The Voice’s Casi Joy on her new single, ‘Poor Angel’
Country music singer-songwriter Casi Joy might currently make her home in Nashville, but she’s originally from the Kansas City area, where a childhood of singing competitions and young adulthood in rock bands like InLike prepared her to compete on NBC’s The Voice. On the primetime show, she was counseled and mentored by the show’s Blake Shelton. Since her run on that show, she’s toured the country in an RV with her husband Brian, playing crazy amounts of shows and releasing new music.
Joy just released her latest single, “Poor Angel,” which might be a little different from the music her fans have come to expect. It’s a reflection of the times in which we’re currently living, but when we spoke with Joy by phone last week, we discussed just where the new tune fits in with her musical history.
The Pitch: Where are you quarantining?
Casi Joy: We are in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, just outside of Nashville.
You have spent a lot of time basically living in an RV: are you still living in said RV?
Yeah, we are. With all the campgrounds kind of being closed down right now, we had some friend here in Murfreesboro that are letting us just park the bus in their neighborhood, and so we’re able to kind of hang out in their house and then we go sleep on the bus and you kind of hop back and forth.
I was kind of joking – I wasn’t really expecting you to actually still be in your RV. I suppose it’s a little bit better than being stuck in a one-bedroom apartment?
Yeah, exactly. I mean, now the kind of bittersweet thing is like, “Well, joke’s on you: our house can go anywhere we want!” We’re thinking about taking the bus back to Kansas City pretty soon just to kind of have a change of scenery, ’cause we can do that when our house has wheels.
Would you come back to Kansas City just to be nearer family and more of a support network?
Yeah, we’ve got some shows we might be doing soon, like some cul de sac concerts, where people just stay at their houses and stay socially distanced, and I might sit on top of the bus and do a couple of concerts. We might go back and water the home base with that kind of an idea. We’re kind of still trying to figure that part out.
I had seen in your press kit that one of the things that you will do is house parties.
Oh, yeah. We love to do that stuff, and that’s been just the worst part of the whole shutdown thing. Live music is my entire life, and that’s kind of been taken away, but with being able to do Facebook lives, I still kind of/sort of get to have shows that way.
There have been bands who have staged full-on concerts in a venue, then all the way down to everybody doing them from their living rooms. Being us how you’ve performed on stages of all different sizes, was it a little bit easier for you to make that transition to performing in your living room – wherever that living room might be?
Luckily, I’ve actually been doing Facebook Live once a week for the past almost two years, so whenever this whole shutdown happened, I was like, “Well, I guess I’ll just keep doing what I’m doing.” Between the actual live shows and doing my Facebook concerts, we kind of already had a good following, with that already set up, so we got really lucky with that we kind of were already in front of the curve.
What I find really interesting about the arc of your career is that you’ve performed on what is now currently the biggest singing competition on TV, but you started out in Kansas City in School of Rock.
Well, before the School of Rock, even, I was in a pop girl group when I was, like, 13 with Radio Disney, and so I was in pop music, then. That kind of transitioned into the School of Rock so I was doing rock music and singing in rock bands, and then I went back to country music in 2012. I’ve been doing that since, so it’s a pretty eclectic sound.
I’ve seen that video on your YouTube page of you performing in that video you watch with your parents. How old are you in that?
Oh, my gosh, that is just cringe. It was so bad, I had to post it, but I was 12 or 13 then. That was when my parents used to just enter me into all these competitions – anything we could find. We would spend every single weekend just going around the country, wherever these competitions were. My mom would make my outfit from scratch, because we couldn’t find any hokey-pokey country yodeling outfits anywhere. It was just it was a crazy time and we certainly have a lot of fun stories.
What brought you back to country in 2012?
My rock band [InLike], that I was with for a long time, broke up. This was actually around the time that I met my husband Brian. I had spent a year of not being on stage, because I didn’t have a project to work on our a band to be with, and he was like, “Well, what are you doing being in bands? You need to be solo.”
A lot of people had told me that for so long, too, and I was like, “You know what? I think you’re right.” I think my heart is just really with country music. That’s where my voice like wants to live, so I just decided to go for it. We’ve been just shootin’ the moon since.
What I love about your YouTube channel is that it’s not just that you do standards, as well as some eclectic stuff, but you also do like some oldies. The fact that you have not one, but a couple of Connie Francis and Debbie Boone covers on there? That’s really pleasantly unusual.
Thank my mom for that one. See, she’s the one that told me to learn all these songs when I was 10, and I was like, “I don’t want to learn ‘Harper Valley PTA’! There’s too many words!” I had to learn all that stuff for the Opry shows that I was in and now, looking back, I am so so glad that I was so influenced by those old songs and some of the deep cuts. I’m just really grateful for that now.
Doing those competitions and performing those songs: do you think that that’s given you an ability to perform for like different audiences, because you can pull out “Harper Valley PTA” or “Fancy,” in addition to something like “My Church” by Maren Morris?
Totally. It’s definitely given me the ability to have an expectation for a show, walk-in, see the audience, and think to myself, “Well, that Michael Jackson song’s not gonna work – better pull out some Patsy Cline.” I’m really glad that I’m able to kind of pull some tricks out of my hat, just to fit whatever audience is there.
In some shows, I have to completely scrap my setlist because the audience is, like, eight years old, so I have to throw in more Taylor Swift and Bruno Mars and “Old Town Road.” So, literally I never know what to expect at my shows, because it just kind of goes off the rails sometimes, and I just flip and let the audience kind of drive the ship.
Along those lines: on your YouTube channel, when you do these covers, the videos you’re posting aren’t your standard “sitting with a guitar on your bed, singing.” You’re making literal music videos for all of these. How did you come to do that and what made you decide to go that extra step?
They used to start as just me recording with my phone and my guitar and singing it. Then, I think I just kept getting bored and thinking like, “How can I up the ante? How can I make it bigger? How can I stay ahead of the competition?” We got a pretty nice camera to film with, and I kind of forced my husband to learn videography, and now we go out and I have Brian hold the speaker in his teeth and walk around with me while he’s filming.
Songs like “Truck,” “Red Lips,” and your new single are these really honest and empowering songs which fit very nicely in the trail that comes from “Harper Valley PTA” and Loretta Lynn, but man, “Poor Angel” is a rough one.
It is, yeah, and I’m just now getting to the point of where I’m less uncomfortable and nervous about releasing it. I’ve never really shown that vulnerable of a side. You know, my name is Casi Joy and so I’ve always felt like people really looked to me to find positivity, and to always be on the bright side, and to always just be sunshine and rainbows, but that’s not always how I feel. I started to kind of have guilt about it – that I’m putting out this highlight reel and I’m doing the thing that all these Instagram influencers do that’s so annoying.
I think it’s time to really just get in tune with my feelings, and be honest about it, and let my fans know that you know, even me – “Sunshine and Rainbows” Joy – also feel pretty dark sometimes, and you’re not crazy for feeling like that. I go on the hunt for songs when I’m sad – like, “Somebody just tell me that I’m not alone in that I’m not crazy for feeling this way” – and so, I wanted to put out a song that would do that for my fans, as well.
Is it sort of like the times in which we’re all living that made it easier to release it? Is it wanting to show your more vulnerable side, but also trying to be like, “Listen: I’m taking this the same way we all are”?
Exactly. I wasn’t even gonna release this song yet. I was gonna wait a little bit longer. We have some other things kind of in the works here in Nashville to release this song in a different way. Then the shutdown happened, and I just got to thinking, “You know, what better time to provide a song that supports how we’re all feeling – and can lend some comfort to listeners – than right now?” So, I was like, “You know what? I’m just doing it myself. I’m just gonna put it out there,” because I feel like it’s a bigger song than me and people just really need to hear it right now.