“I just couldn’t imagine a more perfect place that I’m at in my life for this record and for these songs,” Marty Casey expressed to me while we were discussing the upcoming release of his debut solo album during our phone interview on a Saturday afternoon.
Many may remember Marty as the enigmatic lead singer of Chicago based alternative rock band, The Lovehammers, while others may remember him as the guy who sang “that ‘Trees’ song” on Rockstar INXS back in 2005. “I don’t mind being the “Trees” guy,” Marty told me. “I think it’s an honor and awesome to be known for something so memorable.” In Chicago, Marty Casey is a name almost everyone is familiar with in one way or another. The native south sider has built an amazingly loyal and supportive fan base over the years that’s followed him and his career every which way it’s gone. Now those same fans are just as excited and anxious as he is for the release of The Ground You Walk On, the singer’s first ever solo record. While the pressure of not wanting to disappoint such a large support system can certainly have quite the impact on a person’s nerves, Casey is embracing the whole experience with a much more positive outlook.
“Really, it’s more fuel than pressure. They’re gonna take the ride with you and they don’t even know what the ride is yet, and they already bought a ticket and jumped on the roller coaster and are just waiting for it to start,” Marty explained. “It’s an amazing thing to have such a strong fan base that allows you to then push the envelope. If I didn’t have a strong fan base I would have made a Lovehammers album with just Marty Casey, and I would have tried to get away with it.”
Casey continued by adding, “I didn’t want to do that to the Lovehammers and I didn’t want to do that to the fans. I wanted to give them something completely me, completely limitless, completely, literally let’s just blow the roof off of everything that you thought you knew, and let’s just have a lot of fun with it. Let’s just put out some great songs. Let’s make the shows incredible. And they’ve been up there along for the ride. So it’s not fear that they bring by being so connected. It’s fuel that burned brighter.”
The Ground You Walk On is due out May 26th and as someone who has been fortunate enough to hear it already, I can tell you that it is one hell of an album. It’s truly a roller coaster set to music and full of twists and turns that takes you through the ups and downs of life, love and everything in between and back again. It’s impossible to lump this album into one category because musically it crosses different genres, which is no doubt due to Casey’s incredible ability to flow effortlessly from one style of music into another, as well as producer (and contributing songwriter) Marti Frederiksen’s master production skills.
Recorded at the infamous Quad Studios and produced by the even more infamous Marti Frederiksen, The Ground You Walk On is full of so much talent it’s almost incomprehensible. The songwriting is impeccable, the production outstanding, and Frederiksen couldn’t have picked a better group of musicians to play on this album. It’s Casey’s voice, though, that really shines bright on this album. Vocally he is at his absolute best and delivers each song more flawlessly than the next. According to the singer, he approached Frederiksen with only the hope he would co-write with Casey. Needless to say, Marty was blown away when Frederiksen offered to produce the album, and then pushed the 44 year old singer to start from scratch and ditch the 10 songs Casey original brought to the table.
“He really challenged me, like any great mentor does,” Casey expressed to me. “That was a tough one. It was kind of the greatest challenge I’ve ever had in terms of songwriting. It was worth every second and a very zen experience. It wasn’t just about the finished project, it was about the whole ride of getting there.”
“Coming Around” is the first of 14 tracks on the album, and kicks things off with this almost new breed of alternative rock that really pulls the listener in with its unique sound. The line that stuck out most to me while listening to this song was “sometimes the future shines so bright it blinds your eyes/I lost my way.” When I asked Marty about the inspiration behind that lyric, he explained that looking back at it now, it feels like it’s absolutely about Rockstar INXS.
“It probably should have been the happiest time of my life, but it was so confusing, and one of the hardest times of my life. It was so amazing, but it was really, really difficult. I think that’s where that line comes from. I think that’s kind of just stating for me how it felt at the time. Yeah, everything was bright and explosive at the moment directly around me, but I gotta say it was one of the toughest times of my life, that happiness kind of wasn’t the first thing on my mind. It was trying to be successful, and understanding that I didn’t know where we were gonna be.”
The second track on the album and the first single released from Casey’s solo album is “She’s On a Roll,” and was the first song the singer/songwriter wrote for the album. Marty described the song as a “great way to lead fans to the album,” and I think he was right. The song leaves listeners with the impression that this isn’t the Lovehammers, but it’s definitely Marty Casey music. “Broken” is the third track to follow and slows things down just a bit with a much more mellow and melodic vibe to it that really feels like the first song on the album that is musically different for Casey. The fourth track, which is also the title track of the album, “The Ground You Walk On” is undoubtedly Marty’s first of many WOW moments on the record. This beautiful song was written by Marti Frederiksen and was the last song added to the album. As Casey put it, “The Ground You Walk On” seemed like the right statement to make for what to call this record.” It’s by far one of the best songs on the album and Marty’s vocals just totally transcend to a level they never have before.
“Anything You Want” follows “The Ground You Walk On,” and was written by Frederiksen with Casey in mind while he was on Rockstar INXS. It’s got that funky, 70’s rock ‘n’ roll vibe to it and when listening, you can almost picture Casey dominating the stage with this song in a very Mick Jagger type of way. The album continues with the next track, “This House” and again, we get that very low key, pop rock side of Marty that he does so well. “It’s Our Time” is the next song and was written in Maui back in 2012 when Marty first started dating his now wife, Daniella. It’s refreshing, has a big chorus and really shows the wider range Casey is capable of.
The most surprising track on The Ground You Walk On, though, comes on track seven entitled, “LaLaLa.” Casey channels his inner Michael Buble on this one and absolutely nails it. Inspired by and written for his wife, this song has Casey laying it all out there in every way possible. Lyrically and musically “LaLaLa” is sweet and easy, and as Casey said, was “the biggest reach, as far as going out there in style.” He admitted to it being the scariest one for him to put on the record, but thank goodness Marti Frederiksen convinced him to include it. He told Marty, “You gotta be willing to really go out there if you’re going to make any sort of statement.” It’s the kind of song you immediately imagine being played on mainstream radio stations in between Michael Buble and John Mayer.
Fans get a little bit of that traditional Marty Casey on “Don’t Hurt Anymore.” The alt rock song feels like a forgotten Lovehammers track, and showcases Casey’s ability to balance his love for screaming with his discovery of actually being able to sing when he pulls back a little. A standout track on the record is no doubt the breezy pop ballad penned by Casey titled, “You Girl,” which was also inspired by his wife Daniella and written on one of their trips to Maui. Not only is the song extremely catchy both lyrically and musically, but Casey delivers the upbeat, fun track so naturally it feels like it’s second nature to him. Happy and honest sound good on the blonde rocker, especially on this song. The carefree vibe from “You Girl” carries into “Drifting,” the next song on the album. It’s very open and free, in a windows down kind of way, and offers the same type of feeling one might get from listening to a Don Henley song.
If any song on The Ground You Walk On has that Americana sound to it that could only come from recording in Nashville, it’s the 12th track on the album, entitled “Brand New Fire.” Another song written by Frederiksen, Casey described this song to me as “another gift from Marti.” Its storyteller lyrics take you on a spiritual journey of self-discovery, and by the last chord you can’t help but feel fully inspired and ready to chase down your own dreams. Marty’s rockstar persona is in true form, though, as he comes in swinging on the second to last track, “Stuck On You.” With loud guitars and big drumlines backing Casey’s signature vocals, this jam will definitely feed the appetites of listeners hungry for more rock ‘n’ roll. The Ground You Walk On closes with its final track, written by Casey and Dave Thompson. “Beautiful Sunset” is a stunning song with the idea of making this grand statement, and couldn’t end the record on a better note. It’s lyrically perfect and so over the top musically that it feels like Casey’s biggest rockstar moment to date.
Anyone who knows Marty Casey and is a fan of his will NOT be disappointed in his debut solo record. There is literally something for everyone to know enjoy on it, and if you’re anything like me then you’ll find yourself listening to this album over and over and over again. Yes, it’s really that good. In fact, if you don’t believe me, just take a look on the Pledge Music website and see for yourself all of the people who pre-ordered the album as soon as Casey made the announcement he was releasing a solo record. I myself was unfamiliar with Pledge Music until news spread of Marty’s involvement with it, and after listening to him talk so passionately about the benefits of it, I completely understand why he chose this route.
“Pledge is important because for me it’s a pre-sale, the opportunity to let the fans know about the project and build up momentum towards that release date. It’s harder if you just say “here’s my record, now let’s build a story around it” It’s a lot better to say, “in three months I’m gonna release a record and take this ride with me.” And as you’re building up the momentum, you can see if people are following you, really get to engage the project…and so seeing instant reaction, then it’s like, “Oh my gosh, I can hire a publicist,” and “wow, what reaction to this record! I can do videos,” and then I know there’s a budget to make videos, and then you see there’s a large percentage of people purchasing in these towns. Maybe I should go on tour in these towns because this is predominantly the big areas where the record is being purchased. Down to the demographic of people, I know how many women are buying the record, how many men, I know their ages…so it’s really amazing to see who your fan base is so that when you’re going to promote it and push it, you know exactly who you should be pushing toward. It really ties in the fan base more than just, “Hey, here’s my record.”
It truly is a magnificent thing to see so many people embrace Marty and the release of his first solo project the way they have been since day one of the announcement came. To have the kind of support system to fall back on that holds you up is really remarkable and often unheard of for independent artists like Marty. While it really says more about the special kind of person he is, Marty won’t hesitate to tell you how fortunate, lucky and blessed he is to have the kind of opportunities he’s had, especially since meeting Frederiksen.
“I never would have had the caliber of songs to sing if Marti Frederiksen never would have produced the record. I would have been just some guy. He literally just plucked me out of nowhere and said, “I believe in you, but I’m gonna make you work really hard to realize this dream. I’m not gonna just take your 10 songs.” He said, “let’s start over and make an amazing record,” and he was so proud of what I was doing and how I was singing that I was like, take the challenge. This was a once in a lifetime gift he was giving me and the greatest record that I’ve ever written. To have a solo record is just…I’m blown away that I got to do it!”
The Ground You Walk On is proof that it only takes one person to believe in you and take a chance on you in order to turn your dream into a reality. For Marty Casey, that one person came in the form of legendary producer and songwriter, Marti Frederiksen. Together they created the kind of album that really resonates with people. I think Marty Casey has always had the potential of a rockstar, the kind that he no doubt looks up to and idolizes. This album, though, has allowed him to spread his wings and create his own identity.
“I can’t say that I’m not scared about May 26th and if people are going to connect with the record or if it’s too wild and out there for them. For me, it’s really an honest statement and I believe in it 100%.”