It was Walt Disney who once said, “All our dreams can come true if we have the courage to pursue them.” The visionary entrepreneur, animator and writer has been gone more than a half-century now, but people like Casey Kearney carry on a legacy he created — simply by being themselves.
Kearney is creative in ways that Disney was and in ways that he wasn’t. A writer and storyteller, she knows how to craft words in a way that will resonate with people. A musician and songstress, she transforms those words and stories into songs that stay with people long after her set ends.
A native of northwest Florida, Kearney, now 39, is something of an anomaly in the music industry. An adult before she fully began to pursue her dreams, she is a wife, a mom of three, a reluctant and shy church singer turned recording artist.
Her story flows like a beloved song — verses that chronicle her journey from stage fright to stage presence, a chorus that crescendos to her successes, a bridge that reminds people it’s never too late to chase your dreams.
“Most artists’ stories are ‘Oh, I’ve dreamed of this since I was a little girl, I started singing on stage when I was six years old,’ and it just wasn’t my story. It wasn’t my path,” Kearney said. “I had to turn it into an ‘It’s never too late kind of perspective.’
“I’ve had to shape my career in a different way because I can’t just hit the road and go tour for months on end,” she continued. “I’m thankful for how it has worked out because I have this outlet to be able to play and reach a broad audience without having to go on the road.”
Kearney tried a lot of things before music grabbed ahold of her. A homeschool graduate, Kearney tried on a variety of hats — cosmetology, event planning, real estate — as careers. Singing was never on her radar until an encounter at church opened her eyes to new possibilities.
“I didn’t even know I could sing and I definitely couldn’t play any kind of instruments at all,” Kearney recalled. “But, this guy at church had kind of isolated my voice in his headphones and came up to me afterward and was like, ‘You can sing … like, really sing.’ He and his family helped me get over my stage fright and got me started playing guitar.”
At the time, Kearney was pregnant with her second child. Trying to find a way to balance performing with managing life with two babies was a challenge. It wasn’t until she was 32 — with three children and a husband — that Kearney decided the time was now or never.
“I went to Nashville and recorded my first EP, and I remember I put it on a zero percent interest credit card so I could get gigs and pay it off,” she remembered.
Asked to describe her sound, Kearney replies that she’s in the country music genre, although she plays a bit of everything — Top 40, rock and more — at her shows. She said people often tell her, “I don’t like country music, but I like you.”
Over the next few years, Kearney played local gigs whenever and wherever she could get them — The Red Bar, The Bay, Shunk Gulley, to name a few — taking the stage three to four nights a week. She traveled the 90 minutes one way every time from her family’s life in the country.
In January, with a pre-teen and two teenagers at home, she decided to scale back her commitments but found that bigger opportunities awaited. In May, she sang “God Bless America” at an Atlanta Braves game, following that up with a performance of the national anthem a few short weeks later. Her song, “Better Days,” written pre-COVID, earned airtime on SiriusXM. A tune she wrote about a true story of a couple slow-dancing at a Waffle House, appropriately titled “Waffle House,” earned a spot on the breakfast chain’s jukeboxes. She has opened for country singer Deana Carter and, soon, for the soulful Drake White.
“I’ve had more opportunities since I decided to scale back some than the whole entire time I was working my butt off,” Kearney said. “I think God just did that. I think it was one of those things that God was like, ‘Thank you! Finally! You’re getting out of the way now so I can actually do something.'”
The songstress has both lofty and realistic goals. In her own words, she says her goal is just to do “cool, fun things,” (playing the Grand Ole Opry just once being one of them), but she is fine with “never making it.”
“I just want to play music and I don’t really care where it goes,” Kearney said. “I’ve never entertained the thought of having a label or being a major artist because they’ve sacrificed their entire lives for that and I’m not willing to give up a lot of the things it would take for me to get to that level.”
Kearney’s primary message to people is that it’s never too late to go after what’s in their hearts. It takes work and perseverance, she continued, but like her, you can find a way to balance it all.
“I never want to look back when I’m 80 and think, ‘I never even tried,'” Kearney said. “It may make you laugh and make you cry and make you frustrated, but if it brings you joy, it’s definitely worth pursuing and putting the effort into it.”
Kearney’s current album, “More To The Story,” is available on iTunes, Spotify and all music streaming platforms. To learn more about Casey Kearney’s music or see her performance schedule, visit caseykearney.com or connect with her on Facebook or Instagram.