Casey Donahew: Back To The Real Stuff
Country is the music of the people. It offers a tradition of storytelling that rings true to the lives of everyday people living everyday lives. As Johnny Cash said, “Of emotions, of love, of breakup, of love and hate and death and dying, mama, apple pie, and the whole thing. It covers a lot of territory, country music does.”
But in a world where record companies make decisions based on what makes the most money, some artists have fallen into the trap of producing song after song that means something to the radio stations’ income, but offers little in the realm of raw substance or authenticity to those everyday people country music is supposed to be about.
Breaking through the monotony of one pop single after the other, a movement toward authenticity has started to arise once again in the country music scene. And it’s coming with a focus on lyrics with clever storytelling of life as it is, including genuine struggle and all the highs and lows.
These artists are bringing country back to its roots.
Hailing from Burleson Texas, Casey Donahew, songwriter and lead singer of the Casey Donahew Band, is an artist who seems to care more about the music than international fame. He understands that tradition of authentic lyrics – as he sings about smoking, drinking, love, heartbreak, and everyday living – the real stuff.
While pursuing other career paths, Donahew, 38, started playing in small bars in Texas when something amazing happened: people responded. From dive bar gigs to playing music fulltime with crowds of thousands, something larger than corporate backing drew in the multitudes.
He didn’t gain his loyal fans because the radio was blaring his latest hit or because a major record label was calling the shots; he gained his popularity by putting out song after song that people genuinely connected with and giving his fans one hell of a show.
Casey Donahew Band now has over 1.5 million YouTube views on his hit single, “Double-Wide Dream,” a song that does not romanticize or exaggerate a relationship in a pop-y way, but tells the endearing, funny, and honest story of a man in love with his “pretty little country girl”:
Guns and dirt roads, cowboy boots and old blue jeans
And she ain’t no uptown hussy
She’s my down home trailer queen
People can relate to these songs. Donahew and his band are writing and performing songs that mean something to their devoted fans. They value the Texas pride in “One Star Flag,” the storytelling of Junior, Mary Lou, Miss Sara Ann Bakersmith and Carl Wayne in “White Trash Story,” and Donahew’s farm boy roots in “Stockyard.”
But don’t count Donahew as only a clever bar-anthem songwriter. He’s also brave enough to delve into deeper subjects like effects of alcoholism on a family. In “Put The Bottle Down” he sings:
The whiskey finally took his life
Stole his kids and his wife
He crossed over in his sleep
And there was no one there to weep
I had to put a bottle down
Convince myself to say goodbye
"In loving memory you'll be missed"
I curse this stone carved with a lie
So what is Donahew’s key to success? How does a songwriting country musician and his band and go from being unheard of to playing in front of thousands and topping Texas charts without a major record label or widespread radio play? In an interview with CMT, Donahew said,
“When we started this band, it was always like, ‘Well, if the radio won’t support us, we have to support ourselves.’ So when people come see us, we have to give them more. More than what they expected. More than what they’re used to.”
The answer to the Casey Donahew Band’s success is hard work and giving fans what they want: authentic country music.
“We’re not trying to change the world like the Beatles or anything,” he mentioned in the same interview, “We’re trying to have a good time and make people happy.”