Fresh from a morning hike in Los Angeles' Runyon Canyon Park, Casey Abrams is now blazing musical trails through a new song.
It may not be composed in time for Friday night's show in the Bloomington Center for the Performing Arts (7:30 p.m.), but the journey is underway.
"It's about a mystical delicatessen man," he begins matter-of-factly, as if a song about a mystical deli man makes as much sense as one about a non-mystical one.
The inspiration, he notes, comes from just such a purveyor ... "this dude I pass by on the way to the zoo who always has the best things to eat for sale."
Not just the best, but OUT OF THIS WORLD best, hence his elevation to the fantastical plane.
Abrams' consensus: "Wow. He must have mystical powers."
Food just doesn't come out that way on its own, right?
He offers up a few bars in the bluesy voice that helped take Abrams to the finalist level of "American Idol's" 10th season in 2011 (he landed in sixth place, with Scott McCreery the victor).
"Do you know the Deli Man, do you know the Deli Man ...?"
It's still mid-composition, but the 24-year-old sounds like he's onto something, adding that he's going for the kind of "trippy, psychedelic" vibe that bespeaks his musical weaning as a child of parents who came of age in the '60s and '70s.
It also says something about his broad demographic appeal, which has netted him a faithful following among younger and/or budding jazz-blues-rock fans ... as well as his contemporaries on up.
"I just think music is a beautiful thing that, besides being auditory, can also have a visual aspect and also one involving a sense of touch ... that's the aspect that can really change you," he says.
He says that communicating vocally/instrumentally is just half the process of making full connections.
Hence, the likelihood he'll be leaving the stage and wending his way into the BCPA's audience Friday night.
"I like to meet people with faces ... it's not just verbal communication, it's eye contact ... I need to make that contact," he insists.
By establishing that up-close-and-personal bond, Abrams also knows it puts the audience on his side, and if he hits a wrong note and has to start over, or burps, or trips and falls on stage, "that just makes you human ... the audience feels like it's watching a human being doing spontaneous things instead of someone on TV."
Born in Austin, then transplanted to Chicago, Abrams came of age in two famous musical meccas before landing at age 10 in Idyllwild, Calif., home of the famed Idyll Arts Academy, where he enrolled (his father, Ira, is on the faculty).
There, young Casey found his passion for jazz and the electric bass guitar, with time out for affairs with the piano, upright bass, cello, drums, bass guitar, sitar and more.
He studied, in what he calls "life-changing" terms, with jazz great Marshall Hawkins, whose upright bass skills have been allied with Miles Davis, source of much of Abrams' jazz love.
Though his "American Idol" associations are behind him now (he toured with the live "Idol" show following the 10th season) he now has the distance from ground zero to judge its impact.
"I think that it definitely didn't hurt me," he says of the experience that further changed his life and called the shots for the better part of a year. "And now I don't mind being called the guy from 'Idol' ... that's how people know my songs ... it was cool to turn people on to new music."
On the personal front, Abrams has made news courtesy his dating a fellow "Idol" finalist, Haley Reinhart, and recording a duet, a cover of Ray Charles' "Hit the Road Jack," on his self-titled debut album (personally produced by "Idol" judge Randy Jackson).
"I'd say there's definitely a lot of love there, and we're very, very fond of each other ... I mean, how many girls do you kiss that also make music? But I'm gonna say, no, we're not dating that way now. We ARE still musically dating, though."
The outcome, he says, may involve a shared album, with one side devoted to his jazz leanings and the other to her rock love. With a tandem tour to boot.
"So there's this beautiful thing we still have together," he says, "and we'll be writing a whole bunch more music."