Interview: Casey McQuillen on new EP and anti-bullying series
Aaron Dean Productions

Berklee College of Music graduate and former "American Idol" contestant, Casey McQuillen, is gearing up for her upcoming EP, Beautiful, set for release in April. Casey began her journey in music when she was in seventh grade, originally as a classroom assignment which led to her love of playing and performing music. Says McQuillen of her musical beginning, "I've always loved to sing and write songs, but I learned at a young age that it's much more interesting for the listener if there is a musical accompaniment. So it seemed like a no-brainer to continue with the guitar." Later on, while in high school, she began composing songs and recorded live videos of herself performing these songs on YouTube, which has amassed over 1 million views.

From there, she self-produced, arranged, wrote and performed her first two albums before heading off to college at Berklee. While there, she continued writing, recording and arranging songs that have become her new EP, Beautiful. While recording Beautiful, Casey says that she "worked with an amazing team to record it. Charles Humenry produced the record, and we spent months writing the arrangements. Ben Barnett engineered, mixed and mastered the project, and we tapped into the bottomless talent pool at Berklee College of Music to find the best musicians to record. We were all friends working tirelessly on a project we were passionate about; it was the ideal experience." 

Being ambitious and a go-getter, Casey decided to take a shot on the long-time running "American Idol" and earned a spot in season 13. When asked how this experience changed her as a performer and singer-songwriter, she admits, "I've always prioritized songwriting over singing because my original songs allow me to connect more deeply with my fans. However, "Idol" gave me the opportunity to be introduced almost overnight to a massive audience. Through performing cover songs on the show, I was able to build relationships with "American Idol" fans, and consequently, gain fans as an artist."

Casey is also very active in her self-launched anti-bullying series, titled as the "You Matter" tour, in which she performed at over 100 middle and high schools throughout the New England region. During these performances, McQuillen engages the audience with original songs about life stories that teach young students about anti-bullying and building self-confidence. While Casey has experienced some level of bullying, she states that those people's harsh words "found their way into my subconscious and were affecting the way I saw myself. I wrote the song "Beautiful" when at the age of 17, I caught myself putting on makeup to go to the gym. Years of feeling insecure about my appearance had distorted my perception of myself to the point that I felt completely naked without makeup. By sharing this story with students, as well as other examples of resilience and determination, I hope to convey how universal these feelings are, and hopefully, the students begin to feel less isolated when struggling with their own securities. We all have strengths, and of course, weaknesses, but in the end, we all deserve to love ourselves. The "You Matter" tour is all about self-love and not allowing our insecurities to define us." 

Not only are her fans noticing the personal contributions in her music, but also other publications, blogs, and her peers are beginning to take note. Casey was recently featured in the "UN Foundations Girl UP" blog, which she says "was such an honor! I've been working on The 'You Matter' tour over three years now and it's gratifying to get recognition from such a prestigious publication. I really believe in the message of the 'You Matter' tour and it's my greatest joy to connect with so many students across the country in such a personal way. I hope being recognized by publications like 'Girl UP' will give me more opportunities to share this message with even more teens!" 

Stay tuned for more events and news referencing Casey via her website, Facebook and Twitter.