We have an exclusive Q&A with the Nashville-based contemporary country artist from California.
For people who aren’t familiar with her, Casey Ahern is a country singer-songwriter born and raised in Southern California. She grew up singing around the house to Glen Campbell and Joni Mitchell and a lot of other ’70s music that her dad listened to.
At 16, she put together a band and started playing live shows throughout the Los Angeles area. After finishing high school at 16, she moved on a whim to study for a semester at Berklee College of Music in Boston at 17 and then moved to Nashville at 18.
She’s been back and forth between Music City and California ever since.
“I’m born and raised in the Thousand Oaks, California area, a town just north of Los Angeles. When I was growing up there, a lot of my peers weren’t as big on country music as they are now,” Ahern says. “I remember showing up every day to middle school wearing cowboy boots, so I guess it makes sense that I ended up moving to Nashville, and that’s where I am part time now.”
Splitting her time between Nashville and California might sound exhausting, but for the 21-year-old singer, it comes with the territory — and it’s all material.
“I’m constantly on the go and a lot of my life as well as lyrics in my songs showcase that,” Ahern says.
She’s a musician and both a certified pilot and yoga instructor. Even with all that going on, Ahern says she’s very grounded.
“I pride myself on having a strong sense of who I am as a person and a strong moral compass that always leads me where I feel I need to be.”
On the eve of her August 7 release of the song “Didn’t Even Get a Goodbye,” we talked to Ahern about her new music project and got her picks for a Feel Good Playlist.
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Cowboys & Indians: Tell us about the new music. What inspired it and how did it come together?
Casey Ahern: “Didn’t Even Get a Goodbye” is a single off of my forthcoming EP entitled Where I Run, which we plan to release in early 2021. I had the opportunity to record it at Sound Emporium Studios in Nashville with some amazingly talented musicians and producers Nathan Meckel and Mark Niemiec. I’m on the edge of my seat for the EP to release! All the songs on it have personal meanings to me, and it really showcases various aspects of not only who I am as an artist and songwriter, but as a person as well.
“Didn’t Even Get a Goodbye” came about when I saw a newspaper on my kitchen counter with a picture of my 18-year-old neighbor on the front page. I had known him since he was born, and now here he was leaving our hometown in an Army uniform. I remember exclaiming to my mom across the room that I had no idea and, “I didn’t even get to say goodbye!” So when I sat down to write the song, I started to reminisce back to other situations in my life when I wasn’t afforded the opportunity to say goodbye.
C&I: Do you have a favorite moment in the song?
Ahern: I tend to focus on lyrics when picking favorite parts of songs and every story in “Didn’t Even Get a Goodbye” is extremely personal to me, so it’s tough to choose! I’d have to say, though, right now, my favorite part is the last chorus when it starts quietly then explodes on “kiss that’s so high.” That’s the part that’s been hitting the hardest for me lately because it comes after the three different situations. So, at that point, they’ve had time to marinate and this is the last time they’re all tied up in the chorus. It’s just a lot of emotion wrapped up into that moment of the song, and it’s been making me cry every time.
I used to hate goodbyes. However, I’ve learned that those sad, emotional, really tough feelings are because you care about that person a whole heck of a lot. Even though it’s hard, the chance to say goodbye is a gift. And from my personal experience, it’s even harder when you have moments that you look back on and realize you “didn’t even get a goodbye.”
C&I: What do you hope listeners will get from it?
Ahern: To me, “Didn’t Even Get a Goodbye” is a compilation of personal moments in my life where I wasn’t given the chance to say goodbye to someone I cared about. So what I really hope listeners take away from this song is never hesitate to tell someone how you feel about them. And trust me, this is something I’m still learning to do! Life and plans can change in the blink of an eye, and you never know when it might be the last time you get the chance to.
C&I: What have you been doing during lockdown?
Ahern: I’m the type of person who loves to be busy, so it’s definitely been somewhat of a struggle teaching my mind to just kind of relax during the lockdown. I have my pilot’s license, and, luckily, I’ve been able to go up and fly a lot since I have the hours in the day to do so now. Flying really allows me to leave any problems on the ground and clear my mind while I’m up in the air, which has been a blessing mentally during all of this.
I’ve been spending a lot of my time writing. However, I’ve also spent a lot of it sort of just taking time to myself. Not really feeling the need to keep up daily with social media or contacting live venues to play at (since we sadly can’t really do that right now). It’s allowed me to live life day to day and gain these experiences and feelings that have developed into song ideas.
C&I: Generally speaking, what inspires you? How do you “refill the well” of creativity?
Ahern: What keeps me inspired and doing what I do is the hope that I can make a difference in someone’s life. I stand firmly by my morals, and, when writing, that’s something I try to include in each of my songs. So if even just one person hears one of my songs and it affects them, helps them, allows them to see something differently, and they hang on to that feeling and pass it on to someone else, then I’ve accomplished what I set out to do. That’s what keeps me inspired — when my songs positively affect someone else’s life. And when I need to “refill the well,” when I feel like I’m in a rut, I find ways to remind myself of those reasons.
Casey Ahern’s Feel Good Playlist
“Suitcase” – Steve Moakler
“Whatever It Is” — Zac Brown Band
“Sunday Driver” — Casey Ahern
Since releasing this song, I’ve had multiple people come up and tell me that whenever they’re in a bad mood, they put on “Sunday Driver” and it turns their day around by cheering them up! So now, whenever I put it on, it not only makes me incredibly proud of the release itself, but brings me so much joy just thinking about the people listening and the brightness it brings to their day!
“Get Along” — Kenny Chesney
“Beer Can in a Truck Bed” — Old Dominion
“Ticket to L.A.” — Brett Young
I’m from just outside of Los Angeles, so this one hits home. I’ve lived in various places (Boston, Nashville) and there was absolutely nothing like the feeling of descending down from the sky on an airplane and seeing the city lights of L.A. after being gone for long periods of time. Whenever I hear this song, it puts me in that warm, grateful place of feeling like I’m coming home.
“American Heartbreaker” — Jimmie Allen
“Life in Your Days” — Jordan Brooker
“Wild as You” — Cody Johnson
Whenever I’m feeling trapped, I put on this one, and it reminds me of who I am. I’ve always considered myself a free spirit, as clichéd as that sounds, ha ha, but I hate to be in one place for too long — whether physically or even mentally. So I turn it up, go for a drive and it makes me feel as if my feet aren’t attached to the concrete, but instead on a wing.
“I Know the Way” — Runaway June
“In Love by Now” — Riley Green
“Break Away” — Rascal Flatts
We have a ranch in Central California and my family would always turn on “Break Away” when we’d drive up there. It reminds me of getting out of the rat race in the city and, well, breaking away to the ranch, where I have room to run and unwind.
Photography: Images courtesy Vince Trupsin, Irina Logra, Alyssa Barker, Kirsten Balani