EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Jason Castro is “pumped” to be an American Idol on his own terms with new self-titled debut album

Jason Castro interview April 12, 2010

Sometimes it’s the contestants who don’t win American Idol that can become the biggest stars. Just ask Adam Lambert.

Season 7 contestant Jason Castro is about as different from the flashy Glambert as an Idol can get, but Castro’s got a slow burn going that may just turn into an explosion when his self-titled debut album releases today. He recently sang his Israel Kamakawiwo’ole-style “Over The Rainbow” (which can be found on the exclusive Amazon issue of the album) at The Bachelor‘s Jason Mesnick and Molly Melaney’s televised wedding, and will be launching a U.S. tour with a Dallas release party April 17. To make matters more exciting for Castro and his family, his brother Michael, who sounds a bit like John Mayer’s voice injected with bluesy gravel and the groove of soul, will be opening for him. CLICK HERE FOR DATES

Starcasm editor Rebecca O had a few minutes of discussion with Jason while he hid out in the office department of a furniture store (there’s no better way to talk!). He dished about being Justin Bieber-type huge in the Phillipines, his obsession with Tom Petty, his background in swimming pool architecture, and how he never tires of traveling to the next gig.

Buy your own copy of his self-titled album now, and in case you’re wondering, the Amazon-exclusive tracks are worth it!

Rebecca: Did you just get off of a tour?

Jason Castro: Yeah. I got back from the Philippines about a week or two ago which was the last thing we did. We did a little tour out there, which was amazing! It’s really unlike things are here, people are crazy I had bodyguards all the time. I’d go into malls and they’d have to shut down the stores, there were like hundreds of people peeking through the glass, it was just unreal, you know? Here I get recognized and stuff, but there it’s like mass pandemonium, it was really wild. It was like stepping into a different world. I saw my face on billboards on my way through the city! I didn’t know what was going on.

R: Well get ready, it’s probably going to be that way in the U.S. soon!

JC: That’s what we’re going for.

R: So when do you kick off your U.S tour?

JC: April 17 we’re kicking it off in Dallas actually with a CD release party in my hometown. And then we’ll go out into the continental U.S. of A.

Click here to order Jason Castro from amazon!

R: I just got finished watching the last two episodes of your webisodes.

JC: Is that the art teacher?

R: Yeah. And the one at The Gap.

JC: Oh yeah, that one was fun.

R: Those were really funny.

JC: It’s cool because I never really got to work at jobs like that.

R: Did you learn anything from the experience?

JC: Yeah. I learned that I didn’t really want to do it. [laughs] I like what I’m doing a lot better.

R: Have you never worked in a retail type environment?

JC: I never, never worked at a retail place. I actually worked with my dad from the time I was 15 until, like, ever. Even still sometimes I help him out. He’s got a pool company and designs and builds custom swimming pools. That’s kind of what I did – made better money, had more flexible hours and your boss can’t fire you because he loves you.

R: So if you hadn’t been on American Idol and gotten that extra boost, would you still be working for your dad?

JC: You know, It’s very likely that I would be, and probably still trying to pursue music because music was really – but you know, if for some reason I ended up giving up music, that’s probably where I would have ended up. Because I like it, you know? I really do. I like architecture – that’s what I was studying in school because it’s very much an artistic thing as well you know? You’re creating something out of nothing. I love the process of drawing to building. It was pretty cool and I could have done that, but this is definitely the bigger passion.

R: Right. I could see the connection in the structures – because songs really do have a structure and a logic. You’re really lucky in that way. I think a lot of people spend their first day at a Gap retail store and realize they don’t want to do it but you get to bail out and return to your passion.

JC: [laughs] Yeah. That is very true. I feel very lucky doing what I’m doing. I don’t deserve it. It’s awesome.

R: Aww, you definitely deserve it. I think you’re just making the most your opportunities.

JC: That’s all you can do: take what comes and make the best of it.

R: Exactly! Your brother Micheal’s pretty musical too. Did you two grow up in a very musical home?

JC: Yeah he really is! He surprises me with his musical talents, you know? He never sang so I didn’t know he could sing and now we’re actually taking him out on tour this next tour. He’s coming out with me and he’s going to open up. He’s doing everything he can too. He’s got a new tune out on iTunes, and he’s working it.

R: So did you guys grow up in a really musical environment?

JC: Yeah I would definitely say that just because my dad plays guitar and sings and he was always singing at night. He’d sing in church every Sunday and so we’d hear him practice for that. I remember being five or four or something, running around the living room to the Beach Boys and Elvis. Music was always a big part of our lives. I have five uncles and they all sing and play guitar and my grandfather sings. It’s just kind of in our culture I guess.

R: Do you ever get together as a family and have singing sessions?

JC: There’s not one time that the family gets together that the guitars aren’t brought out. I grew up playing drums so we would play in the garage. My dad would play and sing, I would play drums, my brother would play guitar as well so yeah, there was a lot of music.

R: But you just found out your brother could sing?

JC: Yeah!

R: You started singing late too, is that right?

JC: Yeah, it was kind of the same for me. I think me and my brother are kind of similar in a lot of ways. We are kind of shy. We don’t really like, I don’t know, just go out and do things and singing is such a vulnerable thing, like an infinite thing. It’s you voice you know? It’s not like an instrument you can play and, “Oh, I hit a wrong note,” it’s like, “Oh, this is my voice – it’s either people love it or hate it.”

R: Yeah.

JC: But you know, we just never bothered, and I think it’s because there were so many singers around that we just never thought we should sing. But, they found us, I guess eventually. In college I couldn’t play drums a lot so I picked up guitar just for the fun of it but then really fell in love with it and songs you know? I just fell in love with songs and the power of the song. I wanted to be the storyteller, you know? I wanted to sing so I could write those songs and that’s been my mission ever since.

R: That really comes across in your music I think. I just listened to your album coming out (title instead?) and it’s a solid album. It’s obvious you’re a storyteller and you love music.

JC: Thank you. I spent over a year writing for it. I picked the best songs and I’m proud of it. If there was one album that I was ever going to do, I’m glad this is it.

R: I think you should be proud of it. I know this is a couple years off of your initial fame in the US at least, I guess in the Philippines you don’t have to worry about that, but it shows that you’ve taken the time and care to really put out something that you’re proud of.

JC: I’m proud of it and hopefully that pays off with the public too. Hopefully everybody else feels that and believes that. The album comes out next week so time will tell. I’m so pumped. I’ve been waiting for this for a long time.

R: [laughs] And you’ve got “Hallelujah” on it, which is exciting for me because that’s one of my favorite songs ever.

JC: Yeah! And we never recorded it, you know? We had to get it.

R: That was probably your defining moment for the American public, right?

JC: Yeah, and I think the reason being is because that”s the only song I really knew before Idol that I could sing and I the the difference is something that – because music I think is just supposed to come out of you, it’s supposed to come from the heart, supposed to be something that you just know – when you get on stage, it just comes out. So most weeks you’re sitting there trying to remember the lyrics and do this but that was one song that I got to just let it come out and that’s when the magic happens.

Jason sings “Hallelujah” on American Idol

R: Right! Is your wife coming with you on your tour?

JC: She’ll probably come out to a couple dates on this one. Since we got married she’s been traveling with me and did the whole last tour we did, bu tI think she’s going to start slowing down on that. [laughs] So she doesn’t get worn out by the road life.

R: Are you getting worn out by the road life?

JC: Oh no, not me, not ever! It’s tough, but for me this is my life you know? This is what I do, this is what I have everything into so it’s not hard for me getting no sleep, sleeping in a van all night you know?

R: Do you get any time to see the cities that you visit, or is it just packing up and moving to the next one?

JC: That’s the one thing that you’re thinking, “Aw cool! You get to travel everywhere.” It is real cool – you get to see a lot of new cities, but you don’t really ever get to spend time in them. And usually, if you do have time to spend in one, you’re so wiped out that all you want to do is sleep. So I’m always saying, “Gosh! I gotta come back here! I gotta come back!”

“He traveled halfway around the world and he didn’t even take a day off to go hang out somewhere.” But that’s what you’ve got to do. There’ll be time to slow down later. Right now, it’s time to get out there and play as much as you can.

R: That’s awesome. you just mentioned Elvis and the Beach Boys and I think I read somewhere that you’re really into Tom Petty. Do you have any other strong influences or just people that you like or maybe people that you like that maybe people wouldn’t think you did?

JC: I have a lot of influences, especially since I grew up playing drums my influences were very different too. I was into a lot of heavier rock stuff which I don’t think people would by for a second since I’m such – [laughs] but five years ago I wouldn’t even listen to the stuff that I do now because I was so into just heavy stuff and banging those drums, but since I’ve started reaching into the songwriting stuff like Jeff Buckley that really started to inspire me. Ray LeMontagne was kind of the original inspiration and when I heard what he did I was like, “Wow!” That made me want to write songs.

Tom Petty is actually a more recent influence. That’s a name I’ve always heard and I knew more songs than I realized by him, but the last year I’ve gotten so into him and I think he’s a genius. I’m obsessed with him.

Click here to read Rebecca’s review of Jason Castro’s album, which you can buy here.