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Jason Castro

February 17, 2010 by  
Filed under Interviews

Fans of American Idol can no doubt attest to the unique charm of Season 7 finalist Jason Castro. In an Idol year jam-packed with formidable talent, Castro initially stood out for his distinctive look (dreadlocked hair and an easy smile) and the affable nature he displayed in on-air interviews. However, it was his impressive ability to convey the emotions behind his chosen songs that ultimately won over a legion of dedicated fans. In standout performances on songs like “Hallelujah” and “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” Castro displayed an interpretative gift rarely matched on the show.

After finishing fourth in the competition, the Texas native participated in the Idol tour and then moved to L.A. to begin writing. Ultimately, he signed with Atlantic Records — who helped hook the 22-year-old Castro up with some name-brand songwriting partners — and began work on his debut album. While the self-titled record is slated for a spring release, Castro provided a preview of the album’s tracks with “The Love Uncompromised EP,” a five-song collection released at the beginning of this year. It was enthusiastically received by The New York Times, who likened Castro and his brand of buoyant pop to Jack Johnson and Jason Mraz, and described the disc as “among the most sure-footed records, debut or otherwise, by an Idol contestant from any season.”

Currently, Castro is on the road, enjoying getting back to his pre-Idol roots by playing a string of intimate venues with label mate Matt Hires and Caitlin Crosby. He recently took some time out to give TWRY the scoop on his new album, share his feelings about the writing process, and explain why fans won’t see him singing behind the drums anytime soon.

Interviewed by:  Heather Kobrin | February 2010

People seem to connect very strongly with how heartfelt your performances are… how much emotion you put into interpreting a song. Thinking back to the beginning of your career, were you always comfortable being so open? Or did you have to work at loosening up on-stage?
Well, my roots go back to playing drums. I didn’t sing until I was in college, and early on, it’s more about learning how to do something. But once you know how to do it, music is at its best when it becomes second nature, when you can just pour all your heart into it and not have to think about what you’re doing. I think that’s when the magic happens. I discovered this at some point in high school, just playing drums. There’s nothing like that feeling, it really translates. That’s the power of music. You translate to people all of your passions through words, through your movements, through everything. I think it really has become a natural thing. I don’t know if it always was, but I was always a very passionate person. When I do something, I do it with all my heart.

Since you started out as a drummer, could you ever see yourself singing lead behind the drum kit, like Don Henley or Phil Collins back in the day?
You know, for me, when I play drums, it’s kind of like a full-body expressive thing. (laughs) I really could never sing when I was doing that. I could make myself, but I don’t find it as moving for me personally or for the audience. I think when I’m playing drums, I’m playing drums, and I think it’s much easier to express myself through the guitar or even just through singing.

Over the course of this tour, I know you’ve taken time out to perform at several high schools. Did you have the chance to speak personally with kids who are considering music as a career?
Yeah, I got to chat with a few people, and hang out. We do a lot of meet and greets — it’s during their lunch hour, so it kind of moves through. But I got to record a little something with a student at one school, someone who had a band and was aspiring to be a musician. It’s truly cool. You know I forget that I was there. I was in high school, not knowing what I was doing, just playing music and loving it. So it must be cool to have somebody come by who’s doing it, just to hear their point of view and get to ask, “How’d you do it?” It’s a lot of fun.

As a singer-songwriter, it seems that you’ve found a good home in recording for Atlantic — you’ve said they understand how important it is for your personality and your voice to come through in the songwriting. I think that’s something other American Idol alums haven’t always had luck with when it came to recording their debut albums.
For me, when I set out after the tour, I moved to L.A. and started writing songs. It was really all about the music. If I was going to do something, I was going to do something that was authentic. Initially, I wasn’t with a label. I was just writing, and Atlantic reached out to me. So I came out and played some of my songs, and asked them what they thought and if they liked the direction I was going in, because I really wasn’t interested in doing something that wasn’t me. And they really liked it, they really caught the vision, and I just felt like they had the resources to take what I was doing to the next level.

How did you find the experience of working with other songwriters on the album? Was this your first time collaborating?
It was, and you know, the way that started was a very natural process. The first co-write I did was with a guy named Dave Lichens who I was a huge fan of online. I had an EP that he had printed only 1,000 copies of. We were doing tour rehearsals in L.A., and I saw that he was playing at the House of Blues. I walked up there to try and catch the show, but I couldn’t get in because I was wearing shorts. (laughs) So I went back and wrote him a MySpace message and he messaged me back. The next day he came and picked me up from my hotel where I was bored out of my mind, and we just started hanging out. We really became friends first, and then started writing songs together. Ultimately his band ended up backing me up for a couple of shows. And you know, I think that’s the way it’s supposed to be, because it can be kind of funky just hooking up with random writers. At the same time, it was just such a learning process for me, because I started playing about four years ago, only about a year before the show started. I had only begun to write when I got on Idol, so it was really cool. It was kind of like picking up where I left off, only this time I had a lot of guidance, and a lot of people with experience around me who I could reach out to and work with. So it was quite an enjoyable experience writing this album.

Do you feel like the record has a theme, lyrically, that runs through all of the songs?
Yeah, but it didn’t really start out like that. I didn’t start writing with anything in mind. But I think at the end of it, looking back, it’s just kind of all about love. I’m fortunate to be surrounded by a lot of love.

The album features both acoustic and electric arrangements, is that right?
It’s pretty much acoustic-based. I would call it a modern singer-songwriter album. There are some tracks that are heavier than others and more rocking, definitely have some electrics going and some more just acoustic. So there’s a variety of stuff on there.

Can you tell us the current status? Are things looking good for an April release?
We don’t have a firm date yet. But I’m hearing probably the end of April — spring is for sure. So by the summertime, you’ll have some new music.

This season on Idol, viewers caught a few quick glimpses of your brother Michael making it to the Hollywood round for the second year in a row. If, in a future season, he makes it further along in the competition, theoretically, we could have a Castro covering another Castro’s song on the show… so I was wondering if you might suggest that he perform one of your songs?
(Laughs) That would be interesting. You know, we have different styles so that’d be cool to see what he did with mine. He’d probably think it was better than my version!

You seem to be someone who’s very much at peace with himself. Do you have a personal philosophy that you live your life by?
Hmm, a personal philosophy… well, I think my faith really plays a big part in who I am. Being a follower of Christ, I live by those teachings.  Do unto others as you would have others do unto you. And just live with grace, that’s kind of the big word I hang onto, being graceful.

For all the latest news visit Jason’s official website

Catch Jason Castro live:

Los Angeles, CA, Hotel Cafe
w/ Matt Hires, Caitlin Crosby (21+)

Feb 19 San Diego, CA, The Casbah
w/ Matt Hires, Caitlin Crosby (21+)

Feb 20 Tuscon, AZ, Solar Culture
w/ Matt Hires, Caitlin Crosby

Feb 21 Phoenix, AZ, Rhythm Room
w/ Matt Hires, Caitlin Crosby

Feb 22 Santa Fe, NM, Santa Fe Brewing Company

Feb 24 Dallas, TX, The Loft
w/ Matt Hires, Caitlin Crosby (ALL AGES)

Feb 25 Austin, TX, Stubb’s
w/ Matt Hires, Caitlin Crosby (ALL AGES)

Feb 26 Houston, TX, House of Blues
w/ Matt Hires, Caitlin Crosby (ALL AGES)

Feb 27 New Orleans, LA, One Eyed Jacks
w/ Matt Hires, Caitlin Crosby

Feb 28 Birmingham, AL, WorkPlay Theater
 w/ Matt Hires, Caitlin Crosby (18+)
Mar 11 Tulsa, OK, Flytrap Music Hall

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12 Responses to “Jason Castro”
  1. Missy says:

    Jason is just the best. I love his voice, his passion, his songs, and his beautiful personality. It is such an amazing treat to see Jason perform live. He loses himself in his songs and it is wonderful to behold. Don’t miss the chance to see him if you get the opportunity. You won’t regret it. Love how grounded Jason is in his faith.

  2. grace says:

    His music grabs you my the heart and doesn’t let go. I eagerly await his CD!


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