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Jean Carlos Casely isn't ashamed to admit his mother raised him with a heavy hand.Jean Carlos Casely isn't ashamed to admit his mother raised him with a heavy hand. Mama Casely not only mandated her son be involved in musical theater by the time he was in the fifth grade but also enforced him to take piano lessons at 12. "I began getting classically trained at a young age and I wasn't too happy with it," admits the 22-year-old R&B singer, who goes by his surname these days. "But it was cool once I got past the fear."
Still, it was his mother's same austerity that kept the half Trinidanian/half Panamanian singer on track. At her suggestion, the Miami-native, who had been writing and recording songs since the age of 14 and had already signed a short-lived deal with an indie label at 15, enrolled in the Boston's Berklee College of Music. There, he studied voice, songwriting and music business.
His mother's guidance and academic schooling, paired with Casely's natural born musical ability, eventually led him to be handpicked by well-known production duo, the Diaz Brothers. Last March, Casely was contacted by the siblings' assistant after she came across his music on his MySpace page. "[The Diaz Brothers and I] knew some of the same people, so it was crazy that we hadn't crossed paths before," he says. "We set up a meeting and it just felt like the right move." A month later, Casely signed with the production company.
Casely and the brothers immediately began recording music with the intention of shopping around for a major label deal. "One night we were in the studio listening to beats and I came across the music we eventually used for 'Emotional.' I just had a feeling something was there. I took it home and wrote the lyrics," he says.
The next day, Casely recorded the Diaz Brothers-produced "Emotional" which, after breaking on local rhythmic station Power 96 just a few weeks later, became his first official single from his upcoming debut. The violin-laden track jumps from 97-85 on the Billboard R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart this week. "They tested it first but request calls kept coming in and then it jumped to 80 spins a week. That's when labels starting calling," says Casely.
Last year, Casely signed to Epic records via the Diaz Brothers, and is now slated to released "1985" -- and ode to his birth year and the "big hooks, catchy melodies and deep lyrics of the 80s" –- in late May or early June. So far he's worked with producers Jim Jonsin, Seven Aurelius, Street Runners and DLP. Flo Rida, Pitbull and Rick Ross, all of whom have appeared on various "Emotional" remixes, are the guest features so far.
"I like to call the album an electronic R&B set," says Casely. "It has an 80s sound to it with the synths in the production, but at its core, it's an R&B album." Other tracks on the set include the club record "Touch Me" and "Heart in Shade," about an unfaithful man.
Casely, who is currently on a radio promo tour, is also hoping to expand his songwriting credits, recently putting pen to paper for the likes of Omarion and Bow Wow.
"My success is not an overnight success by any means," says Casely. "I prayed, I asked for signs, but one opportunity lead to another. Everything is tied together. It was a blessing in disguise all along."