Casey Coolidge Kristofferson was immersed in music from the time she was born.
That’s to be expected from the daughter of Rita Coolidge and Kris Kristofferson, but her experience isn’t just sing-alongs with her famous parents. She’s a recording artist, a songwriter and a ballerina (really!).
“I’ve been on stage my whole life,” Casey said. “It’s my comfort zone, and I’ve been writing songs since childhood.”
She has her own band, and the Casey Kristofferson Band will be at this year’s MerleFest, the Valhalla of music that comes around every year the last weekend of April.
The band is not fixated on any one style of music.
“I love all music, and I play as often as I can with everyone I can,” Casey said.
She has a lot of opportunities to indulge in her life’s work, and that’s probably why she’s so cheerful. Her musical family, a living dream, includes Shooter Jennings, Waylon Nelson, Todd Snider and Andy Buckner.
Fans may recall Andy’s appearance on TV in season nine of “The Voice.” MerleFest regulars know him well. He’s been there before.
MerleFest has given her the opportunity to collaborate more with Buckner, she said, and the band has new music for the festival. Some songs are hers, some are Buckner’s.
Casey has a new song “The Drown” that she describes as a resolution to “Quit drinking less and stop thinking more.”
That fits right in with her musical heritage that comes from her parents and their cohorts including, of course, The Highwaymen: Daddy Kris, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson and Johnny Cash.
Casey likes to talk more about the people in her life than herself. “I am blessed to work and collaborate with great songwriters.” And she doesn’t mind sharing the stage. “We (the band) sometimes play with other bands, and it’s great.”
Band members include Muddy Welles on banjo and lead guitar, Jim Aaron on harmonica, Zack Page on bass and Herschel Van Dyke on drums. Suffice it to say, all of them really know their stuff.
The band has a lot of original material, but dips into the treasure trove of Casey’s parents on occasion.
She’s glad she moved to our state. “It’s incredible working in Western North Carolina,” Casey said. She’s firmly planted in Old Fort. She moved there about 15 years ago with her husband. They split, but she decided to stay. Now remarried, he stayed, too.
Casey was part of the acclaimed Yellow Feather music project in Asheville, and some of the performers in her big musical family are North Carolinians.
She gives her three daughters the same encouragement and freedom her parents gave her. Casey said her parents did not try to make life decisions for her and steer her in any one direction. But the direction was an easy choice for Casey.
“Music is a labor of love,” she said. “It’s about family. I hope to do justice to the music and the work I’ve been blessed to do with others.”
Casey uses “blessed” a lot. “I feel blessed to be part of a band. We’re touring more and getting bigger venues.” There’s a new recording coming out and a video that was shot in Old Fort. She’s a familiar face at Asheville’s famed Echo Mountain studio.
And there’s another blessing that comes with an extended family: Casey’s day job. The lifelong ballerina teaches classical ballet at the Black Mountain Center for the Arts. She is the only certified Cacchetti ballet instructor in North Carolina.
“I have danced since I was 5,” Casey said. “Daddy would take me to ballet classes.” She mastered the art. Her students range from 3 to 70 years old. Casey is as inclusive in dance as she is in music. Her daughters dance, too.
“My ballet family is very supportive. They understand I may have to be away.” But it’s not often. She manages to schedule dance and music. She continued to write songs and performed with the Asheville Ballet Company while she was with Yellow Feather.
“I don’t get to sleep a lot,” she said. Casey laughs about lack of sleep, but she lives as if there is no time to lose. There is more music to sing, more songs to write and she’s committed to her ballet students.
She expects much of herself, and she has the will and talent to deliver.
Casey Coolidge Kristofferson is in love with life and that love comes forth in her music and dance. After all, performing is her comfort zone.
She and the band will be in the zone at MerleFest.
Mark Friday, April 26, 4 p.m., Dance Stage, on your MerleFest calendar.