'American Idol' Alum Jason Castro on Life After Dreadlocks & New Band

Courtesy of Fervent Records
Castro

Not long after finishing fourth on American Idol's seventh season, Jason Castro immediately established himself as a solo act.

After releasing three albums -- including his eponymous debut with Atlantic Records and two records for Christian label Word, Who Am I? (2010) and Only A Mountain (2013) -- Castro grew weary of touring and moved to Dallas for a quieter life with his family.

But once music is in your blood, it never really leaves. Castro has formed a new group, called Castro, recruiting his brother, season 8 alum, Michael, and his sister, Jackie.

On Thursday, the folk group kicked off its Country as Folk tour with Green River Ordinance and The Roosevelts, in support of their new Diamond Dreams EP, and Jason says he couldn’t be happier.

"There's no one else I'd rather travel with," Castro tells Billboard. "Truth is, being on the road is a challenge for anybody with anybody and being with family kind of makes it a lot easier. It at least makes it feel a bit more like home, and I'm just excited to share this whole process with them."

While he's touring with his family band, Castro said it is always great to see supporters coming out that have stuck by him since appearing on the Fox singing competition. And even though some might miss those once-trademark luscious dreadlocks that have since been snipped off, Castro still gets recognized the second he sings Jeff Buckley's "Hallelujah": "You'll see it in the crowd; jaws drop when it clicks."

While the 29-year-old married father of two embraces his Idol past -- he recently brought his family to the show's series finale (his 5-year-old daughter was crushed when her fellow Texan Dalton Rapattoni was eliminated) -- his future with his siblings is especially bright. Diamond Dreams was released Sept. 2 via Fervent Records and is resonating with fans: The title track has over 600,000 plays on Spotify. Not even a day after the EP was released, it shot to the No. 1 spot on the iTunes singer/songwriter chart, and Triple A and Non Comm stations are embracing the band.

Produced by Charlie Peacock (The Civil Wars, The Lone Bellow), on Diamond Dreams, the Castro siblings found a sound that fits in nicely with Mumford & Sons and The Lumineers.

"He was definitely our number one choice when we started this," Castro says. "He's been a part of some really great projects recently."

Peacock served not only as a producer, but as a "teacher" who brought out the colors in each sibling to paint what was to become Diamond Dreams. His was a voice that guided songs like "Hearts Coming Home," a song that chronicles Jason's personal musical journey since appearing on Idol eight years ago.

"We recently went on a writing retreat with him," Jason shares. "Middle of summer, we got to go up to Vermont and be on a 200-acre farm and meet a lot of other writers and collaborate. It was a lot of fun."

Throughout the record, each Castro sibling takes turns singing lead. Jackie hits a home run with the lush and gorgeous "Automatic." The song builds to a crescendo that would serve as the perfect companion piece to a major motion picture.

"It feels like a magic moment, for sure," Jason says of the song. 

"We wrote the chorus rather quickly," he says, "but we were just forever stuck with the verses."

A year later, the siblings met with a musician friend in Nashville, and revisited the track on piano. After deconstructing the demo and switching up the verses, they had the imagery needed with the lyrics: “I was lost at sea / You were an island / Like gravity / You were pulling me ashore / I was a refugee / You were asylum / You sheltered me / And now I call you home.”

"There were a couple lines where we all just kind of looked at each other and said, 'Wow, that's deep.' It was one of those moments when you're writing and you know you're onto something really special."

Another track, "Rock and Roll," features Jason on his famed ukulele -- the very instrument former Idol judge Randy Jackson said made the show suddenly feel like a weird luau.

"Mike's singing lead on that one," Jason explains. "He started that one in the shower one day ... and had, 'You be the rock, I'll be the roll' -- that was the only line he had. That was actually the first song we all wrote together; it was really the first step on this project."

Now that the siblings are hitting the road, how are they managing co-existing in tight quarters?

"We're finally getting in the groove of it," Jason shares. "Early on, we definitely had some challenges, but normal brother/sister challenges," he says. "We have had to learn how to have new boundaries. That's one of the advantages to being a family is that there's not really any filter, you can say what's on your mind all the time. It helps speed along a lot of things."

Diamond Dreams is available on iTunes.