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Singer-songwriter Kota Casey is eager to release his debut album

The artist and ASU student creates diverse music for students to vibe to

kota casey photo

Dakota Villanueva performs near the Sun Devil Fitness Center on the West Campus in Phoenix, Arizona, on Friday, March 23, 2018.

Dakota Villanueva first picked up a guitar at 3-years-old. 18 years later, he is set to release his debut album. 

Senior forensics major and singer, who goes by the name Kota Casey, said he has dreams of a life filled with music and creative endeavors. 

Villanueva said he hopes his first album, which will be released on Oct. 5, will catapult his career into something larger and more concrete.

Born and raised in LA, Villanueva said he draws inspiration from his parents, who are both musicians in their own respects. 

“My mom does children’s music, my father is a rocker,”  Villanueva said. “Ever since a young age they threw music into my hands, and luckily I liked it.” 

As Villanueva’s musical interests expanded, he began to get into other forms of music. His father pushed him to learn the piano and at around age 16 he began to create his own songs on his phone. 

“I started by recording stuff on my phone because I did not have any recording equipment,” Villanueva said. “I would just press record and strum out some chords, listen to it, sing over it and try to figure it out.”

Villanueva said being in his high school choir gave him insight about the multi-faceted elements of a production, including dance and staging.

“(Choir) made me want to not just sing or make music, but create something as a whole,” Villanueva said.

The push for a stronger visual aspect to his music is where business entrepreneurship sophomore Brandon Flowers comes in. 

Villanueva met Flowers while they were pledging to the same fraternity, Phi Kappa Theta. When Villanueva discovered they both had an eye for creativity and a love for photography and art, they went to work immediately. 

Flowers works as Villanueva’s photographer and assisted on the creative direction of the visuals for the upcoming album. He said working with Villanueva results in a lot of late nights perfecting their visions for the music. 

“We were up to three, four in the morning, working on the photos (for the album),” Flowers said. “It’s like a think tank, but instead of creating ideas that are theoretical, we’re creating pieces of genuine art.” 

Oscar Orozco, business administration sophomore, also assists with creative direction and provides a large amount of support. Orozco said that he and Villanueva share a strong friendship and working with his friend has only made them closer. 

He said despite the late nights and hiccups that Villanueva's musical journey can bring, neither of them would trade the experience for the world. 

“Creative people being around other creative people can make for the coolest experience ever, and him and I have an understanding of that,” Orozco said. “It has always just been nothing but support for both ways and a really tight friendship.” 

Despite his confidence in his upcoming album, Villanueva struggled in the past with finding his sound. Though he takes inspiration from artists like John Mayer and Charlie Puth, he said that he would find himself modeling after others too much until a few years ago, when things began to click in regards to his musical identity.  

“My mom always told me, ‘when you do this you have to find your own voice,'" Villanueva said  “My sound is very mellow. A lot of people say it’s a ‘vibe.’” 

The most important thing to Villanueva, however, is that people are able to connect to his music.

“I want to make music people can dance and sing along with, or even just nod their head to,” Villanueva said. “It just shows I connected with that person through music, which is a really cool thing.” 

His upcoming album will be the product of almost two years of work. Villanueva has already released the songs “Love” and “Wasted” on Spotify and Apple Music, and this 14-track album will be a continuation of the sound he developed through those songs.

While Villanueva has done quite a lot of work on his own for the album, he said the help from his supportive friends is what made it come together. Orozco said the dynamic of their friend group and combination of all their creative minds is what brings the album to fruition. 

“He is one of the most creative and talented people,” Orozco said. “There’s a real army of people coming together to make things happen for him.”

Reach the reporter at and follow @meganbarbera_ on Twitter. 

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