Try digitalPLUS for 10 days for only $0.99
The Baltimore Sun

‘Rock Star’ reality check

New interviews: When it comes to "Rock Star: INXS" info, we've got what you need; this is what you need:
• New sensation: Chicago's Marty Casey is a hit
• We chat with the competition: MiG Ayesa
• We chat with the competition: J.D. Fortune
• Jam session: Dave Navarro dishes
• You asked Marty; now he answers

We have to admit, "American Idol" is just not our thing. But we're totally into INXS' quest to replace their late lead singer, Michael Hutchence, on reality show "Rock Star: INXS." Since mid-July, 15 singers have been auditioning to front the band, and now that it's down to the final seven, we're glad to see a Windy City guy still rockin' on.

From Nirvana to what he calls a "pretty angsty" version of Britney Spears' "Baby One More Time," Marty Casey keeps us hooked to the CBS summer reality show. So we chatted with Casey, 31, from the "Rock Star" mansion in the Hollywood Hills and found out the Hickory Hills native turned Bucktown resident loves hanging out at Double Door and Metro, and is glad to have a day job to return to during his down time.

I actually tried out for the show.
No way. [Laughs.] At Schubas?

Yep. (Read about my audition in "Rock on!".) So, did you stand in line with the rest of us, or did you send in a demo tape, and what did you sing?
Same deal. Just waited. I sang some originals and [INXS'] "Listen Like Thieves."

Being a real estate appraiser and fronting a rock band are so different. What gives?
For the creative side of writing music I use the left side of my brain, and for the mathematical and analytical, I use the right side of my brain. What worked out perfectly about appraising and real estate was that you don't have a 9-5 job; you just work when you work and get your stuff done. So when I went on the road with The Lovehammers [Casey's longstanding Chicago-based band], I could leave for two or three months and always come back and have a job. So it actually worked out perfectly, and I was lucky to have it and always be able to come back and make money and pay rent if the band wasn't paying it. So yeah, but it is totally, totally different. And what's funny is that all the other singers just cannot imagine me walking around appraising real estate, being the suit guy.

Did you audition because it was time to leave The Lovehammers, or are you hoping to win so you can take them on the road with you and INXS?
[Laughs.] A little bit of both. I mean, I've been in The Lovehammers since I was 15 years old, and I'd never been in any other band. And I'd never tried out or sung with any other band. I'd never experimented with music with any other people, so when this came through town I thought, 'Man, I think I could actually handle that position.' If different bands would've come through, I just don't know if [my] voice would be the right fit. But I was like, 'Michael Hutchence, man, I've been compared to him before in reviews of our album.' So I'm like, 'Well, maybe I should go.'

And for me, it was just a personal challenge of, OK, independently, what do I have stepping outside the comfort zone of being in the band over half my life? I kinda just wanted to step out and challenge myself personally and see what I had. I didn't imagine it would come this far. [Laughs.] Initially, it was just about--you know, you went to the audition--it was just kind of like overcoming the fear of auditioning, which I had never done.

What's been the most challenging part of being on the show?
The hardest part is while you're here, not beating yourself up and not comparing yourself to the other performers too much. Because you don't want to convert into all being one kind of performer by, you know, we're all learning from each other. But the struggle is completely remaining yourself and keeping your voice, your tone of voice, and keeping your edge and keeping your style.

And just keeping yourself independent form anybody else is a challenge because you're just surrounded by these same people all the time, and they're definitely going to affect you. But you just want to take the good points out of everybody, and you want to incorporate maybe that or learn from that. But you don't want to mold into all being the same kind of performer or same kind of singer.

Who's become your closest friend in the mansion?
Jordis, for sure. We've been writing a lot of songs together and we have similar musical tastes: edgier, very modern-sounding stuff.

Who would you say is your biggest competition?
All the women, because if INXS inherently wants a female singer, then there's not enough make-up or hairspray I could wear. [Laughs.]

Have you heard that The Lovehammers are throwing a "Marty Party" at Joe's Bar every Tuesday night to watch the show?
[Laughs.] That's crazy. No way. I'm blown away. That's insane. I had absolutely no idea. That's pretty humbling.

What's the craziest thing you've gotten up to at the mansion?
I'm limited as far as what I can say, but actually one of my crazy, psychotic musical moments was Seth Green [Dr. Evil's son from "Austin Powers"] playing [Nirvana's] "Polly" on a guitar that was given to us by Noel Gallagher from Oasis, and me sitting Indian-style in front of it, singing. … And Serena and Venus Williams are hanging out as well. That's like a little insight into how strange and crazy it's been in this house. And that's like the beginning of the insanity.

How do you feel about all these women posting on blogs and message boards that they're in love with you, have your pictures on their computer, etc.?
See, the beauty of being here is we don't know anything that's going on. We don't know anything on the computer, we don't talk to anybody on the phone, we don't watch television, and anybody that we come across can't talk about the show, so we don't know anything. But I actually prefer that in this situation because it really is easier to keep your own flow going and keep who you are going because you don't have any outside influence. I actually consider it like a bonus to just be in this vacuum and be able to do your thing and not be affected by outside influence. Cause truly we don't know if we're a [well-liked] singer or a disliked singer, so it really keeps you working very, very hard because you never know where you stand.

My mom is such a huge fan of yours, and she wants me to ask: Are you single and available?
[Laughs.] I sure am. Single and available. One of the few here.

OK. So, anything you want to say to your Chicago fans?
Just tell them I'm completely humbled. The fact that anybody gives a care or is even following along just blows my mind. And kind of through the cracks, you hear about the support that people are giving you, and that really does give me a lot of confidence out here. I'm just trying to show people all the quality music that's going on in Chicago. I think sometimes we're overlooked by New York and California, but I think Chicago's got a lot going on, and I just hope that Jessica and I being here, we can show people there's a lot of mad talent in Chicago.

So, Karen, I've gotta ask: Is your mom single? I'm into older women. [Laughs.]
No. [I laugh.] But I am.
Woohoo. We'll have to hook up when I get back to Chicago.

Karen Budell is the metromix nightlife producer. Originally published Aug. 23, 2005. Updated Sept. 22, 2005.

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun