In 2007, Cas Haley made a name for himself as a reggae artist by coming in second place on America’s Got Talent. Fame and fortune had, seemingly, been hand delivered to the Texas-based singer-songwriter on a platter. Yet, with all of the glamour of a big-name record deal came a huge amount of pressure to conform to a specific image. For Haley, that left very little room for exploring the more personal aspects of identity, especially as an artist.
When it comes to musicians self-identifying as, “grassroots,” they often mean that they are starting out in the music industry, or establishing a local base of fans. For Cas Haley however, his grassroots identity refers to a more homegrown sound, and a slower, more mindful pace. This identity comes after nearly thirteen years in the industry, and it’s a title that he wears with pride.
“I hadn’t really realized who I was as an individual or a person. It was a very vulnerable situation to be put into where companies have millions of dollars invested in you, and they’re going to portray you in a certain way and they’re going to write songs for you, when [music] had always been such a personal thing for me and sort of self-therapy.”
In the years since his big break, Haley’s music has returned to that self-therapy that had initially made music so important for him. While many of Haley’s songs do incorporate the island-style reggae tunes that he became famous for, many more of his songs draw on the blues-country influences of his childhood. With every record, Haley’s music becomes more personal, and better showcases him as an individual, and as an artist.
With his latest album, Lessons and Blessings, Haley brings a more personal and evocative view into his life, and into his music. The album was written over the past year after his wife, Cassy, was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive form of breast cancer. Yet, their family remained optimistic, only growing closer together through her treatment. It was during this time that Cas and Cassy were able to create an album that was truly special for them.
“Over half of the album, me and my wife wrote together. A lot of it was centered around the things that came up through dealing with her cancer, dealing with this whole thing. Me and my wife have been together for 20 years, and we never were creative together in writing songs or anything. It was a really new and interesting relationship, y’know what I mean? 20 years and we’ve never done this, it’s so exciting and so fun. I think it’s the best tunes I’ve gotten to be a part of.”
The album was released on June 21, and was recorded entirely on the Haley family farm, allowing the whole family to be a part of the process. His family has also been accompanying him on tour, making his entourage one of the more supportive in show business.“We know the kinds of places we wanna go, and so our approach has become more mindful rather than just shooting from the hip and playing every rock club we can.”
This fall, their tour schedule will be bringing the family down to Shakori Hills GrassRoots Festival for a weekend of grassroots fun in the sun. Though Haley is a newcomer to the festival, he will definitely be an act to remember. As for his performance, Haley says that he and his band will, “try to keep it as real as we possibly can, so we’ll bring our hearts to the table, it’s what we do every time and it’s what we’ll do at Shakori Hills.”
Before seeing him in October check out his YouTube channel to get to know Cas and his family better. Also make sure to check out his website and stream Cas Haley’s latest album, Lessons and Blessings on all major online outlets.