Posts Tagged ‘American Idol’

Casey Abrams’ Album Release Set for June 26

Sunday, June 24th, 2012

Casey Abrams latest album will be released Tuesday. Banner art by Marcia E. Gawecki.

By Marcia E. Gawecki

“American Idol” heartthrob Casey Abrams’ first self-titled album is set for release on Tuesday, June 26. Already several web sites have showcased his entire album, including the Hollywood Reporter and Amazon.

Not to spoil the fun for anyone who hasn’t heard the album yet, I’ll speak in general terms. Casey is singing about his life in real time. About living the simple life, falling in and out of love, longing and not changing his personality in spite of fame.

One fan said on the MJS big blog site, that he’d surely buy Casey’s album for it’s great music, but the themes of rejection and longing for the unattainable reminded him too much of his own “loser teenage years.” Yet, “Hit the Road Jack,” a duet with Haley Reinhart, was well worth the album price (Amazon presale: $9.99).

Most of the upbeat, Bob Marley-type tunes, were likely written by Casey because they are clever. You’re tapping and singing along, dancing along even, and then he throws a few zingers that shows he has a soul or at least lived a few lifetimes already.

The three tunes that I can mention (because Casey has already released them as singles on You Tube) are “Get Out,” “Simple Life” and “Stuck in London.”

“Simple Life” (studio version) could be about living his high school years in Idyllwild. Casey sings about unplugging his laptop, cell phone and TV, and enjoying the simple life. He injects a bit of humor by stating that he should never had dumped that hand-me-down from dad (Ira Abrams from the Idyllwild Arts Film Department). What was Ira’s hand-me-down–clothes, a Cadillac or a musical instrument? Casey never says.

His “Get Out” lyrics are heartbreaking, even though they are sung in an upbeat way: “Lately, I’ve been going crazy/ cuz I want you, baby/but you don’t/ so get out, get out, get out, get out of my heart!/

So sometime over the past year or so Casey fell in love. Ten to one it’s not Haley, because she’s just as busy as he is promoting singles and scheduling public appearances. Could it be Bianca King, the young actress from The Philippines who was hell bent on meeting Casey during the “American Idol Live” tour? She turned to her Twitter fan base to help get a backstage pass (see Idyllwild Me post, “Casey’s Expanding Fan Base,” dated Jan. 15, 2012).

Jazz musician Barnaby Finch with Casey banner outside Cafe Aroma. Art by Marcia E. Gawecki.

Why I guessed Bianca is because Casey sings a lot about eating mangoes in a mango tree in “Stuck in London.” Well, mangoes grow naturally in The Philippines, and he was visiting there for a couple of days. But is that long enough to fall in love?

Ira Abrams is careful not to give too much away about his son’s personal life. But he admitted that many young Filipinos are crazy about Casey.

“Did you know they hang banners from buildings with quotes from Casey?” Ira said outside Fairway a few weeks ago. “Some quotes are mundane like ‘I sometimes watch TV.'”

Whether Casey is singing about Bianca is nobody’s business. But it sure makes the song more interesting if we know the juicy details. Remember when “You’re So Vain” was released by Carly Simon in 1972? Well, her self-absorbed lover wasn’t husband James Taylor, but Warren Beatty, the actor from “Shampoo” and “Reds.” (Wikipedia stated there was “much speculation” about three men, including Mick Jagger, Nick Nolte and Warren Beatty).

However, all that speculation may have helped “You’re So Vain” reach no. 72 on Billboard’s “Greatest Songs of All Time” chart. So, to help boost Casey’s record sales, someone needs to find out if Bianca has eaten mangoes in trees before.

Casey with Caleb Hensinger at an Idyllwild Arts film event.

Probably the only song that Casey didn’t write in this latest album is the tune popularized by Ray Charles. “Hit the Road Jack” is a spanky little duet with Haley Reinhart. You’ve got to admit it, those two have chemistry. He’s classy, and she’s brassy. He growls, and her voice has range.

But he’s a great jazz musician and could actually make it in the movies, if he wanted to. And singing duets with Haley has boosted her popularity since he took her under his wing in “American Idol’s” Season 10.

This is not the first duet for Casey and Haley. So far, they’ve sung “I Feel the Earth Move,” “Moanin,” and “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.”

It’s not Casey’s first album either. Casey released “Like a Mirror,” in 2005 and “Oh, You Kid!” in 2010. He probably funded the first two, while Concord is taking credit for this one.

You can purchase all three of Casey’s albums on Amazon. Or you can sample “Oh, You Kid!” on Casey’s web site,

“Give him a Grammy already,” said another Casey fan after reviewing his album. “I love every song on this album!”

To preview some of Casey’s hit singles, visit You Tube at or go directly to Amazon, and buy the album for $9.99.

Copyright 2012 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved. Banners of Casey Abrams by Marcia E. Gawecki are now on display at the Bill Anson Gallery in the Backstreet Art District in Palm Springs.


Casey Abram’s Expanding Fan Base

Sunday, January 15th, 2012

Casey banner by Idyllwild artist Marcia E. Gawecki

“Is your most famous celebrity still living in Idyllwild?”

It was Saturday night, Jan. 14, and we were chatting at the Bill Anson Gallery in the Backstreet Art District of Palm Springs.

Sorry, Casey, but I instantly thought of “The Bronze Buckaroo,” Herb Jeffries, and not you. Although she was pretty, this woman was middle-aged.

“We just loved watching Casey each week on ‘American Idol’ (Season 10),” exclaimed Brenda Friend, of Palm Springs. “My friends and I even went to Los Angeles where they taped the show to meet him and get an autograph, but it never happened.”

She was almost giddy.

“Then we were thinking of going up to Idyllwild to meet him, if he still lived there.”

Going from relative obscurity to instant celebrity must be a surreal thing for Casey. To find middle-aged fans like Brenda who are willing to travel great distances to meet him. But the young ones are rabid too!

Remember when the ‘American Idol Live’ Tour ended Sept. 20-21 in The Philippines? Bianca King, a young actress, was hell-bent on meeting Casey, so she turned to her Twitter fan base to help get a backstage pass.

They hit it off and had a good laugh when Bianca told him that if he dyed his hair black and got a spray tan, he’d make it as an actor in The Philippines. She then posted pictures of the two of them on her blog site.

Casey playing with other Idyllwild Arts students at the LA Club. Photo by Marcia Gawecki

Back at the Art Walk in Palm Springs, I told Brenda Friend that Casey’s parents still lived in Idyllwild, and Ira Abrams worked with me at Idyllwild Arts.

Then I found myself promising I would try to get Casey’s autograph.

I secretly hoped it was possible.

Brenda wrote down her Palm Springs address, and then rushed over to tell her husband and friends.

The funny thing was that Brenda hadn’t even heard about Casey’s latest You Tube video announcing his record deal with Concord Records. It’s the same label as Carole King and Kenny G.

Casey’s mom, Pam Pierce, sent an email saying there was an Idyllwild Arts connection to the video. The song was written, recorded and produced by Casey (all instruments and voices). The video was shot and edited at Idyllwild Arts by Nick Cain and Sean Stromsoe of Persistent Vision (former Idyllwild Arts film students).

“Oh, he’s so natural and fun-loving in front of the camera,” Brenda exclaimed. “His parents raised him right.”

To view Casey’s announcement video, click here: Casey_Abrams_Signed-1

Copyright 2012 Idyllwild Me (text and images, but not video). All rights reserved.

‘Welcome Home Casey’ Block Party

Thursday, September 22nd, 2011

Cafe Aroma will be hosting a "Welcome Home, Casey" block party this Sunday

By Marcia E. Gawecki

What’s next for Casey Abrams, the “American Idol” heartthrob from Idyllwild? Will he be making a jazz record? Performing again with Jack Black? Going on tour with his jazz band? Hosting “Saturday Night Live?”

Never mind all that! First, we’re gonna party! Café Aroma is hosting a “Welcome Home, Casey” block party in Idyllwild this Sunday, Sept. 25, from 3 p.m. t o 7 p.m. in front of the restaurant. They’re serving up Casey-named pasta and drink specials. The stage is set for a Casey jazz jam session and there will be booths promoting his charities.

Casey will be there, of course. Probably all jet lagged from his last “American Idol Live” gig in The Philippines. His ears will still be ringing from performing practically every night for the entire summer. He might be a little giddy about coming home.

Yep, our own “Nature Boy” is finally coming home.

Like most folks in this tiny town, I watched him move through the ranks on Season 10 of “American Idol” every Wednesday and Thursday nights. we’d gather before the TV, with chips, pizza and wine glasses in hand, and talk about his chances, how he did last week, and what we think he should do to win.

But you could hear a pin drop when he’d be performing. Sometimes we’d forgot to breathe. Then we’d all talk at once:

“Didn’t he sound great?”

“I think they trimmed his beard.”

Jazz musician Barnaby Finch in front of a Casey banner by local artist Marcia E. Gawecki

“He’s so much better than the other contestants. He’s a true musician with talent.”

“No one in America knew he could play the bass, but we all knew years ago.”

“What will they make him sing next week?

Then we’d vote 50 or 100 times until our fingers would turn blue, and go home happy. Our local boy was making us proud. We weren’t expecting him to just make the “Top 10,” we wanted him to win the darn thing. Making it to No. 6 was quite the feat, though. It was probably a lot harder than we’ll ever know.

One time while still performing on “American Idol,” Casey paid a visit to the Idyllwild Arts Academy, where he graduated from the jazz department a couple of years ago.

“Casey told us that he could have gone farther in the ‘American Idol’ competition if he would have performed more pop songs,” said several students from Idyllwild Arts after his visit. “But he wanted to stay true to his jazz roots.”

“I heard him sing ‘Nature Boy’ during his senior jazz recital,” said Cheyenne, a dance major at Idyllwild Arts. “The place was packed. He was really a popular guy. It was standing room only.”

Casey had performed “Nature Boy” in Idyllwild first, where Nature reigns supreme. Yep, Casey was singing for America about Idyllwild!

“I came to the Idyllwild Arts Summer Program because I heard it was good,” said one 14-year-old voice major with braces from San Francisco. “But I was also hoping that I could meet Casey.”

Casey Abrams jamming with Caleb at an Idylwild Arts event

Casey left a talented Idyllwild Arts graduate, and is returning on Sunday a famous person. Try Googling his name these days and a million articles turn up! On “American Idol,” he sang a duet with Jack Black and kissed JayLo! He’s met all kinds of famous producers, directors, musicians and artists along the way.

“I saw Casey at Forever 21 (clothing store) in New York this summer,” said Tierra, a musical theater major. “He was buying the zipped-up natural clothes that he always wears.”

But Tierra didn’t say hi because Casey was with a friend and seemed preoccupied. He probably would have welcomed seeing a familiar face though.

“Casey emailed me and asked me to come to his show in New York,” Cheyenne added. “He said that he could even get me free tickets, but I couldn’t go.”

On Sunday, Marshall Hawkins, his Idyllwild Arts jazz teacher and mentor, will get Casey onstage to perform with Seahawk Mojo, his band that’s bringing jazz to area grade schools.

“That’s his bass, I can tell by the markings,” Marshall said while looking at a picture of Casey performing “Nature Boy” on “American Idol.” Of course, Marshall won’t be treating Casey any different now that he’s famous.

“Before I met you, I didn’t even know how to talk to another musician,” Casey wrote in a text message to Marshall during the Town Jazz event in Idyllwild this summer. Now we heard that Casey would often help out the musicians in the “American Idol” band.

On Sunday afternoon, Casey will pose for pictures, answer 1 million questions about his “American Idol” experience, and talk about his future plans. But probably the only thing he’ll want to do is play on the familiar Café Aroma stage with his bass. Just a (now world famous) hometown boy playing the jazz that he loves.

Glad you’re home, Casey. All I’m hoping for is a snapshot of you standing next to my huge, hand-painted Casey banner that’s hanging on Café Aroma’s deck! (Your mom promised to buy it!)  Look for more Casey-inspired art inside Cafe Aroma by local artists.

The “Welcome Home Casey” block party will be held this Sunday, Sept. 25, from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. outside Café Aroma, located at 54750 North Circle Drive in Idyllwild. The event is free and open to the public. For more information, visit

Copyright 2011 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

Published on: Sep 22, 2011 @ 11:03







On the Raccoon’s Side

Tuesday, May 17th, 2011

Yard sign outside Idyllwild home warning about squirrels, bunnies and deer.

By Marcia E. Gawecki

The other night, I was awakened by a loud crinkling sound coming from my kitchen. All three cats in my room were not alarmed, so I knew that it wasn’t a human prowler. It had to be a raccoon.

Awhile back, I researched raccoon behavior, and knew they were cheeky enough to come inside your house in search of food. They have nimble fingers that can turn knobs, open doors, and basically make a hefty mess. But they also will be very aggressive if you box them in.

I calmly walked down the stairs, turning on lights, and making lots of noise. The perpetrator met me at the corner of the kitchen. He stood up on his hind legs to look bigger than he was. Still, he was only two feet high. I’ve seen him outside on my porch many times eating birdseed and bread crusts that I’ve left out for the birds.

He must’ve come in through the open window. Since I was standing in the pathway of his only exit, I quickly backed off, and went upstairs. I could hear him noisily crawl over the couch and out the window. After a few minutes, I closed it and inspected the damage.

This small raccoon had been reaching inside my large, 15-pound bag of cat food that was left on the floor. He didn’t use his claws or teeth to tear the bag, but calmly reached into the small opening to grab handfuls of kibble at a time. It was all pretty tidy, with none spilled on the floor. However, the banana muffin that was in a plastic baggie on the table was gone, with crumbs were spread across my laptop. I breathed a sigh of relief. No cupboards open or trash overturned.

The little guy was out on the porch now, looking for more food. So I scooped out a couple of cups of Friskies onto a plate. When I opened the door, he backed away onto a nearby tree. I sat down in the dark and watched him eat through the screen door. He never took his eyes off of me once. He would blindly reach sideways and grab the kibble off the plate and bring it to his mouth to eat.

Raccoons are nocturnal and live in oak and pine trees in Idyllwild.

I’m sure this was the son of the blind mother raccoon who had come into my kitchen before through an open door (See blog post, “Blind Mother Raccoon Thrives,” posted June 9, 2010). It was hard to imagine that anyone would want to kill or hurt him.

Yet, people actually hunt raccoons for sport. My mother said that my grandfather (whom I never met) “hunted ‘coons” in Ohio. He and his friends would shine bright lights into the trees at night, and then blast them with their guns. I’m sure the pelts weren’t worth anything with large bullet holes in them, and the meat couldn’t be tasty either. It all seemed pretty barbaric and senseless.

I had forgotten all about it until I read a story in Rolling Stone magazine about Steven Tyler, the charismatic frontman from Aerosmith who is creating a sensation on “American Idol” these days. I love Tyler’s music, and appreciated his heartfelt comments about the Season 10 contestants, especially our own Casey Abrams.

However, when I read that he wears several raccoon teeth on a chain around his neck, my blood went cold. The article didn’t go into detail about the incident, only that Tyler hunted raccoons as a kid, but still wears the necklace. Was it some right of passage? Kill a raccoon, skin it, knock out his teeth and make a necklace?

It’s not like teeth from a bear or a shark that would have given him a fair fight.  Raccoons are not carnivores, Steven, they’re pine cone eaters. They “coo” to each other like birds, but will snarl like dogs if they’re cornered and fighting for their lives. I’m sure you haven’t forgotten that sound.

I’ve let out a string of profanity minutes before I thought I was going to die in a car crash. I was never so scared in all my life. And I’d be just as nasty looking down the barrel of a shotgun. That raccoon that Tyler killed likely was standing up, snarling, and bearing his teeth. But, he was likely cornered with no way out. Otherwise, he’d be over the fence and up the nearest tree.

Raccoon teeth are nothing to brag about, Steven.  It wasn’t a fair fight. You shined a bright light into the “home” of a pine-cone eating tree hugger, cornered, shot him, and took his teeth. I’m sure you tell a good story. That coon was acting as vicious as he could be.  After all, he was fighting for his life, and you were a kid hunting for sport. But it’s time to put away childhood things.

Granted, I’m annoyed when raccoons knock over my water cans, leave paw prints on my rugs and even tear my clothes off the line. But I  just shrug my shoulders and repeat what many folks in Idyllwild would say, “Well, they were here first.”

Copyright 2011 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

Casey’s Beard Will Stick with Him

Wednesday, May 4th, 2011

Casey performing as part of an Idyllwild Arts jazz trio at the LA Club

By Marcia E. Gawecki

During this past week on Fox 11’s “American Idol,” I expected Casey Abrams, the heartthrob from Idyllwild, to shave his beard.  After all, he had to do something to top the Jennifer Lopez kiss.

Throughout Season 10, columnists, bloggers and reporters have been obsessed with Casey’s beard. Early on, he was compared to popular comedic actor Seth Rogen, but lately, some have been less than kind, calling him “a bearded doughboy.”

What is the big deal about a beard?  It looks nice on Casey. Does a beard always have to give the impression that a man is hiding something?

“He looks a little bit scruffy,” admitted  my mother when I asked her to watch the show.

My dad, a gynecologist, shaved his face every day of his professional life.

“Patients won’t come to me if I have a beard,” he said. “Medical professionals must be clean shaven.”

Probably the only one who could wear a beard without reprisal would be a psychiatrist. After all, Freud had one.

In an interview after he was cut from “American Idol” last week, Casey was asked about The Beard again. He admitted that “American Idol” judge Steven Tylor, the frontman from Aerosmith, caught his eye once and did a mock shaving motion.

“I really appreciated that gesture,” Casey said.

Casey said that he didn’t want to shave his beard because he has a receding chin.

Well, that makes sense. A beard would cover that up nicely.

During one of the show’s short videos (rather, the Ford commercial), each of the final six contestants got to poke fun at each other. When it came to Casey, everyone wore Abe Lincoln beards and talked about his zaniness. Jacob Lusk called him “odd,” but a “musical genius” at the same time. That night, even show host Ryan Seacrest, wore a mock beard.

Yep, Casey takes the beard chiding all in stride. Perhaps he takes cues from his father, Ira Abrams, a bearded film teacher at Idyllwild Arts Academy, where Casey learned his jazz moves.

Another interviewer asked Casey what his first album would look like.

“It’ll probably have an upright bass on it,” Casey said. “And a beard.”

Copyright 2011 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

Published on: May 4, 2011 @ 16:04

American Idol’s Motown Misfire

Friday, March 25th, 2011

On Wednesday, March 23rd, “American Idol” gave a tribute to Motown’s soul-infused pop songs, and its many stars. Most of the 11 remaining contestants presented their own spin on these classics, however, one contestant missed the mark. James Durbin, who sang, “Living for the City,” gave a rousing, over-the-top performance of Stevie Wonder’s 1973 sad song about racial inequality.

For their part, the American Idol judges had high compliments for James Durbin. Granted, he’s a talented singer, and has quickly become a national role model for those with Tourettes and Asperger’s Syndrome. However, the show’s advisors should have told him to demonstrate some respect for the original song about a young black man growing up in “hard time Mississippi.”

Some of the lyrics include:

“His father works some days for 14 hours/ and you can bet he barely makes a dollar.”

“His brother’s smart/ he’s got more sense than many/ His patience’s long/ but soon he won’t have any/To find a job is like a haystack needle/Cause where he lives/ they don’t use colored people.”

Why would James sing a song about black unequality in such a rousing way?  That night, it was all about the great beat, and his personal showmanship, and nothing about the lyrics.  If James was empathetic about their plight, it didn’t show. He did a peppy dance move while singing, “His father works sometimes for 14 hours/and you can bet/he hardly makes a dollar. And he mugged for the cameras while singing, “His mother scrubs the floors for many/and you can bet/she hardly gets a penny.

For a white guy, singing a song happily about black inequality was a risk that he should not have taken.

Jennifer Lopez, an outspoken judge, continually tells the other contestants to “tell a story with their songs.”

The story told in “Living for the City” would clearly resonate with everyone in today’s recession. But James Durbin didn’t sing it with empathy, compassion or even a hint of sadness. He just sang it with his signature bravado.

For their part, the audience gave James a standing ovation. They liked the way he sang the song.  Shortly afterwards, still reveling in the afterglow, James had to be brought back to reality by JayLo.

Yet, I didn’t hear any criticism from Randy Jackson, the black judge, about James’ bravado take on the song. Did he not feel the slap in the face? Or is he just working from Idol’s “happy script?” James Durbin is popular with Idol fans, so don’t criticize him.

In my opinion, “American Idol” should be less about a popularity contest and more about retaining some musical integrity. If not, just take the “American” part off the title because I don’t want any part of it.

For the true spirit of Stevie Wonder’s “Living for the City,” visit You Tube. Stevie’s version. Its 70s-era video showcases inner city poverty, police brutality, and violence.

Copyright 2011 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.