Casey James performs Thursday as Star Course’s first country act

For the first time in its 120-year-old history, Star Course will be bringing a country music artist to perform at Foellinger Auditorium on Thursday: Casey James.

Star Course, the oldest registered student organization on campus, has brought some of the most iconic names in the music industry to the University campus, including Louis Armstrong (three times, in fact), Bruce Springsteen, the Beach Boys and the Black Eyed Peas. However, visiting country artists are few and far between, and have been absent in recent decades. That is, until Thursday evening at 8 p.m., when country music star and American Idol alumnus, Casey James, will perform.

Casey James’ performance is the inaugural concert for Star Course this school year. While Star Course has brought in country-affiliated musicians before, such as Sheryl Crow, Casey James will be the first that is known mainly as a country musician.

“(Crow) was more of a pop artist before ... we brought her before she was country,” said Jessica Banovz, one of Star Course’s senior managers and a senior in Business. “This is our first country show with a big country artist.”

When asked about being Star Course’s first country artist, James said he was appreciative of the opportunity.

“It’s a huge honor,” James said. “It’s always an honor to play at a venue where someone asks you to come perform. Even more so, there are people who have been there before me who are obviously amazing and legendary, like Elton John and The Rolling Stones. It is a pretty high bar, and I am just glad to be mentioned in the same sentence as those two acts.”

Currently on his national tour, James also has been accompanying a variety of artists on their own tours. James was recently on Taylor Swift’s RED tour, performing in Sacramento, Los Angeles and Wichita, Kan.

James said he learned a lot from touring with other artists over the past few years. He said that as an artist, watching another musician’s performance can assist in how he performs in his shows. He is able to see how crowds react to the pace of the shows and the music throughout the concerts.

James’ opening act is Corey Crowder, an aspiring country artist and a longtime friend of James. Crowder, who has performed with James before this tour, is originally from Covington, Ga. Crowder’s music first came to fame when he was featured on hit TV shows such as “The Real World,” “Nashville” and “The Biggest Loser.” Together, James and Crowder will be the first two country music performers to be brought to campus by Star Course.

“In terms of country, you don’t see too many shows,” said Hannah Ahn, one of Star Course’s public relations managers and a junior in Engineering. “I think it is a great opportunity for the school as a whole to come out.”

Many country music fans said they appreciate the opportunity to see their favorite genre live.

“I am really excited to see him,” said Shea McCarthy, sophomore in Engineering. “I hope it is a great concert, and I have been listening to his music all day.”

James’ self-titled album peaked at number two on the Billboard Top Country Albums in early 2012 with his hits “Let’s Don’t Call It A Night” and “Crying on a Suitcase.” James said the past few years for him have been a “whirlwind,” as he has been on tour for approximately a year following the release of his album.

“It’s finally starting to slow down to the point where I can look back and think, ‘Wow this has all happened, but it has been amazing,’” James said.

Before the success of his 2012 self-titled album, James was a young aspiring musician from Cool, Texas — a town of 159 people located outside of Fort Worth, Texas. His life had a major turning point in 2009 when his mother suggested that he audition for American Idol. James sang and performed with his guitar on the ninth season and placed third.

James said American Idol was an experience that he will never forget.

“It gave me the opportunities that I have gotten since then. At the beginning, it opens the doors and it is up to you once that happens — you have to work hard and you have to want it,” James said of his success from the show.

James’ performance at Foellinger on Thursday will be his first concert on a college campus since his successful album release.

“I am excited to come out — the more the merrier — and I always stay after. If anyone wants to meet me or get a picture or autograph, I am more than happy to stay for everybody,” James said. “(When) it is an opportunity for music to be played, I am always the first to say, ‘Let me do it.’”

Declan can be reached at dharty2@dailyillini.com.