Monday, July 19, 2010

Behind the Scenes: Casey James’ mom, Bybee Debra James, offers glimpse of backstage ‘Idol’

Casey James' mother offers glimpse of backstage 'Idol'

By Libby Cluett

MINERAL WELLS — Where else but America (possibly Great Britain, too), could a musician from a small community rise to national recognition in a mater of months.

“Where could this happen,” queried Debra James to a roomful of Kiwanis members Tuesday. “He went from playing in little bars to performing in a packed Nokia Theater.”

James, the mother of Cool-born Casey James, spoke to the group about her journey with the Fox Television show “American Idol.”

She recounted one gig she played with Casey in Grapevine one fall, where the audience was more interested in the Cowboys football game playing on the screen behind them.

“When we played in Grapevine, he turned to me and said, ‘Mom, I think we could set ourselves on fire and nobody would notice.’”

In a matter of weeks this spring, Casey’s popularity skyrocketed while competing in the top ranks of “Idol.”

“He couldn’t go shopping near the end [of “American Idol”] and he had bodyguards,” she told Tuesday’s audience. “Boy, that was real different for him.”

James said as her son progressed up the ranks in the show, “Idol” started providing wardrobe support. She illustrated this with the English Laundry shirt he wore during his homecoming tour, as well as on other occasions. She held up the pale blue shirt, carefully tailored to her son’s lean body.
Casey James

“He’s six-four” and has a 30-inch waist, so they had to take [his shirts] up,” she said.

As she spoke, James entertained questions from Kiwanians.

“How do they get along as a family?” Penni Beauregard asked about the 10 Idols who will be touring together this summer, starting today in Michigan.

“I think it’s like any other family,” replied James, adding, “Casey can get along with anyone. He just rolls with it.”

During her visits to Hollywood, Debra James said she became closest with the families of “Andrew Garcia, he’s just precious, Tim Urban, a Texas boy, and little Aaron [Kelley, the] little bitty boy with a big voice,” whom she also called “cute as a spotted pup.”

The “American Idol" tour covers the nation and runs through Sept. 16. (See Blog for UPDATED TOUR SCHEDULE!!)


“It’s staggering how many dates they have for the tour,” said Debra James. She said the singers they travel by bus to each location and will be in Texas Aug. 7 (Houston) and Aug. 9 (Dallas).

James informed members of a studio recording she particularly liked of “Have You Ever Really Loved A Woman” – a duet performed by Casey James and Michael Lynche – which James had specifically asked his mother if she listened to.

“They let Casey lose on a Spanish guitar,” she said, citing that this will be on the tour. “They’re keeping the other two a secret.”

Did the experience change Casey?

“As a person, he hasn’t changed at all. He really knows who he is. He’s very grounded,” said Debra James. “He gained a lot of knowledge of the music industry.”

“Casey is in a genre all to his own. He likes blues, country, alternative, rock. He loves B.B. King and Merle Haggard. He hasn’t pigeon-holed himself in one area.

“‘American Idol’ didn’t know what to do with him,” she added.

When Beauregard asked what was “fantastic” and what was Casey’s “biggest disappointment” with the experience, James replied, “I know he would say there was no disappointment. Casey’s an extremely positive person. He views everything as part of a bigger plan.

“I was a screaming maniac, but he was fine. Casey’s very comfortable in his own skin,” she said.

She told Tuesday’s audience, that her son is “more knowledgeable now. He went from a tiny pond and he’s swimming with the sharks.

“Musically [Casey] has had to push himself to a different level,” she said.

“The low point for me was his second performance, ‘I Don’t Wanna Be,’” James said. “I could see how proud he was and they bashed him. He got very ill after that and stayed ill for weeks. He was close to going to the hospital.”

“He pushed himself through that and went through five rounds of antibiotics back-to back. One performance, his third [when he sang Keith Urban’s “You’ll Think of Me”], he was so sick and very subdued and had to push himself through it,” said his mother. She said the doctor who has worked with the show all nine seasons called this the “sickest group of kids he’s seen.”

But, she said there were high points and her son’s biggest surprise was “being able to be with Harry Connick Jr. He’s a writer, singer, composer, the best pianist, a great husband and father and a great guy. He gives a lot. He’s a freak of nature – he does everything perfect.”

She told the group Tuesday that Casey called her during his mentor session and handed the phone to Connick.

“He said, ‘Is this Momma James?’ I said yes it is, knowing who was on the phone. He said, ‘I don’t know what I’m going to do with this son of yours; he’s so ugly.’ He said, ‘I came in the door and he thinks I’m Chris Isaak,’” James said of Connick’s joking phone conversation with her.

“The best advice he got was from Bret Michaels [with whom Casey performed “Every Rose Has Its Thorn” on the show’s finale] and Harry Connick Jr.,” James said.

Since Casey James made it to the final three, he came home in May, to all his homes – Fort Worth, Cool and Millsap, not to mention early-morning interviews in Dallas and appearances in Grapevine and Richardson, too.

“The whole experience coming home was so overwhelming,” said Debra James.

“One of the things I wanted to share with you,” she told Tuesday’s audience, “Someone said, ‘Don’t the Fort Worth police have something better to do than usher Casey James around Fort Worth.’ All of those where off-duty police that ‘American Idol’ paid.”

Casey James came to his native land last of all, visiting Cool then performing in Millsap’s Bulldog Stadium.

“He was thrilled at all of it,” she said coming back to his boyhood home. “He was awestruck in the limo. He was just staring. It was surreal.”

She said her son gave out a deep “horse laugh” when he saw one of the mounted Parker County Sheriff’s Posse with a sign saying “Hi Simon” taped to the horse’s hind end.

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source:The Mineral Wells Index

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