Happening Now: Casey Donahew Band Embraces DIY Ethos & Controversy on New LP

Casey Donahew's fierce independent streak is key to the success of the Casey Donahew Band's new album, "Standoff," released April 16 on Almost Country Records, the Fort Worth-based label owned and operated by Donahew and his wife, Melinda. "Standoff" bows at No. 7 on Billboard's Top Country Albums chart and No. 32 on the Billboard 200.

"We were told by a friend when we made our first demo in 2001: 'Do everything you can as long as you can.' We've always tried to live by that philosophy," says Casey Donahew, who has released five previous indie albums and developed a strong following in his native Texas. "We've been approached with opportunities to sign with a label, but never really felt like it was the right fit."

In music and business, Donahew has definite ideas and isn't shy about expressing them. He even goes so far as to print the Second Amendment inside his new CD packaging. "I know it's risky. It's not always the best policy to mix politics and music," he says, "but it's something that I feel so strong about, and it's something that a lot of our fans feel strong about.

"[There's] such a standoff in the country over the gun debate," he continues. "There's this overwhelming anti-gun sentiment displayed through the media, and I felt like there needed to be more voices for gun owners. I'm a gun owner, and I'm a big believer in the Second Amendment. I want people to know it's OK to be a gun advocate. The band and me decided that we had a platform and we'd try to be that voice. We're prepared for backlash."

The Donahews have recruited a team that includes Vanessa Davis' Splash! Public Relations; David Macias of Nashville-based Thirty Tigers, which handles marketing and distribution; and Nancy Tunick of GrassRoots Promotion, which is working the single "Whiskey Baby" to country radio, marking the first time the Casey Donahew Band has had a single worked outside Texas.

"We continue to grow every year. His income, albums sold, merch sold, everything is growing," says Melinda Donahew, who serves as president of Almost Country Records. "Artists get to a point where they just stall, but luckily for us it keeps growing and keeps going further out. He went to Montana for the first time last year and sold out seven shows."

The band is booked by William Morris Endeavor, and its live performances have earned an enthusiastic following. "We did a lot of social media promotions because Casey has a very large, younger fan base," Melinda says. "He's [popular] with 18- to 24-year-olds, and they're social media maniacs. When he succeeds, Casey's fans honestly feel like they are a part of it."

Casey has endorsement deals with Denver-based Cinch Jeans & Shirts and Justin Boots--for which the band ran contests and gave away boots. He also made an in-store appearance on street date in his hometown of Burleson, Texas. And ads appeared in Texas Monthly and Texas Music magazines as well as on radio stations across the country.

"It's not like he's an overnight sensation," says Macias, who began working with Casey in 2009. "Casey and Melinda have been doing great work in terms of building a fan base. This time we even brought in 'stache media, which is RED's in-house team. We have them working Casey in the college market. We did some sniping in the Dallas-Fort Worth market, which is his top market and hometown market. We did regional time buys for CMT. We really put a lot of extra stuff together."

Casey is thankful to have gone from small bars to selling out Billy Bob's Texas in Fort Worth, Cain's Ballroom in Tulsa, Okla., and other legendary clubs. "We've spent 10 years cultivating a fan base," he says. "It's different from a new artist who jumps out there and tries to create a fan base with one or two songs. We've created loyal fans who buy our records and support what we do. We've been really lucky."

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