Tuesday, October 05, 2004

The Odyssey

Official Biography

With the release of Standing at the Edge on the Odyssey label, Casey Stratton arrives, at the age of 25, as one of the most arresting new voices in music today. The 12 tracks on this label debut reveal a boldly personal new ballad style - rich, hook-laden melodies and searching lyrics blended with Stratton's powerful, expressive vocals. Standing at the Edge brings Stratton together with top producer Patrick Leonard [Madonna, Elton John and Jewel] in a collaboration that delivers a new, razor-sharp clarity to the singer, songwriter and musician's expansive style, which he has been developing for over a decade. Stratton wrote all of the songs, except for a co-write with Leonard, and plays piano throughout the album.

"Writing songs is, for me, like keeping a journal - it charts my progress as a human being," Stratton says. "I tend to talk about my life not by age or by years, but by the songs I've written. I write very quickly, usually in a day, starting with the melody - the music always comes first. But once I get the basic idea down, I become a professional musician, shaping the melody, building the song, figuring out what the lyric should be.

"Working with Pat Leonard has been amazing," Stratton adds, about the making of Standing at the Edge. "The way we worked was pretty intuitive. We were on the same page, constantly finishing each other's sentences. And it meant a lot to me that he is also a keyboard player, a pianist."

Casey Stratton has packed a lot of music into a relatively young life. With a father who played in a popular Michigan band, the singer, songwriter and musician remembers begging to sing as a child during the band's rehearsals. Violin lessons began at the age of 8, followed quickly by the cello at 10, the piano at 11, and the guitar at 16. The training was rigorous and disciplined, laying the foundation for a career in classical music. It was through the piano that Stratton discovered a passion writing songs and singing them. After graduating from Michigan's Interlochen Arts Academy, with training in voice and composition, the budding artist left Michigan for Los Angeles. Independent efforts and performances have already resulted in a bit of a cult following, and Music Connection Magazine voted Stratton one of the "Top 100 Artists of the Future 2002." With the release of Standing at the Edge, Casey has hit a career stride with an unusual sense of purpose and determination.

Stratton's influences are as diverse as his training. Listening to the sleek songs and vocal style on Standing at the Edge, the pop influences register more immediately - Tori Amos, Sarah McLachlan, Peter Gabriel, Radiohead, Björk, Paula Cole and Joni Mitchell, to name a few. Musically, though, Stratton also takes inspiration from various forms of the arts. Musically, he finds inspiration in classical composers: notably Debussy, Ravel, Copland and Barber. Lyrics draw on the example of the contemporary singer/songwriter tradition, as well as a wide range of literature, from T. S. Eliot to Joseph Campbell. One of the songs on Standing at the Edge, "Cellophane," was inspired by Stratton's reaction to a TV evangelist's sermon.

When Stratton and Leonard had finalized the lineup for the recording, they realized that the songs had a common thread - about life's pivotal moments, endings that are also beginnings. Performing onstage required of Stratton something more elusive than technique - an emotional courage that matches the songs' clear-eyed emotional testimony.

"It took me a long time to be comfortable in my own skin when I sang my own songs," Casey Stratton recalls. "When I first started playing them live, my feet would shake on the pedals of the piano. I felt so transparent, like everyone knew what I was thinking and feeling. The courage to take the plunge came from my influences - Tori Amos, Sarah McLachlan, Joni Mitchell. I thought, 'Well, they're doing it.' And the more I did it - the more I forced myself to explore my own songs before an audience - the more empowering it became. Between 16 and 20, I think I encountered my highest learning curve. The more I played, the easier it got for me. I discovered that singing my songs, about the things I have experienced, however painful, was healing. It brings me peace."

[quote, biography extracted from Casey Stratton]


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