from his "American Idol" persona and toward the bassist he still intends to be someday.
"I wouldn't say the album shows completely who I am just yet, but it's a good transitional album after 'Idol,' " he said. "I like the songs and I'll play them until the day I die, but I think it will keep going toward being like a group that is like, just me and a bass, a snare drum and a Rhodes piano."
As for musicians who find themselves in the position where Abrams was before going on the show, he recommends they stick to their guns. Although he's thankful for the effect "American Idol" has had on his career, the singer is continuing to build it in the same way he would have if he had never been on TV.
"Just play as many shows as possible, that's what I'm doing in LA right now," he said. "I'm playing random clubs for free and stuff, trying new types of music. Make it all your own and don't be afraid to break a rule once in a while. If it sounds good to you, that's all that really matters."
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