There’s quite a bit of story behind Casey Lagos’ new single, “Let It Go,” and very little of it has anything to do with sharing the name of your favorite song from Frozen.
It wasn’t that long ago that Lagos was drumming at some giant European music festivals or singing on tour with established hardcore bands. But for the multi-instrumentalist, it all seems like a lifetime ago.
Just over a year ago, Lagos was diagnosed with an inner ear vestibular disorder. For those who aren’t doctors, the disorder meant Lagos often felt incredibly dizzy and weak pretty much all the time along with sporadic uncontrollable shaking, and it just so happened that his symptoms were triggered by loud noises, bright lights, and fast movements – all things he experienced on a regular basis while playing live music.
“I went through several months of testing with doctors, and my primary care physician would totally pass me off every time I’d go into the office,” Lagos says. “She kept sending me to specialists, but they never found anything. She started thinking it was all in my head and that there was nothing physically wrong with me. Then finally getting diagnosed was such a blow to me because it meant that I had to change my lifestyle.”
Once the doctors finally figured out what was going on, it became pretty clear that Lagos – most recently with the band Hawai – would likely never be able to perform at a concert again. With his passion, career, and livelihood all stripped away by a single moment, life seemed pretty bleak for the young musician. After all, it’s tough to be a rock star if you can never perform a live show.
“I got to the point where it wasn’t like ‘I hate my life so much that I want to kill myself,’ but I was so miserable with this illness that it might be the only way to make it stop,” Lagos says. “I really got close to wanting to end my life, but then I had this vision of my family – particularly my little cousin that I love so much – walking toward my casket and crying. That was a super sobering thought for me, and I realized I couldn’t even entertain that.”
But at the beginning of 2016, the former Stick to Your Guns drummer decided he was going to make the best of his situation and give himself a musical challenge rather than wallowing in self-pity. For a full year (including Leap Day), Lagos would create and share a new original song each day. The project, 366 DOOM (Days of Original Music), quickly became an Instagram hit, and Lagos soon realized that he’d signed up for something he wouldn’t be able to quit even if he wanted to.
“I wanted to put forth an effort everyday to make something positive, and sometimes I’d write five or six songs and wouldn’t be happy with any of them,” Lagos says. Out of such a low point in my life, Lagos says he wanted to honor God daily with my music. “I felt so thankful that I could still write and produce music,” he says. “I built up these big libraries of different songs, and now it’s really cool to have this huge library of songs. For the first few months, I was more or less bedridden, but it gave me a reason to get out of bed everyday. Then there were days like Christmas where everyone else is eating food and watching Christmas movies and spending time with their families, and I still had to come up with a song before I could do any of that.”
Ultimately, 366 DOOM was always leading up to something bigger than even Lagos could’ve originally imagined. After seven years of his original solo project, Sealakes, remaining dormant, Lagos decided to take the final song he’d crafted for his year-long project and turn it into a full-fledged debut track for the rebirth of his solo career. But while most artists’ “solo” tracks still feature help from some friends in order to create a full band sound, Lagos handled everything from the vocals and drums to guitar and bass on “Let It Go.”
“I recorded the drums in my living room after my house flooded,” Lagos says. “Then I went and recorded bass and guitar over that. Then once the music was done, it was really just writing lyrics and trying to scream. [After 366 days of making music] I couldn’t scream anymore. My voice just hadn’t been exercised, because I hadn’t screamed like that in a long time.”
As Lagos sees it, doing everything himself is actually easier than working with a full band. Rather than having to pick and negotiate between what four or five different musical minds want, Lagos was able to do exactly what he wanted with the track. In many ways, it was only appropriate that the 28-year-old created “Let It Go” virtually entirely on his own, as everything about the song is a personal look into Lagos’ life and the lessons he’s learned since his diagnosis.
“I really wanted to talk about what I’d been through in the last year,” Lagos says. “I wanted to capture the moment of my doctor not caring at all to the point of being diagnosed and feeling so down. Then I had the moment where I knew I just had to let all of these feelings go and just accept what I’m going through. I really wanted to capture the entire sound of what I went through and have people feel that emotion.”
Going forward, Lagos is looking to continue producing and collaborating with other musicians in all genres – pop and R&B are actually among the hardcore veteran’s favorites – while also continuing to make music on his own. As he adjusts to life with his chronic illness, Lagos also has faint dreams of returning to a stage one day. For now, the songwriter is perfectly fine with that after spending roughly a decade on the road playing everything from small clubs to huge festivals.
“After having played all of those big shows and festivals, I don’t feel like I have that hunger where I need to play an arena or play to X amount of people to just be happy,” Lagos says. “I feel very grateful that I could accomplish that before, because I know I for sure had the hunger. I do miss the feeling of playing music live, but I feel fulfilled in my goals on that side of live music. I don’t think I’ll be playing anytime soon, but as my condition stabilizes, playing a show doesn’t seem as scary. It still seems kind of scary, but not as scary as it used to.”