Casey Donahew perfomed at Big Texas
Dancehall & Saloon in Spring, Texas in July
Like he sings in "Love Me Right," Casey Donahew grew up in a North Texas town. Burleson, to be exact. And he still lives there. Because the independent country music artist who debuted with the No. 28 album "Moving On" on Sept. 1 - doesn't want to live the life of a superstar.
"I'm able to be home with my family 3-4 days per week. Most of us have families with kids. We don't want to be gone away from home for that long. Not a lot of bands on self-owned albums debuting at 28 on the country charts. My wife (Melinda) has been our manager from Day 1. We've done everything ourselves. We don't have a record deal. It just proves to everyone out there that you can do it on your own - you don't need a record company behind you."
Donahew tours Texas extensively, but he has also branched out to neighboring states like Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana and Kansas. He was surprised to find out that he had a big following in Manhattan, Kan. - home of Kansas State University.
"We go up there, and every person at the whole show knows every word to every song. It's crazy that the fans have latched on."
But if you're going to play in Texas, you've got to have a fiddle in the band. And Donahew, 32, hired a fiddle player just before recording the latest album. The difference is noticeable, especially on the first single, the Scott Copeland-penned "Ramblin' Kind" - one of the few songs that Donahew didn't write himself.
"It ended up being perfect - it blended right in. With fiddle players, there are really good ones and really bad ones - not much middle of the road. He gets a long with everybody (in the band)."
Donahew counts The Rolling Stones, Rob Thomas, Pearl Jam, Garth Brooks and The Great Divide among his influences.
He attended Texas A&M University, where he first learned to play guitar. But it wasn't until he returned to the Fort Worth area that he began performing before audiences. Donahew transferred to UT Arlington and graduated from there with a degree in Finance
Melinda Donahew, has been the band's manager ever since they started earlier this decade, with their debut album, "Lost Days."
"She works harder than everyone - way harder than me," Donahew said. "She makes all of the decisions and takes care of everything. Managers and agents rarely get any credit. It's a tough job for sure. You're on the phone all day long on the phone every day."
Donahew and Country Mike show their
support for Texas A&M in July; it's worked
so far as the Aggies are 2-0 this season.
Donahew makes frequent mention of Fort Worth and Johnson County, the county just south of Cowtown where he grew up.
"I was born and raised in Burleson and still live there today. We're proud of where we're from and we don't hide where we're from. That's what we know."
That is never more apparent than on the "Stockyards" with its numerous references to the bars in Fort Worth's historic district; it was in the Stockyards that Donahew first performed - at a now-closed bar called The Thirsty Armadillo.
"It's the very first song I ever wrote. That song definitely happened. Every one of those bars, we grew up there. When I'd come home from college, that's exactly where I go."
He enjoys playing in the Stockyards, especially Billy Bob's Texas where he's performed in the past and watched many shows as a fan.
He hopes to someday record a live album at the World's Largest Honky-Tonk. Donahew was also proud to perform a show in front of thousands of fans after a Texas Rangers home game in Arlington.
On the new album, "Angel" is one of his favorite tunes; it's about a person struggling with drug addiction told from the perspective of a friend.
He sees "Next Time", "California" and "Nowhere Fast" as possibly being the next single off the fourth studio album; the band's last album was a live recording from Bostock's in Stephenville.
Donahew said his most-requested song is the tongue-in-cheek, "White Trash Story," in which he tried to come up with a far-fetched story about the most "white trash things you could think of."
"It's one of those we've got to play forever," he said.
Don't be surprised if Donahew gets away from his set list and puts his own spin on a rap song like "Ice Ice Baby" or "In Da Club."
"I like all music. It shows when you listen to our albums. Some pop, some rock, some slow songs, love songs. Joey Green started doing (rap songs) a long time ago - added Kid Rock in it. I tried to quit playing it 100 times, and it won't die for sure. I can't help myself - I'm one of those guys that feed off the crowd."
Donahew wants to continue recording the music that's made him a household name among Texas/Red Dirt Music fans.
"We want to keep moving in an upward and forward direction for sure. The main thing for us is to take our music to new places and a demand for what we're doing. Gaining more and more fans."