Interview with 'American Idol' alum Jason Castro

American Idol alum Jason Castro, who released his highly anticipated album Only A Mountain Tuesday, has proven a wildly successful career since coming in fourth on the seventh season of American Idol. The dread-donning, acoustic singer is still close to his roots and he will sit down with some of his biggest fans Wednesday for the premiere of the twelve season of American Idol.

TheCelebrityCafe’s Sarah Douglas had the opportunity to speak to Jason about all things music, his tour, fatherhood and his new album. Tell me how your music has developed from when you were a contestant on American Idol to where you are now.

Jason Castro : I think there has been a lot of growing for me in these last few years, it’s hard to believe it’s been four years since I’ve been on the show! You think back to when I was on there, I had only been singing for about a year, so it was all real new. I left the show and I went and did my first album, which was an amazing experience as it was something new. But I think the one thing that is great this time around is I really feel like I knew what I was doing. I had some experience so felt that I had more input than previously.

I think it comes out in the sound as well. I loved making it and it really felt like a first for me. I guess the level of what we are doing now, the writing and recording, and there is definitely an evolution in the sound as well in the new album, I guess you could say it’s a little ‘rockier.’ There are a lot more electric guitars and little less acoustic. I think my debut album was fully acoustic and after playing on the acoustic for five years I decided I’d better branch out a bit (laughs). I think there is definitely a new sound but without losing the heart of songwriter, there is still the heart at the center of my stories and there are still light-hearted guitar moments, but not nearly as much as before.

TCC: Your new album, Only A Mountain, hits the shelves Jan. 15, so will fans have the opportunity to hear the old Jason as well as your new-found ‘electric’ side?

JC: For sure! Actually one of my favorite songs on the album is called “Stripped Down.” It’s a duet and I think that song will really connect with people. A lot of what I did on the show, I’m kind of a fan of the quieter moments when it’s just vocals and guitar and emotion, ya know? That’s always a high for me so that is one of my favorite songs on the record.

TCC: What does "Only A Mountain" mean to you?

JC: Well, to me it is a way of looking at things. It’s a perspective because we all have to deal with struggles and problems. We all go through that it’s a part of life, but its how we deal with that that I think affects our lives and how much we get out of it. That’s really what’s at the heart of Only A Mountain, it’s a light-hearted song but on a serious topic. There are hard things to go through, but I do believe that nothing is as bad as it seems- at least that is what I have learned. There’s those things that when in the moment I think ‘this is so terrible’ or ‘oh I’m never going to get through this,’ but there are so many instances like that and then you look back and realize they really weren’t that big of a deal.

For me, it is just about knows that all of our problems are temporary, that one small step on this long journey and you have to be able to find joy even in the hard times there is still a reason to smile. I hope at least one of my songs can do that for somebody going through a tough time.

TCC: You are spending the following day with some of your biggest American Idol fans to bring in the 12th Season with proceeds going to help those affected by Hurricane Sandy. You will also be performing an acoustic set from your new album. What else will the event bring?

JC: Well, you got all of the details! (laughs) It’s going to be awesome, I really wanted to do something to celebrate the release of my new album and just the launch of this new time and it was really kind of tricky because of the tour I am on right now, it has me all over the place, so we ended up realizing we had a few things lined up in New York to do there and so we got to talking and we have a friend at the Rock of Music Hall and we talked about putting something together very low key and play some of our new songs, play an acoustic set and then we are all going to sit down and watch the season of Idol which I think will be really fun, something to share with my fans. The new music, the new season of Idol and at the end of the night everything will be going good and benefit the victims of Hurricane Sandy so it’s going to be a great night, I can’t wait.

TCC: This season of American Idol brings a whole new judging panel compared to when you competed. How do you think the contestants will stack against Keith Urban, Nicki Minaj and Mariah Carey, a brand new judging panel?

JC: There is definitely nothing like the original three, Simon, Randy and Paula, but even now Simon on his new show, it’s just not the same Simon. He’s different. I don’t think it will ever be ‘that’ again but I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing thought, I think last season I just loved having Steven Tyler on there-he’s not Simon, but he brought a whole new energy to it. I think at the end of the day it is really going to come back to the talent, the judges have some say at the beginning in picking who we are going to see compete and I do think there is a very talented panel this year. I mean I am a HUGE Keith Urban fan. I actually got to see an advanced screening of the show the other night, the first episode, I will say I was pleasantly surprised by Nicki Minaj, she is a really great addition! She’s a little wild and she also had really constructive things to say. I think it’s fun to have a younger person, a little more today, and so I think it’s going to be a really great season.

TCC: Do you have any advice for this year’s American Idol competitors?

JC: You know, that’s always a tough one because you figure they have made it this far, they have shown that they have what it takes and I think it’s just remembering your best and not getting too serious about it. You have to enjoy it. Soak in those moments- speaking four years down the road, I look back and think ‘I can’t believe I did something like that,’ and it’s really cool. I look back on the memories so I have to say try not to get lost in all of the pressures and do your best.

TCC: Following your appearance in New York City, you hit the road for the Winter Jam Tour Spectacular. Who will be joining you on tour?

JC: It’s really great people playing in arena’s across the country, it’s ten bands for ten dollars and it’s a show not like anything else and it’s so fun to be a part of because nowhere else can you get this kind of show for $10. It’s really a great show and I am out with some of the biggest acts in the Christian music world like Toby Mac, Red, Mathew West, Jamie Grace, New Song- it’s a very diverse crowd too, as I just mentioned, one’s more Urban the other is heavy rock, I think that’s one of the cool things about it is you get perspective of things. It’s not very different from the American Idol tour as you get a sample from a variety of different types of artists. I’m just pumped to be a part of it.

TCC: You are away from home for a long period of time and you became a father recently, how is that?

JC: Yes, Madeline, she is 16 months and it is tough to leave, let me tell you. She loves music and she knows when it’s my music which is pretty much the cutest thing ever. When I leave and they are driving in the car and the music is on, if it’s not me she will sit in the back and say “Da-da.” It’s so cute and if I’m playing and you shut it off she will stop and go, “Da-da? Da-da?” It is so cute! She’s been doing it for months and I actually got to see it a few times. It’s really cute how she connects to me, she’ll come in and she’ll dance to music. I’ve got her a little drum set set up in the studio for her to bang around on.

TCC: After that concludes in March do you finally get down time?

JC: I think I will take a week or two off but think they are working on booking the next tour, I am going out with the Sidewalk Prophets, one of the bands on the tour now, they are really good friends and I am looking forward to spending some time with them. I think we will do one month with them then we are in the process of booking beyond that.

Be sure to pick up Jason's newest album, available now on iTunes

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