When Texas singer/songwriter Cas Haley first penned “Every Road I’m On” while touring last summer, he knew he had a good song but never realized it would transform his life in many ways, and prove to be a source of comfort and hope when his family was faced with health issues. The uplifting lyrics “Sunshine, rain or storm it’s all the same/Blessings always come rearranged/Take me on the road that I’ve been given/Every road I’m on is my home” convey a message of facing adversity with a positive attitude of always looking forward.
On a whim, Haley entered the song in the “Chart Your Course” contest presented by Lincoln automobile, and wound up winning the grand prize. In addition to a cash prize and a Lincoln Corsair SUV, the prize package included a musician’s dream list: a recording session for “Every Road I’m On” at Capitol Studios with legendary producer Al Schmitt and an A-list of session players, mentorship with musician Jon Batiste and an upcoming Lincoln commercial campaign and backstory video series filmed by a 30-person crew and directed by noted producer Marcus Haynes (Austin To Boston and No Cameras Allowed).
It couldn’t have come at a better time for the full-time musician, whose family often accompanies him on tours. Two years ago, his wife Cassie was diagnosed with breast cancer, news that allowed him a moment of reflection on what matters most.
Though Haley had previous experience with reality competitions in the past, there was something about the tone of the Instagram ad he saw from Lincoln that made him feel at ease. “Lincoln’s message in this ‘Chart Your Course’ contest had this introspective hero’s journey vibe about an artist’s path and charting your own course. It had meaning and depth. I could tell there was something about it. I told my wife I thought “Every Road I’m On” was the perfect tune to submit.”
Part of the submission was a video and one-page essay. Not wanting to sway the judges with an emotional play, he left a lot of the sensitive stuff out, including his wife’s cancer. “I concentrated on our family’s foundation of how we’ve been traveling with the family for 20 years, blazing a trail of the artists’ path and trying to live the dream. I left out the tragedy.”
The song happened to have the word ‘road’ in its title, but Haley says “it had more to do with the song’s spirit of making every road you’re on your home, being able to cultivate presence in your life wherever you’re at and to find that internal sanctuary, whatever tragedy you might be going through.”
He calls “Every Road I’m On” a family co-write, as the song’s inspiration began on a family road trip. “When you’re traveling from gig to gig, you start to notice the difference in your psychological states, when you are home or on the road. When you’re on the road, you’re thinking about where you’re going to be versus being present where you’re at. You know, ‘we gotta get to Chicago by 11.’”
“The song came from that idea of looking at the next thirty years traveling with the family. Hopefully we have a full family band where everyone is part of the show. How do we pursue this career in a way that feels right where we can be present within our life without the road eating us up? And it happens to parallel any adversity in our life, whether it’s cancer or whatever. You can apply the themes of accepting what you’re going through versus getting caught up in all the fears that come with it and things you have to do. Be here now. That’s our main goal at home and on the road. ‘How do we do this in a way that’s actually good for us?’”
Haley is an accomplished fingerpicker and his deft guitar style lays the bed for the story’s message. He credits Paul Simon as a major guitar and songwriting influence. “I’m a huge Paul Simon fan. He incorporates so many different musical styles into how he’s able to tell a story. He transcends genre. I’m into the honest perspective of a song. That’s what makes a song interesting- that a human experienced this. I’ll take that over a well-tailored song.”
For his submission, Haley did a one-take recording of the tune on his Taylor guitar the night before flying to a gig. “I have a Universal Audio Apollo X16, a Neve 1073 and a UA Apollo 610 preamp which I used to record the original version, and also used it to re-track my vocals on a Schoeps mic for the Capitol version.
As any songwriter can imagine, visiting and recording at the legendary Capitol Studios in Hollywood with top players Lee Sklar, Waddy Wachtel and Trevor Lawrence was magical. Meeting legendary producer/engineer Al Schmitt was equally inspiring for Haley, who cites Sam Cooke and Frank Sinatra as influences, both artists Schmitt recorded while in their prime. “It was an absolutely tremendous, fantastic situation that went down! Al’s attention to detail, how critical it is for an engineer to understand the emotional connection of how a player is feeling during the session to get the best performance, was invaluable.”
Three different versions were recorded by Haley, including an acoustic-based version, a reggae take and the Capitol Studios recording. The reggae version was a combination of recording at his home studio and with California producer Nathan Aurora, who played most of the instruments and programmed the drums, with Buford O’Sullivan arranging the horns. The Teters family (Sun Dub) on backup vocals and Haley playing guitar. Rob Fraboni mixed the entire EP. “He’s a wizard, a genius engineer,” Haley said.
Lincoln plans to roll out the full campaign in the fall, and Haley plans an album release later in the year. Unlike other contracts with major corporations that bind you for life, Lincoln has been exactly the opposite, and very artist friendly.
“It’s phenomenal what they’ve done. I still own 100% of the song and Lincoln has no financial interest in my songwriting or business. Their interest is in telling the story, how their brand of sanctuary, the vehicle, ties into a person’s well-being. That’s what they want to represent themselves. I’ve essentially won a talent contract, where I’m the spokesperson for their new Lincoln Corsair SUV for one year. It’s blown me away what they’ve done for artists. I mean, they built an amp out of Lincoln parts for Gary Clark Jr. and all kinds of neat stuff!”
“To me, this situation is way better than trying to do a record deal. I got to bond and know them through this whole relationship. They’re interested in selling cars, not owning an artist. It’s a great partnership.”
“Just to have our story told with that amazing cast of characters is rare. it’s not every day that a company will tell your story as is. I’ve been involved on TV shows, and even record companies want to change stuff. It’s rare where a company is ready to show you as you are and says this is what we embrace.”
Music continues to remain at the center of the family’s life in a small town near Paris, Texas, and the eternally positive Haley wouldn’t have it any other way.
“Before cancer, Cassie had absolutely no interest in getting on stage or writing songs. Now we’re co-writing and she has all these great ideas and we have this new dynamic in our life. She even plays a couple songs with the band in our live show.”
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