The Truth Behind Casey McQuillen’s Music
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.