The pop/folk trio Castro is a breath of fresh air. Self-aware but never self-conscious, fun but never trivial, Jason, Michael, and Jackie Castro's free-range pop soars thanks to a funny little twist for a trio of siblings: It is not how the brothers and sister are alike that creates their undeniable chemistry, but how they are different.
"We all have very different tastes in music," says Jason. "That's been a big part of this project: How do we bridge all those gaps and make something that's true to all of us?"
"It's hard to fit our music into a category, and I'm okay with that," agrees Jackie. "I feel like the way we do this together is really unique because we each write on every song, so each song has part of each of us. We listen to very different music, and I think we capture that variety of music in collaborating together."
That appreciation for the distinct, liberating beauty only found in celebrating differences pulses throughout Castro's debut EP, Diamond Dreams (Fervent Records). Produced by Charlie Peacock (The Civil Wars, Ben Rector, The Lone Bellow) and recorded in Nashville's Blackbird Studios, the seven-song collection is a harmonies-driven vocal showcase anchored by three powerhouse singers who take turns taking lead and know exactly when to share the spotlight.
Artists confident, ambitious, and skilled enough to incorporate sounds that were once exclusive or niche into sing-alongs for absolutely everyone have long made the best pop music. Castro falls into that tradition naturally. On Diamond Dreams, they swivel seamlessly between bluesy soul, indie folk, and grandiose pop drama with the poise and effortlessness that only comes with loving each sound too much to abandon it. And while the record may be proudly noncommittal when it comes to genre, there is one mission on which all three siblings agree: making others happy.
"I don't know anything about genres," Michael says. "I guess I could probably name about five. But what I do know is I am always pushing for more pop than Jay and Jackie. I'm always trying to make music that just makes you feel good."
"I hope this record just makes people feel happy," Jackie says. "I feel like it's the kind of music you want to listen to with the windows rolled down on a summer day with your friends."
Diamond Dreams introduces an exciting new chapter for the Castros, who have earned thousands of fans individually on strong solo efforts. Jason, the oldest, became a favorite of judges and viewers alike on season 7 of American Idol, where he placed fourth. Jason went on to record acclaimed projects, while Michael surprised his brother and wowed the entire country when he auditioned for Idol the following season, charmed audiences, and began releasing his own EPs. "Jay and I were living together in college at the time, then he went on American Idol and I was like, 'You can just get out of college by doing that?'" Michael says wryly with a slight laugh, poking a bit of fun at himself, his brother, and the idea that the preternatural vocal gifts the Castro brothers share are available to everyone.
Neither Jason nor Michael had sung before college––a truth almost too hard to believe when listening to their soulful vocals now––but little sister Jackie made her performance debut when she was five and never stopped. "We come from a super musical family," she says. "There was always a guitar being played, always a chance to sing––and I always loved it."
The decision to come together to form Castro was motivated by personal reasons for each member.
"I'm coming from a really different place this go round," Jason says, reflecting on the burnout and lonely time away from home after Idol that had grown more difficult to bear since he got married and became a father of two. "Doing this has helped me get back to the root of what I love about music––and that's the music, which is just better together."
Castro co-wrote all seven songs on Diamond Dreams. The EP starts high with the title track's foot-stomping power. Gorgeous three-part harmonies kick off the song¬¬¬¬––written with Tofer Brown––before Michael takes over. He launches into gratitude for a simple life made up of a car that usually won't start, loyal friends, and a "mansion made of apartments," before returning to a chorus declaring dreams of something more. "Dreams are more valuable than anything else," Jason says. "It's about realizing, look, a lot of people want to squash dreams, say it's unrealistic or that you can't do it. I think a big part of how we've gotten to where we are is by really valuing dreams." The song's potency lies in the way Castro doesn't shrug off or hate the humble realities surrounding starry-eyed plans. The band cheers real life just as loudly as hopes.
Michael came up with an infectious chorus in the shower one day, took it to Jason and Jackie, and the three came up with "Rock and Roll," a joy-soaked ode to finding happiness in contrasts. Jackie, whose arresting soprano charms as she takes the lead, appreciates the song's playful give and take. "I like emphasizing that our differences complement each other," she says.
"Waters of Jordan" pulls back, relying on sparse electric guitar and Michael's room-shushing voice. Listeners feel privy to an intimate moment as the band explores love's ability to create comforting calm. Jason claims the track as a favorite. "We'd gone through some stuff that had us all stressed out and second guessing a lot," he says of writing the song. "We were really doubting everything. Should we just quit? Should we just call it a day? You can get caught in this idea of, 'What do we need to do?' So that day, we just said, 'What do we want to do?'"
Other album standout "Automatic" revels in the overwhelming pull of deep love. The three wrote the song with Hank Bentley and Josh Bronleewe, and the result is a lush pop gem with a cinematic build-up––and a favorite of Jackie and Michael. "I really like all the sounds it uses," Michael says. "I think it might be the best song on there."
Written with Charlie Peacock and Josh Williams––who also contributed additional production to the track––"Heart's Coming Home" captures Castro taking risks. The band's refusal to play it safe pays off with vocals that achieve Prince-worthy swagger. Album closers "Good for You" and "Know Me Well" captivate acoustically. "Good For You" tackles the heartbreak of being in love with an oblivious best friend, while "Know Me Well" calls out for the comfort of unconditional love to soul-shaking effect.
As Castro challenges themselves, their focus will undoubtedly also remain fixed on the ways what they create can touch others. "Music has the power to transform a day, and the power to define a time," Jason says. "That's our goal: to be that for somebody. To be the song."