"Idol" alum keeps his cool on long-awaited debut

Fri Mar 26, 2010 10:36pm EDT
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By Monica Herrera

NEW YORK (Billboard) - It's been two years since Jason Castro ambled onto "American Idol" -- ukulele, dreadlocks, stoner vibe and all. And while most of those voted off the show from seasons past have faded into obscurity or drifted into musical theater, Castro, who finished fourth, hasn't been easily forgotten.

Nor has his personality changed, which became clear as soon as he was asked about his upcoming solo album.

"I'll tell you right after this burp," he said, somehow charmingly, during a recent visit to Billboard's New York office. "I just had some amazing barbecue on the way over here. Sorry, but it's definitely giving me the heartburn."

"Jason Castro," the singer-songwriter's Atlantic Records debut, is due April 13 after being moved from November 17, which would have pitted him against big-name fourth-quarter releases including 2009 "Idol" winner Kris Allen. "We got a little overexcited when we set that release date," said Castro, a first-generation Texan whose family is of Colombian descent.

To keep fan interest piqued, Castro released the five-song "The Love Uncompromised EP" January 12; it reached No. 9 on Billboard's Digital Albums chart and No. 5 on the iTunes albums list.

Castro spent much of 2008 exploring the option of signing with an indie before choosing a multirights deal with Atlantic, which saw potential in him as a touring artist. "That's a big reason why we signed Jason," Atlantic senior vice president of pop/rock marketing Dane Venable said. "We felt he could have a really solid, long-term career on the road. Onstage, he's deeply emotional and connected with his songs, as well as with the fans who come out to see him."

Castro hit the road in January for a six-week tour supporting labelmate Matt Hires. At most stops, he played a second daytime show at local high schools to reach his younger fans and made appearances at radio stations. "It was a grueling schedule, and it made me nervous for him just looking at it," Venable said. "But the fact that he's so laid-back makes it almost better because he really takes the work he puts into his career day by day."

Castro's first single, "Let's Just Fall in Love Again," a spright folk-pop number released before the album's date change, has seen a spike in interest since February, when the shopping Web site Overstock.com began featuring the single in a new national TV commercial that will run for three months. To date, the track has sold 108,000 digital copies, according to Nielsen SoundScan.   Continued...

<p>Finalist Jason Castro from Rockwall, Texas poses at the American Idol Top 12 party honoring the finalists in the "American Idol" television reality series in Los Angeles, California, March 6, 2008. REUTERS/Fred Prouser</p>