'Idol' Star Casey James' 'Undone': First Listen
'Idol' Star Casey James' 'Undone': First Listen

Casey James has March 20 circled on the calendar -- that's the release date of his self-titled debut album. The Texas native and "American Idol" alum feels that having a record out will make him feel a little more legitimate in the music business.

"I am so excited to have music out. All this time, I've just felt like an impostor -- this guy who doesn't have music out," he tells Billboard. "Now, people can actually say, this is what he does. This is who he is. This is his music. I actually have a reason. Before, I was just out there with nothing to support or to promote. It's the best feeling in the world."

The singer, 29, has been on the radio as of late with his debut single, the soulful "Let's Don't Call It A Night." The former "American Idol" contestant (Season 9, Top 3) feels it was a wise choice.

"I feel it was the right song to start with," the singer said in a Nashville office recently. "It's a lot to ask of someone to really listen in-depth to someone when they don't know who they're listening to sometimes. So, having that song be a simple, catchy, sing-along type thing, that was a good entrance."

The single was written by 90s hit maker Terry McBride. When asked about working with the singer-songwriter, James summed him up by saying "He's a blast. We're both kindred spirits. We're both Fort Worth boys. We have that tie, and we also have a little bit of the same soul in us. He's become a good friend."

James might very well be described as an artist who comes from "Cool"---literally. The singer hails from Cool, Texas. Even some of the people in his camp have a little trouble believing that one. "My manager asks me all the time 'I can't believe your name is Casey James, and you're from Cool, Texas. This couldn't be better. I couldn't have made this up."

James has been out making the promotional rounds at radio as of late pushing the new single. It's a lot of work, and can be taxing at times, but the singer says he wouldn't have it any other way. "It is tough, but rightfully so."

615 SPOTLIGHT is Billboard.com's weekly look at emerging country or roots artists. Return each Wednesday for a new installment.

James realizes that the importance of getting his music on the air. "Without radio, I don't have a career. I could tour - if someone would hire me - but they probably wouldn't. You just hope and pray that what you're doing is coming across, and touching a nerve with people. If you're not doing that, you're just spinning your wheels. It is a challenge, but I'm glad it's there. If you do that, you keep the music pure on the radio. The cream will rise to the top, and hopefully I can be a part of that."

On the album, James has collaborated with some of the top writers in Music City. In addition to McBride, other names represented on the tracks on the disc include Chris Lindsey, Bob DiPiero, and Brett James. Of writing with those names, he says "I've learned a lot. I think the biggest thing for me is that when I've met these guys that are the titans of the writing world, just the fact that they would agree to meet with me is amazing. To get that opportunity felt really good."

Several of the cuts on his debut project reflect his soulful influence. "That's a big part of my musical background - R&B," he says. "A lot of it comes from the south. I feel like on those songs, it just comes out naturally. I always feel comfortable singing stuff like that. I feel like my voice lends it to that. There's always a little tinge of that."

So, what will be it like for James should he be in a record store on release day to see his name in the same bins alongside Jennings or Jones? "My heart gets fluttery thinking about it," he admits. "All my life, I've wanted to get an album in stores. It will be a huge day."