Some know Jason Castro as a bright new contemporary Christian music artist, whose last album took him to the upper reaches of the music charts.
Others know him as the dreadlocked performer on the seventh season of “American Idol,” whose renditions of songs such as a ukulele-driven “Over the Rainbow” and a passionate rendering of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” led him to a strong finish as the season’s third runner-up.
Regardless of where they first heard him, admirers of Castro’s music have been grabbing up his albums and flocking to his concerts since he jump-started his solo career with the release of his first two albums.
While his self-titled debut album contained more mainstream music, his second album, “Only a Mountain,” cemented Castro’s following in the contemporary Christian music field, where fans have embraced him as one of their own.
Fresh off the success of “Only a Mountain,” Castro is set to perform at the Southeast Expo Center in McAlester next month with Matthew West and the Sidewalk Prophets as part of West’s “Into the Light” tour.
The concert is set to begin at 7 p.m. on Nov. 7, a Thursday night.
Castro spoke with the News-Capital by phone while traveling across the country on the northern part of the tour, headed toward Cheyenne, Wyo.
Castro said the “Into the Light” Tour has been going extremely well.
“It’s been an amazing experience,” Castro said.
He said he senses one spirit on the stage.
“God has great plans for us all,” said Castro.
He’s had remarkable success for someone who didn’t start playing guitar until college.
“I grew up playing drums and then I tried out for this TV show, ‘American Idol.”’
To his surprise, he passed the audition.
“Afterwards I thought, ‘What’s going to happen now?’”
What happened next led to his strong finish on the show and a stint on the “American Idol” tour that year, before he recorded and released his first album.
Castro, who lives in Dallas, said he became more involved with Christian music after working with an organization in Texas called I Am Second.
“I was telling about my faith and doing what I do,” Castro said. He said he got to the point where he wanted God not only in his mind, but in his life.
Meanwhile, followers of contemporary Christian music who knew of Castro’s faith began to contact radio stations. That led to a call from a recording company to see if he had any interest in recording an album in that field.
Indeed he did.
“It was a refreshing change,” Castro said. “It refreshed my soul.”
Asked about the inspiration for his song “Only a Mountain,” Castro said he had walked into a room and one of his co-writers started playing some chords
His record company had just told him he needed an up-tempo song for his new album.
“My buddy said ‘I started one yesterday,”’ Castro said. When he played Castro the chord progression, “I fell in love with it,’” Castro said. The writers then added the inspirational lyrics.
“Life is so heavy and serious sometimes,” Castro said. “God is in control and we can smile through it all.”
Did Castro have any idea his career would rise so far, so fast?
“I never thought I would be doing this,” Castro said. “I thought I would be a drummer in a band.”
Given his “American Idol” exposure and the fact that his first album largely consisted of mainstream music, Castro ordinarily draws some fans to his concerts who aren’t familiar with contemporary Christian music. He’s ready to introduce them to it.
“It’s a unique opportunity I’ve been given to bring people to Christian music,” he said.
While he performed as a solo artist on “American Idol,” Castro plans to perform most of his McAlester set with a full band behind him.
“Matthew’s letting me use his band,” Castro said, referring to tour headliner Matthew West. “We’ll be plugged in.”
Castro had become the first contestant to play a musical instrument on American Idol when he picked up a ukulele for his rendition of “Over the Rainbow.”
Is it true that he’s never played the ukulele before he learned to play the instrument for that performance?
“I wanted to play that song so I went to the Guitar Center in LA and bought a chord chart,” Castro said. So the idea to perform “over the Rainbow” with a ukulele came from himself and not from a network producer?
“It was all me,” Castro said with a chuckle.
Castro also achieved critical praise for acclaimed rendition of “Hallelujah” on the program. Did he learn that song specifically for the “American Idol” performance?
Referring to the songs he performed as a contestant on the program, Castro said ‘“Over the Rainbow” and Hallelujah” were the only two songs I was familiar with ahead of time.” That helped his performances, he believes, because he didn’t have to think about trying to remember the lyrics. He said he had known “Hallelujah” through Jeff Buckley’s version of Cohen’s song.
In addition to own hits and album cuts, does Castro plan on performing “Hallelujah” or “Over the Rainbow” during his McAlester performance?
Because of time constraints Castro doesn’t expect to perform both songs in McAlester — but he said he often opens his shows by playing one acoustic song.
“Since he’s the opening act, look for his first song when the concert begins at 7 p.m.
“You want to get there early,” he said, advising that those who arrive late might miss it.
Tickets to the triple-header concert in McAlester are $15 in advance, or $20 at the door. They are available at Shared Blessings, the First Baptist Church of McAlester, Lakewood Christian Church and School, Life Church, King’s House and a number of other churches in the city.
In addition, tickets are available online at itickets.com.
Castro said he’s looking forward to performing in McAlester.
“I can’t wait to meet you all,” he said.
What should people attending Castro’s McAlester concert expect?
“Be ready to be inspired,” he said.
Contact James Beaty at email@example.com.