Cas Haley Gets Spirited
At 15 you quit high school and by 17 you moved out to Salt Lake City with friends to form a band. What was that time period like?
With my parents being very country hippies, I grew up with the perspective that I wasn’t afraid of drugs. They were never demonized to me. So I was sort of a loose cannon in that regard. I thought what you did was party and play music. I definitely went through some dark times learning through the natural consequences of life and learning that there is a dark side to partying and drugs. Probably for about a good 7 to 8 years, from the ages of 15 to 24 until I had my son, who is 7 now. When I had my son, it put things into perspective.
The drugs were definitely effecting the direction I was going musically. I wasn’t running the business right. It wasn’t even a business. I was playing weekend gigs and having a dream to play music. But after I had my son, and had someone depending on me, it changed me. I always tell my son and people around me, I really felt I was introduced to God when I had a kid. That was the first time I felt a divine presence. I think that’s what did it for me – God’s grace and my child. I’ve had another child since then and they’ve been a big force in keeping that energy that is inside of me at bay.
The one thing that saved me besides my kids is that I’m really good at doing one thing. I always played music and that’s what I always did. I just stuck with playing music. It sounds obvious, but I stuck with it and was committed to it.
What made you stay on board?
I feel like that was a blessing from God to know that this was it. I really did have this burning faith inside of me, and know inside of me, that this is what I’m supposed to do and this is how I’m supposed to live my life and grow with music. I always knew that this was it. People always say that ‘I’m naturally talented.’ I don’t think I came out of the womb ready to play music. I think the gift from God was that the little thing inside of me, saying, ‘You’re supposed to do this,’ and I was able to feel that.
How did your appearance on America’s Got Talent help you?
It helped in a lot of ways. I fell into the whole experience. It was never something I thought I would do or considered doing, until the day of the audition and a friend convinced me to go. It was another divine intervention thing, where I can’t take credit for going and probably wouldn’t have gone. In the end, when I look back at what it did, besides the obvious—expose a lot of people to me and my story— it calibrated my compass: what direction do I want to take this.
I always knew I wanted to play music but I didn’t necessarily know what direction I wanted to take it and how do I want to go about this. You can be one of those artists that is constantly looking for a record deal to validate them and looking for fame. And after getting a little piece of that fame, I was like, ‘Man, this isn’t necessarily what I’m after,’ and I didn’t know that before.
It helped me find perspective and direction and I know that the one reason that I love doing what I do because I’m my own boss. I call my own shots and that’s super important for me to be happy and for me to express myself honestly. You don’t know that feeling until you have somebody invest a large amount of money into your name and your likeness and control the way that’s put out to the public. It becomes a scary deal.
What happened after you signed the record deal with Epic based on your America’s Got Talent appearance?
I was getting the feeling they were trying to introduce me to songwriters and telling me their vision for who I was and I felt that was weird for them to have a vision for me. And basically, letting me know this is the way it’s going to go, so I abandoned ship and I went back to Northeast Texas and cut off all communication with these people. I sort of screwed them because legally, they had a deal. After seeing that world, I didn’t like how that felt.
So how are things different with Easy Star records?
With them it’s structured as a partnership deal. I have complete control creatively. I own all my masters, records and pay for all my records and they do a licensing deal and it doesn’t limit me creatively. They’re great. Those guys are realistic. They’re not looking to make a lot of money really quickly. It’s a career based-type of thing. We’re looking 20 years down the road to have a catalog of music to stand behind.