Owen Ashworth steps before a bevy of wires, snyth machines, and a keyboard. With a few adjustments, the 31-year-old Chicago resident, who performs under the moniker of Casiotone For The Painfully Alone (CTFPA) takes a deep breath and begins his first song. It has been seven years, three albums, 14 EPs, splits, and singles, two compilations, and a barrage of extracurricular appearances on soundtracks and compilations since Ashworth started his creative endeavor – yet he still manages to keep things from getting stale.
Long before many of us could even contemplate rummaging around to find old Casio machines and synthesizers, Ashworth used them to establish himself as a talented, creative lo-fi musician.
Ashworth is conscientious about making sure that his musical endeavors in CTFPA go beyond his own specific experience. His music is not autobiographical in nature but rather reflects scenarios, situations, and moods of which any one could relate too. His lyrics are quaint, coy, earnest, somewhat sarcastic, but honest overall.
“Every song happens a little differently,” says Ashworth. “Maybe that’s why a lot of my songs feel so open-ended and somewhat conclusion-free. I love the feeling of not knowing what’s going to happen next. It’s exciting and kind of scary.”
Ashworth is extremely grateful to his fan base, acknowledging that although his music is derived from his own experience and feelings, he is respectful of the audience’s opinion and understands that his music appeals to more people than just him. “I try really hard not to write anything that is about the experience of being the dude from Casiotone,” he says. “Songs about touring or songwriting just don’t seem interesting to me. I would rather write about things that feel more universal and plain and unglamorous.”
Ashworth has incorporated this ideology of respect for the listener into his performances. After three songs at a recent performance, he politely took up asking the audience to yell out suggestions for what to play. “I know people come to shows wanting to hear certain songs that they really like, and I consider it my job to play those songs whenever I can.” When an audience member shouted out for Ashworth to play “CTFPA In A Yellow Shirt,” he created an alternative version of the song, despite not having the proper equipment needed to perform the original.
He has even posted a message on his web site, asking for people to send their names, request for songs, and the cities they’ll be in ahead of time.
“This will give me a chance to practice the requested song a couple of times first,” he explains.
Ashworth’s craft is highlighted by his earnest approach to musicianship, his impressive and creative compositions, and his frank, to-the-point, heart-felt lyrics. He is modest, polite, and is constantly thankful to those who have chosen to listen to and identify with his music. “There are some people who probably really like my songs and are stoked to hear me play,” he says, “and there are probably plenty of other people who are going out just because it’s a thing to do and they figure there will probably some cute people hanging out there.”
Ashworth’s style emphasizes and highlights the lyrics he is projecting. Many of his cover songs, such as “Graceland” by Paul Simon (which previously, to me, sounded like it could have been plucked out of the soundtrack for Deliverance) project the lyrics in a new light – one that Ashworth has mastered. He is able to turn almost any song into a sincere projection of his emotional state while not shedding the foundations of the original.
CTFPA will likely keep going for quite some time. With the announcement of material for a new album beginning next month, Ashworth seems primed to keep producing, creating, and touring. Luckily, he hasn’t grown weary of the process yet. “It helps that I just really enjoy travelling and being a tourist and stuff. I enjoy the momentum…. I like having the opportunity just to talk to – or at – people, and also surprise people with new songs and new arrangements.”
For more information on Casiotone For The Painfully Alone visit Ctfpa.org or myspace.com/casiotone_for_the_painfully_alone.