ARNOLDS PARK, Iowa | Country singer Casey Muessigmann has been playing a lot of Iowa venues this summer -- from the Beer Can Alley bar in Arnolds Park to the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines.
While some musicians might be far more enthused about playing three nights in a tent at the Iowa State Fair than a bar in Arnolds Park, the 27-year-old singer and guitarist doesn't necessarily see it that way.
"Some venues, and I don't care if it's a bar or if it's a concert hall, I will go back and play shows that I feel at home at," Muessigmann said. "Because that's how you build your fan base, that's how you make friends in this industry. I've always been more about the people."
His favorite venue to date, he said, was last year's Clay County Fair in Spencer, Iowa.
Muessigmann, who is originally from Spencer but now lives in Des Moines, is now five years removed from his 2012 performance on "The Voice," the experience that launched his musical career.
A star is born
Did he show musical brilliance from an early age? Not exactly.
"I was always in choir, and I went a Catholic elementary school so I always sang at church there," Muessigmann said. "But I didn't really start singing with a band until I got on 'The Voice.'"
That big break happened -- by chance -- when he was a wrestler at Morningside, in his early 20s. He had torn his meniscus and could no longer wrestle, so his roommate signed him up for an audition with "The Voice."
It wasn't exactly a carefully calculated endeavor.
"Literally got signed up that week, the week of the auditions, so it's not like I planned it out," Muessigmann said.
He got a call back.
"Next thing I knew, I was in Los Angeles," he said.
Muessigmann performed on Blake Shelton's team when he was on "The Voice." He worked four or five times with Shelton, who he called "a good dude."
"I made a lot of really good friends out there, and met a lot of really awesome people that were in the same boat I was in," he said.
Almost immediately after "The Voice," Muessigmann became a music man. He met his producer, Beau Fuller, and put together a band.
Today, that band consists of Brian Schwager (lead guitar), Spencer Carlson (rhythm guitar), Brandon Updegrove (bass), Tim Thacker (drums) and Nate Sletten (electric guitar).
"These guys started coming along, and they really fit what I wanted to do, and personality-wise fit in, and now honestly they're my best friends," Muessigmann said.
On the road
The group has shared the stage with some big names, including Florida Georgia Line and Muessigmann's old compatriot from "The Voice," Blake Shelton.
Last year, Muessigmann and his band did 84 shows. They've traveled a lot together as a group -- as far east as Pennsylvania and as far south as Louisiana.
The 2017 tour is running a little closer to home.
"We covered 16 states last year; this year we're trying to just focus on the Midwest," Muessigmann said. Most venues the group plays, he said, are at fairs, festivals and casinos.
Originals and covers
About half the songs the band plays are original to the band. The other half is the always-popular cover songs.
"We have to play covers because, well, that's what people want to hear," he said. "But I love writing music."
The band is performing roughly 15 original songs at the moment -- the most popular of which are "Driving Me Crazy" and "Fireball."
The latter song, which refers to the cinnamon-flavored whiskey, earned the group a sponsorship from the liquor brand. The origin of the song is poetic in its own way.
"The story behind 'Fireball' was, I was going through some relationship stuff, and I was really hungover on a Saturday," he said. "And I woke up, and I walked out to the kitchen and I opened up the fridge, and all that was in there was, a half-eaten Papa John's pizza and half a handle of Fireball whiskey. So, I drank a little bit and I wrote a little bit."
The band was impressed by the song Muessigmann compiled, which he said he drafted in about half an hour.
To date, Muessigmann has two albums: "Now I'm Country" and "Between the Rows." He is working on another album, for which he has written four or five songs.
He and the band will start to get serious about the third album around September.
"I don't even have a name for it because we're in the middle of tour season right now," Muessigmann said.