Marty Casey is one of those artists that can do it all. He can write songs, sing the songs, produce the songs, play guitar on the songs and when he plays them live…truly entertains the crowd giving them their money’s worth. For years Marty honed his talent…developing a large following while playing in Chicago with the LOVEHAMMERS. While in the band, he tried out for CBS’s “ROCK STAR: INXS” and quickly became the fan favorite. He eventually was runner up out of the 15 hopefuls vying for the chance to become the new lead singer of INXS. Using the show as a platform, he then decided to write and produce material, landing him a gig with the Tracii Guns’ version of L.A. Guns as a producer then finally the new lead vocalist for the band.
Marty sat down with TEN and shared his thoughts on his past, present and future and what it’s like to step up to the plate when a job needs done. Oh and did I mention he can sing…
TEN- Hey man, how have you been?
Marty Casey- I’ve been great! I’m feelin good. I had a night off yesterday and we get very few of those. I’ve had seven days off in a two month tour. We have maybe one day off every ten to twelve days. That’s a good way to do it. Other than that…you’re just bored.
TEN- I see that you have staples in your head. What happened?
MC- We were playin and I was jumpin around as usual and when Tracii plays the solo for “Sex Action” he plays with the guitar over his head “Hendrix style” and when he was comin down from playin I raised my head not seeing him and “crack!” I knelt down while we finished the song. There was a cd size puddle of blood on the stage and I stuck my hands in the blood and wiped it all over Tracii’s guitar. (Laughs) Then I ran out to the parking lot…grabbed somebody that was walking to their car and said “Take me to the hospital!” Tracii jumped in too and we went to the hospital and they gave me five staples. I f they would have put stitches in, they woulda had to shave you and you have a bald spot. I didn’t wanna do that. Tonight’s the first night with them and when I was warming up I could feel a thumping going on so we’ll have to see how it goes.
TEN- Growing up, who were some of your musical influences?
MC- I have five older brothers and sisters so it started early. My one brother had a really big record collection. There was a lot of “Metal” and rock from AC/DC to Led Zepplin. The first time I actually purchased my own cd, I bought “Appetite For Destruction.” That’s the first cd I ever bought. My friends didn’t know about them yet and I just saw the video for “Welcome To The Jungle” on MTV. I really liked their style. The tune was cool but I really liked the style of the band. That was the only thing that I got my brother into because he was so into everything…all of the classic stuff. That’s where I started; Guns N’ Roses, Motley Crue and even some of my sister’s stuff like Stevie Nicks. It was just a really nice mix of classics stuff.
TEN- “ROCKSTAR: INXS” gave you the opportunity to showcase your talent. What have you taken most from that experience?
MC- (Long pause) I think that I’m actually a singer. Before that, I had been in a band for 16 years but I never considered myself a singer. I could do back flips and entertain and I could scream but never considered myself a “singer.” I think going through the whole process and being really focused on your voice was the opportunity to learn that you are a singer. I’m not one of the four tenors but I have a voice. It also gave me more confidence and I don’t always have to jump around and I can focus on delivering once and while.
TEN- You became a fan favorite with the most viewer votes. How did that make you feel?
MC- I didn’t know. During the whole staying we were kept out of the loop on what was actually going on with the public. There were no TVs, no radio, no Internet, no phone calls. We were in our own vacuum. I knew that when I went on stage I got a good response from the crowd that was there. I knew that I hadn’t been in the “bottom three” much so figured I was getting some votes. But competing in the contest, which was my focus, it really didn’t matter because INXS essentially chose who got knocked out every week no matter if you got the most votes or not. It wasn’t like “Oh, I’ve got the most fans” because I was just like; “What maneuver do I have to do so that I don’t get kicked out this week?” After the show and I found out that I was the “fan favorite” I appreciated it. You know, just to know that I had an effect on people.
TEN- Part of the competition was that you had to write your own song. Your song “Trees” made such a big impression, even on Dave Navarro prompting him to play it acoustically with you. Tell me what it was like to get the “thumbs up” from Dave.
MC- I was excited to play it. They asked me “What song did I want to play?” I had a bunch of songs that I always thought were good but I knew that I needed something that was “pretty poppy” it’s CBS. It also had to be immediately “hooky” because I only got to play it one time. You want to have a big effect. “Trees” is basically a borderline nursery rhyme. That’s really what it is. I decided on that song and when I did it I was questioning myself: “Maybe I should have done something a little harder” because everything I’ve ever written has been harder. I was happy when I got that instantaneous response. It was the No. 1 download the next day. Having Dave play it gave it some cred. It’s a cool song and I could hear it being played on the radio today. That was nice to get some credibility for a song coming off a “pop television show.” When it came time to do “Trees” again I thought; “I want to do it a little different. This would be my one opportunity to play with Dave. If I get to sit up onstage and play with Dave and put myself in that caliber of musicianship even though I’m not nearly 1/10 of a guitarist that he is, it would elevate me and almost be a career move. I’ll be known as a “player” too.” I won’t just be known as a singer. People know that I can play. That’s really why I did, just to bring myself into where he was at with his career and kind of ride his coat tails for a three-minute pop song.
TEN- Did he jump at the chance or did you have to coax him along?
MC- I asked him if you play and he said; “Yeah, let’s do it!” He corded differently than I did. I don’t know how to play the guitar in terms of theory so everything that I write is just based on what I think sounds cool. He’s theory driven so he took it and etched into the way it works in his brain. So that’s why it turned out so cool. We’re just getting ready to release the studio version.
TEN- Even with the show ending with you a runner-up, you and your band LOVEHAMMERS got to go out on tour and opened for INXS. What was that like?
MC- It was kind of like going and interviewing to be the CEO of a company and then getting hired as the janitor. That’s pretty much the feeling of it. You see this monumental distribution of wealth being distributed their way and you’re just getting a very small portion of it. But, you see people coming because of the show, not necessarily just INXS. They’re coming because of “ROCKSTAR: INXS.” I really remember just going through the tour wishing that “Maybe some of the other people that didn’t win the competition should have also been on the tour because that would have made it even bigger!” The show just turned out to be a success and I think more people should have gotten the opportunity to open for them. They’re trying to treat it as if; “Oh, INXS is back and were the biggest band in the world!” It should have been more like respecting the show that they were a big part of. All of the singers on the show are what made that show a success. “American Idol” is a success because of the singers not because of “American Idol.” Those singers draw in the crowd. But in the grand scheme of things, they wanted it to be about INXS and not “ROCKSTAR: INXS.” Being there was kind of a weird feeling. They didn’t hang with us. It was different camps and I didn’t really appreciate that.
TEN- LOVEHAMMERS had a big following throughout the Midwest. Was it hard to put that band on hold while you did the show?
MC- I never did anything outside of that band or audition for another band when people would ask me to join their bands. I’d tell them to fuck off! When the show came to me, I was wondering if I was done with the LOVEHAMMERS. We released independent records and sold a lot of cds and we did ok. For as far as I want to go with music…it just wasn’t happening. I didn’t see any other way to getting to the next level with what we had done. I had two full-time jobs as a commercial appraiser. I was locked in. I wasn’t happy but I was like; “I’ll buy a house, find a wife and have some kids.” I was 30 years old and I thought “Maybe it’s time? Maybe the dream ain’t gonna happen?” When I got the e-mail about trying out for “ROCKSTAR: INXS” I thought that was pretty cool. Once in a while, people had told me that I sounded like Michael Hutchins. From that first second of auditioning…I was just hooked. That was a goal in my life…to get on that show and quit my jobs. During the whole time the guys from LOVEHAMMERS were like: “You’re an asshole! Why would you do that? You’re gonna ruin everything that you’ve built!”
They just didn’t believe in it. It just felt really right in doing something wrong. I wanted to just leave everything behind and just do it for me… to figure out who I am. When you are in a band your whole life, it’s always about the band. You’re an ingredient…but you don’t know what you’re ingredient tastes like, ya know? Going on the show I really wanted to see what I was about. What can I do? It was a great an exciting experience. It was cool.
TEN- While you were out on the tour with INXS, did you ever standby and watch them and think; “Man that should have been me out there.”
MC- Definitely! It was hard to watch the show. You know, we got a black backdrop and they get background singers and the lights and explosions. I knew that J.D. was possibly a better fit for what the band was but I knew where I wanted to take it was somewhere much more exciting and big. Even watching them, I knew that I could have done a better job for them. I know the album would have been better. I know the performance would’ve been better. I think he does great, he’s a good performer. I don’t think I’m being like “I’m the man!” or something…it’s just seeing all that they had to offer and what I could have done with it, it would have been a greater experience. It made it hard to watch.
TEN- If they had a “ROCKSTAR: 2” would you try out for it?
MC- No, I sold half of my soul to the devil already so I’m trying to work with what I have left. If I had to try out for L.A. Guns, I wouldn’t have joined them. I’m done trying out for things. When it comes down to it, the show gave me my break and now it’s up to me to manufacture the success. You get you’re one break. You can’t go on TV twice because then you become “The guy from TV.”
TEN- How did you get hooked up with L.A. Guns in the first place?
MC- Things were slowing down for the “HAMMERS” and I didn’t want to go back to work. This guy Marty who produced the new Buckcherry record and has done Aerosmith records and just a great songwriter, took me under his wing and told me that “I should just become a songwriter and make a great living; you’ll never grow old as long as you write great songs. It doesn’t matter what you look like. You could have a career in writing.” So I was going around New York and Nashville and jumping into sessions and becoming a songwriter. I was saving anything great for my own record. I was brought to L.A. to write with L.A. Guns in that capacity. We wrote for a weekend and it went really well. Then they flew me up to Canada for preproduction at their studio, which went really well. That was with their old singer and they were trying to drag him into the sessions. He just was not driven. I would literally go where he was and go; “C’mon, let’s write some lyrics.” I thought: “Fuck, I’m hired for this much money, I don’t want to walk out of here without any songs. I want the songs on the record!” We had pretty much written the record and then I flew back to just produce the vocalist and help out Paul (Black). We were trying to get it “more modern” because he is more of a “Rolling Stones kind of singer.” He is more 70s style of a singer which is cool but L.A. Guns were wanting something more modern like an assembly of “Rip And Tear” and nowadays. They wanted some intensity and high-energy…great vocals. Paul I think just bowed out because he was just basically at that point, “singing from the grave” he didn’t have a voice left. I think he was scared to jump in and work with Steve Thompson, because he is a mother fucker producer. The day that it was done, I still had to fly back and re-sing a song. He’s real “hard-core.” So Paul bowed out and the rest of the guys are like; “So you want to sing on the record and go out on tour?” I said “yes!” because I needed it. I wasn’t about to start appraising again. It was really not a very hard decision for me.
TEN- What’s the title going to be?
MC- We don’t even know. We don’t even know if it is going to be called L.A. Guns. The label has put about a half million bucks into the record already and they have about another half-million to promote it. There is actually a “Making of the record” shot for VH1 which is cool. There is high drama but it is cool to see the writing of it. I just got to see the trailer of it. Imagine a writing session being recorded. There is a lot of stupidity too. If it doesn’t get picked up it will still make a great DVD.
TEN- Tell me something disturbing about yourself that you never told anyone before.
MC- (Long pause) I’m a pretty straight up, standard issue gentlemen so I really don’t have anything disturbing.
TEN- Is there anything else that you want to add or say?
MC- No, the only thing that I know in interviews is when they ask that question…you never add anything. (Laughs) That’s usually when you say something and then when you read it you say “Why did I say that?” But, I really do appreciate this opportunity with L.A. Guns more than anybody can imagine. I get to see a guitar player who so deserves and an unbelievable fucking guitarist but hasn’t really gotten the respect that he deserves from his contemporaries. I just hope more people get to understand and respect that and the easiest way to do that is to come see a live show. It’s one of those few nights when you leave the show and you can say: “That guitarist was unbelievable!” Usually it’s: “That was a great singer or sometimes the drummer gets recognition.” Tracii is like a “1940s style touring musician.” The road is his life. Most bands that I toured with like Nickleback, Jerry Cantrell to INXS, Puddle Of Mudd…nobody wears the life style like Tracii does. It truly is his life. It’s not like; “I’ve got four more weeks then I’m going home.” That’s how I think, but not how he thinks. He only thinks about “right now” and he kinda lives like he’s on permanent vacation. For most people it’s just a part of their life but for him it truly is his life. That’s why he’s really never stopped touring for the last twenty some years.
I want to thank Marty for taking to time you talk and to Chad Stewart for once again hooking me up.