American Idol (Season 13) contestant Casey McQuillen wowed the judges with her singing and made it to Top 48 but her true calling as she sees it is changing kids’ lives through her music. She is the founder of the “You Matter” Anti Bullying Tour and her true passion is to help kids fight bullying with music based on truth and inspiring lyrics.
Cultured Focus Magazine had the privilege to speak with Casey to find out more.
NM: Tell me about your new song “Beautiful.” What inspired you to write it?
CM: I wrote it when I was 17-years-old. It is one of the songs I sing in my anti-bullying program. I wrote it when I went to a boarding school and one day I looked in the mirror and caught my own reflection. My appearance was what the bullies went for. I thought that if I was prettier they would leave me alone and that if I was prettier boys would like me. The end of the song is about how my mother had seen me learn to hate myself. From my mother's eyes, I can see how she watched me turn from a happy young woman to someone who associates my worth with my appearance. We see ourselves distorted in others truths. I don't think it is something you overcome or heal from. I have grown a lot since I wrote this song. I learned about self-love. Every moment of our day the world is telling us our appearance is flawed. The point of the song for me is that we are worth it.
NM: Are you planning on having a new album soon?
CM: “Beautiful” is the first song out of six. The songs will come out in the next couple of months. They are about confidence, break ups and personal growths.
NM: What makes your music different?
CM: Telling the truth!
NM: How do you overcome self-doubt as a female artist?
CM: The way I process emotions are by writing them down. It takes the power out of them. Writing “Beautiful” and singing it to so many young girls in my anti-bullying tour, I see how it hits them and they start to cry. I look at them and see how wonderfully perfect they are. It is a lot easier to be kind to other people than yourself. All of the songs I sing are about unmasking these difficult feelings we have. When I see the listeners relate to my songs, all of a sudden my own problems seem more manageable.
NM: Who are your music inspirations?
CM: The people I look up to in terms of work ethics are my parents. Musically artists I look up to are Adele and Taylor Swift, who tell the stories and the truths of their own hearts.
NM: You made it to Top 48 on American Idol Season 13. What did you take away from your experience?
CM: My identity has never been as a vocalist but as a songwriter. I was shocked how far I went because that is never what I thought of myself as. Songwriting is my passion and I get to sing my songs and articulate that emotion personally to the audience. In American Idol, I saw myself as a vocalist in a way that I had never seen before.
NM: How did you start in the music business?
CM: I was writing songs since I could talk. The first song I wrote was about my grandfather who passed away. I performed it at school and this kid who picked on me so bad said that it was awesome. I then realized that when I get in front of people and sing it is hard to pick on me; it humanized me and I became addicted to that feeling and showing people what was inside my heart. My parents said you are never as happy as you are on stage.
NM: Why did you choose this career path?
CM: The truth is I am a musician because I have no choice. I write to share. There is no better feeling in the world for me. I had a vocal surgery recently and wrote about it in a song called “Grounded” like a bird who lost her ability to fly. I didn't know who I was anymore. I played it for my family and it showed them exactly how I felt. I felt less alone. There are two types - songs that tell stories and songs that tell facts. I write ‘story songs’. The value is in the growth throughout the song.
NM: You founded the “You Matter” movement. How has it grown since you first started it?
CM: With the message of self love. I try to have a cathartic experience with the students, primarily middle schools - 6th to 10th grade. To get to go to these schools and help kids is really humbling and unbelievable. I got an email from a 6th grade girl who had brain cancer and she thanked me for changing her life. My program is about empathy. I can't get kids to stop bullying but I can be the voice in the back saying “no you are not ugly.” “You Matter” tour is a concert using the medium of music to get the kids to pay attention.
NM: What advice do you have for people pursuing the same path?
CM: No one will give you the life you want. You must be willing to work harder. My life is 95 percent emails and 5 percent music. You need to be willing to put in the work to do the things you are passionate about.