Nowadays, you are much more likely to find Simon Casey on the stage or in the studio recording his next title track, but the singer-songwriter is no stranger to country life. He spent many of his younger days on the farmyard and is not willing to sacrifice rural living with wife Denise and children Grace, Mella and John.
“I come from a place called Ballycumber in Co Offaly, a very quiet little area in rural Ireland. I grew up with my sister and brothers, playing football in the fields and looking after a few pets of some sort.
“Daddy always kept a few cattle and even got into sheep at one stage. We were recruited to the yard a few times a year, to help with the testing and dosing and had no choice but to stand in the gap. Although he only ever had a few animals, we were kept busy and it was no harm whatsoever.
“I would be lying if I called myself a farmer, but I am still living in Ballycumber today, just a couple of miles from the home house where I grew up. Denise’s dad is also a farmer and we are happy to help out whenever we can. City living wouldn’t be my thing at all. I am very much so a country man.”
You’re a Star
Reminiscing beyond his You’re a Star experience in 2003, music was always central to the Casey household. Simon openly credits his family for his musical ear, hard work ethic and down to earth attitude.
“Daddy always had a huge interest in music and singing. Both he and Mammy encouraged and supported me with everything. From a very early age, we were involved in Scórn nÓg. My brother Terence and I played in a ballad group together. We still work together at small weddings.
“You’re a Star was a big show back in the day and from it we became household names. Afterwards, I was signed up to Universal Music. Truthfully, we were discouraged from gigging.
I think people have realised the many benefits in country music and dance
“My mother worked very hard all her life and we didn’t get away with sitting around the house doing nothing, so it wasn’t in me to sit back. It didn’t suit me. I liked gigging and wanted to do it as much as I could, while I could.
“I like to think that I have Mammy’s work ethic, as I don’t turn down work opportunities, no matter the scale. This willingness to work has helped me to reach out to a wider audience and engage with more groups.
“Taking the time to chat with people is just as important. It doesn’t take a lot to be nice - I would find it a lot harder to be ignorant or arrogant. I like hearing people’s stories and I am delighted that they support me.”
Keeping it country
Happy to keep it country, Simon recalls his pop star era of the early 2000s, which saw ballads and jiving fall temporarily out of fashion. Celebrating country music’s welcome return in recent years, the wedding entertainer loves to see couples of all ages hitting dancefloors to show off their finest foxtrot or quickstep moves.
“I have always loved country music. You can chase the pop star dream for a while and that is what I did after You’re a Star. Country music just wasn’t as big back then. I did two albums with Universal, which were very pop orientated, but there was always a snippet of country in them.
“If I was asked what I do best, I would say country ballads. No matter what I do, I find myself drawn towards them over and over, more than any other genre.
“Most of my work is for weddings. A few years ago couples said to me: ‘We don’t want any of them old waltzes, or quicksteps’. Now, it is the complete opposite - they insist on having the social dance aspect. There has definitely been a huge turnaround.
If I was asked what I do best, I would say country ballads. No matter what I do, I find myself drawn towards them
“Maybe it has come from the likes of Nathan Carter and Derek Ryan, who made country cool again. I think people have realised the many benefits in country music and dance. They would have gone to Zumba classes for exercise, but now they are jiving to keep fit and for the craic!”
Happiest at home with Denise and the children, Simon’s latest album, This Kinda Love, is a product of simple, homegrown love. The title track came to life at home in Ballycumber, as the family of five enjoyed a well-deserved break from homeschooling, in their back garden during the pandemic.
“I am a home bird. Over the years, I have had plenty of opportunities to go abroad and tour America, but it is just not me. I couldn’t be away for too long, I’d get very homesick. I think lockdown brought us all home in some way. Of course, it was very difficult for everyone, but I think it gave us time to reflect on what really matters.
“My newest album is very much country orientated, with some nice ballad mixes included.
“The title track, This Kinda Love is an original song, written in March 2020, in the middle of the lock-down. Myself and Denise had just finished a heavy morning of homeschooling.
“We were all sitting outside, I picked up the guitar and started putting a few lyric ideas together. Denise and the kids threw in their ideas too. I loved the easy vibe of it, but also the hopeful message behind it - that at the end of the day, it’s all about love. It was kind of a family effort.
“So, I decided it would be the title track.”