Brian: Here on DC Music Rocks we are shining a spotlight on the great songs, artists, and incredible people behind the DC region's local music scene. Chris Cassaday is a singer-songwriter from Arlington, Virginia, with a unique blend of blues, folk, and funk. His crafty songwriting style, his unpredictable set lists, and his thunderous, distinctive voice have captivated audience in the DMV for a while. With two albums released, a song being played on Sirius XM Radio's The Coffeehouse, and a resume of hundreds of amazing performances under his belt, Chris is an awesome act, and I hope you get to see him live at some point. I first came across him doing this show, and I've been such a fan of his music, and now I actually get to have him here in the studio with me and this is such a treat, man. Thanks for being here.
Chris Cassaday: Thanks for having me.
Brian: Now talk about, so you're born and raised in Virginia ...
Chris Cassaday: Yes sir.
Brian: Wow. So, Great Falls and then into Arlington. Now did you go away for school, or have you really been Virginia the whole time?
Chris Cassaday: I don't know if I would call it going away. I went to JMU in Harrisonburg. It's a couple hours away. It's far enough where your parents can't bother you, but close enough where it's not a hike to get home.
Brian: So you've really been in the area for your whole life pretty much.
Chris Cassaday: Yeah pretty much. Always been around Virginia in some way, shape, or form.
Brian: And where and when, how did music start?
Chris Cassaday: Well my dad got me my first guitar when I was 14 years old. And I had always been singing, when I was a little kid, singing in the backseat. I had a really deep voice as a kid and everyone used to make fun of me for it.
Brian: Oh yeah?
Chris Cassaday: My dad was like, "You sounded like Rod Stewart when you were like six years old." But I was always singing. So he was finally like, he got me a guitar, and I took lessons for a brief period. And it always just stuck with me; I loved it. And it kind of developed as I got older; I was in bands in high school. And when I went to college at JMU I kind of got into the whole solo acoustic thing, just sitting in my dorm strumming and writing down lyrics. And really fell in love with it.
Brian: And it's always been guitar, or other instruments too?
Chris Cassaday: You know, I actually started on bass. I was a bass player first.
Chris Cassaday: Yeah. But was taking guitar lessons while I was playing bass in the band, you know, and then we kind of did a whole switcheroo thing in my high school band where we got to play different instruments, so ... I was kind of learning two instruments at the same time.
Brian: Nice. So guitar and bass.
Chris Cassaday: Yeah.
Brian: Wow. And what age was this again? When did that start?
Chris Cassaday: That was like age 14 probably, yeah.
Brian: Got it. So high school is really when ...
Chris Cassaday: High school, exactly.
Brian: The music education kicked in. Got it. Wow. So then what's your earliest memory with music? What comes to mind?
Chris Cassaday: Oh man. My earliest memory with music is ... Oh boy. This is tough. Probably singing, I can't believe I'm saying this on the air. So, I sang a Nickleback song in the sixth grade talent show, when I went to the [inaudible 00:02:48].
Brian: Don't judge him! Don't judge him! He did.
Chris Cassaday: No judgment here, folks. I sang "How You Remind Me."
Brian: Oh, excellent.
Chris Cassaday: Which was a good song at the time. I mean, you know ...
Brian: Yeah. Oh, that was huge back then.
Chris Cassaday: But, we played the karaoke track of that and I sang it and, needless to say I was a stud at my elementary school for the next few weeks.
Brian: Did you win? Did you win that talent- [crosstalk 00:03:09]
Chris Cassaday: It was just like everyone performs; there wasn't an actual winner, yeah.
Brian: Oh a showcase, I gotcha. Wow.
Chris Cassaday: But, I think I won.
Brian: Oh that's funny. So you are secretly a Nickelback fan. We'll keep that a secret between us.
Chris Cassaday: Uh, yeah.
Brian: And whoever's listening. No. And that was your first memory I guess performing too.
Chris Cassaday: Yes sir.
Brian: It would have been that one. Wow. Alright now, so outside of music then, you've got to have some hobbies and stuff. What do you do outside of music?
Chris Cassaday: Well me and my girlfriend Haley live up the street in Rosalind, and we go to a lot of concerts, whoever's in town.
Brian: Do you?
Chris Cassaday: Yeah, we went to a ton of concerts this summer. I mean, I love music, local and big shows. Also, I love hockey, a big hockey guy. I play adult league hockey.
Brian: Nice. Do you?
Chris Cassaday: In fact I have to meet up tonight at Kettler.
Chris Cassaday: At like, 11 p.m. tonight; it's late.
Chris Cassaday: Late till ... but I love hockey.
Brian: And this isn't roller hockey; we're talking ice hockey.
Chris Cassaday: This is ice hockey. Yeah, I played when I was growing up, played at JMU and still trying to keep it going. Needless to say I'm horribly out of shape now, so it's getting tougher, but ...
Brian: Oh, you seem pretty trim to me man. You don't look terrible.
Chris Cassaday: It's like riding a bike, except way more humiliating if you mess up.
Brian: When you mess up, I got it. And like shows, or other, there's a little bit of ice hockey and some going to see concerts. And anything else? What else is his life like?
Chris Cassaday: Um, I'm trying to think here. Traveling. Love to travel. I like getting out of town whenever I can. In fact we were talking, Haley and I just got back from Ireland; I was there for nine days.
Brian: Get out of here!
Chris Cassaday: Yeah, I loved it.
Brian: Where in Ireland did you go?
Chris Cassaday: We started in Dublin and rented a car and drove around the country. Which is terrifying by the way, driving on the other side of the road.
Chris Cassaday: It was terrifying.
Brian: Oh, because they drive on the opposite side.
Chris Cassaday: And the roads are so narrow there ...
Brian: Ah, man!
Chris Cassaday: I'm like, how can this be okay? Where we stayed in Cork ...
Brian: Wait, who drive, did you or Haley drive?
Chris Cassaday: We switched off, but you felt safer in the driver's seat because, you know, everything's backwards so you're just like ...
Brian: You want to be in control.
Chris Cassaday: But it was fantastic, my first time in Europe. I had a blast.
Brian: Wow. First time. Congratulations on making it to the Euro Theater for the first time, man.
Chris Cassaday: Thanks man.
Brian: Holy smokes. Alright now, so funniest moment that comes to mind in performing now?
Chris Cassaday: Like a funny incident, or ...
Brian: Sure! That's good. Yeah.
Chris Cassaday: Okay. There's a few, but the one that always comes to mind when people ask me like, about embarrassing moments was, I was playing with this high school band I was mentioning. In front of the whole school; we had this place called The Commons, which was like the middle of the school, and we were playing, and the whole school was watching, and I was jumping around, you know, playing bass, and my strap broke and my bass just fell to the floor.
Brian: Oh my god!
Chris Cassaday: In the middle of a song. And I was just like, "Uhhhh ..."
Brian: Did it break too?
Chris Cassaday: No it didn't break, thank god. But I just had to like scoop it up and strap it back on, and ...
Brian: Hoping nobody saw that.
Chris Cassaday: No, but it broke.
Brian: But everybody did.
Chris Cassaday: Since then I got the locks you know, so the strap won't go anywhere.
Brian: Right, yeah, the strap locks. By the way, a public service announcement for any guitar players, make sure you have strap locks.
Chris Cassaday: Good advice.
Brian: A best practice. Nice. Courtesy of Chris Cassaday's amazing moment from performing. Alright, so tell us a story about a time you tried and failed.
Chris Cassaday: Tried and failed? Oh boy. One time I tried to cover a Bruno Mars song and just absolutely failed.
Brian: Oh! Which one? Do you remember?
Chris Cassaday: It was ... (singing).
Brian: Oh, nice.
Chris Cassaday: That was a while ago though ...
Brian: Okay wait a minute. Just for the record, how does it go, one more time?
Chris Cassaday: (Singing.) Yeah, see that's exactly why I tried right there.
Brian: Oh, trying.
Chris Cassaday: That was a long time ago. A lot of people, I don't even think Haley knows about that, but it was at an open mic and I was like, "You know I'm going to go for it," and it didn't go well.
Brian: Didn't go well. Oh my gosh, that's amazing. Now, and what do you have in your musical, aside from Bruno Mars now, what do you have in your music collection that might surprise us?
Chris Cassaday: I love doing like mashups of songs. I've got a lot of Dave Matthews in there; I do this Dave Matthews song "Jimi Thing" and I mash it up with "For What It's Worth" by Buffalo Springfield.
Chris Cassaday: In addition to old songs like Buffalo Springfield, I'll do newer, like rap songs. "Hold On We're Going Home" by Drake. And I've got a lot of reggae in my repertoire. Love reggae music.
Chris Cassaday: A lot of Sublime in there, stuff of that nature. And I also do a mean "Lose Yourself" by Eminem.
Brian: Oh yeah?
Chris Cassaday: Like at the end of a show. Like, if the crowd's kind of dying down, I'll just do like the (singing) and [inaudible 00:07:43].
Brian: Wow. Oh man.
Chris Cassaday: Yeah, that's one of the biggest surprises in the set.
Brian: That's so funny. And so these are when you're playing two and three hour sets, just you and your guitar, you're tossing these covers into it?
Chris Cassaday: Yeah.
Brian: You have anything that you don't cover, that's in your music collection that you're a fan of, but you don't necessarily cover? Or do you really play it all?
Chris Cassaday: I try to play it all. My setlist is always super diverse. I try to like, surprise you with the next song, you know? It could be anything, you never know.
Brian: God, that's amazing. I can't wait to catch another one of these shows, man. Now, do you have any rules that you always end up breaking? That you've set for yourself?
Chris Cassaday: Not drinking the night before a big show.
Brian: And is that because of peer pressure, or just because, you know, a beer sounds good, or ...
Chris Cassaday: A little bit of both, yeah. Also, going to bed on time. "I've got to go to bed on time!" No, it's-
Brian: Alright, so it's "I'm not going to drink" and "I'm going to go to bed on time," and "I'm not going to be hungover before the show." Except, that might happen.
Chris Cassaday: Yeah, you never know. But, it can affect you big time, you know. I've learned the hard way, and I'm always like, "Now you know! Don't do it." And then I just ...
Brian: Right, and then it happens again. Oh, that's really funny. So now, one of my favorite questions to ask, actually I've got, I'm going to do this one in two parts. What is the best piece of advice you have ever gotten from someone? And this can be in general, it doesn't have to be music.
Chris Cassaday: Best piece of advice I've ever gotten from someone was, Dave Matthews, who said, in an interview he said, "Play for anyone you can, anywhere you can, at any time. You never know who's going to hear you."
Brian: That's amazing. And is there like a story that comes to mind as to like, someone you've ended up playing for that, that was a surprise?
Chris Cassaday: Well, I mean, the way I started getting all of these gigs was, I went to an open mic on like a Monday night out in Sterling and a promoter guy by the name of Dave [Mastell 00:09:40] heard me and started booking me at pubs and restaurants, and that's how I started booking these big gigs, was through him. And I just happened to be at that open mic at that night and he heard me, and now I'm, paid gigs on the way. You never know what's going to happen or who's going to be there.
Brian: Wow. That's amazing. And, are you entirely a musician? Do you have other jobs, like part-time jobs as well?
Chris Cassaday: By day I am a financial planning administrator at a wealth management firm. And then by night I'm a singer-songwriter.
Brian: Fantastic. See, and I love it; and you know, sometimes we, I don't want to say "joke" about it, but sometimes I feel like there is this conception that, "Oh, well no I do have a day job." But what's amazing is that so many folks in the DC region that, very, a lot of folks have that same story, they work during the day and then they play shows at night, and they really are incredible at both of them, which is kind of, it's amazing to see, so that's awesome, man.
Chris Cassaday: Thanks man.
Brian: Alright, so now what's one piece of advice you would offer?
Chris Cassaday: "Practice makes perfect," is what I always say. My bandmates hate me because I'm all about practicing, I'm like-
Brian: So say more on that; what does that mean?
Chris Cassaday: I mean, just practice as much as you can. There's no, you can never practice too much, in my mind. There's nothing wrong with being overly prepared for your shows.
Brian: So what does that look like in, does that mean you play with the band but then you go home and play for two more hours?
Chris Cassaday: You've got to, in a band particularly, you've got to practice on your own, not just band practice.
Chris Cassaday: You know, working on your own so when you get together with the group, everybody's done their part, you know?
Brian: And when you practice, is there a certain like, do you break down the parts? Like do you play one segment at a time over and over again until you nail that one perfectly? Do you break it up, or ...
Chris Cassaday: It's usually like, I'll listen to the whole song, if it's a cover. And then I'll just try to play the whole song. And if I get stuck at a part I'll fast forward to that part, learn it, et cetera et cetera.
Brian: And then rewind that one part until you can play that, and then you play it all the way through.
Chris Cassaday: Exactly.
Brian: Wow. That's amazing. Alright. Now, for those folks who are interested in learning more about you and the cool things happening, where do they go?
Chris Cassaday: Well, you can check me out on Facebook, Facebook.com/ChrisCassadayMusic; it's got all my info on my shows. All social media, for that matter, Instagram @ChrisCassadayMusic, Twitter.