Simon Vozick-Levinson
April 29, 2009 AT 06:01 PM EDT

Turns out Jason Castro had quite the head-start when Atlantic Records signed him this month. The dreadlocked American Idol alum tells the Music Mix that he’s already penned around 40 songs since last September. Next up: The long process of winnowing all that material down into a debut album. “I’m real excited,” Castro says. “Tomorrow we’re getting together to see where we’re at. I’m hoping we’re ready to get into the studio.” Tonight at 7 P.M. EST, Castro will host a live webcast on his official site, where he’ll perform a few songs and answer questions submitted by readers via the webcast’s chat function and/or on Twitter. In the meantime, you can read on after the jump for a full Music Mix Q&A on Castro’s songwriting partners, what he wants his album to sound like, and who he thinks will win this season of Idol.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Have you been writing with others, or by yourself?
Mostly collaborations, starting with a guy I met named Dave Lichens. I was a big fan of his music online, and when I got to L.A., I didn’t have a lot of friends, so I reached out to him and we started hanging out and writing. Dave’s actually become a big part of my life. His band is my band that backs me up when I go out [on tour]. And I’ve been writing with a lot of people ever since then.

Who else?
Jeez, a ton of people. This week I worked with a team called Espionage, two Norwegian guys. One of the guys [Espen Lind] actually has a very popular video on YouTube singing “Hallelujah.” I’d seen it before, and I didn’t know it was the same guy! So between the two of us, we have the most YouTube plays in the world for “Hallelujah.”

What can you tell me about how the music sounds so far?
That’s really hard to say. The music’s been transforming even as I’ve been playing with a band. Really it’s just modern singer-songwriter: Me and my guitar, and a bit of a band to back me up — just a little underneath, nothing too crazy. I’m not going rock on you or anything!

Are there any particular songs you’re feeling good about?
Yeah, “Love Uncompromised” has gotten out there. I’ve been playing it. There’s a lot of songs I love. “It’s All Right With Me.” “Sweet Medicine.”

Who’s producing the album?
We haven’t decided on that yet. I’ve had a couple meetings with some producers, and we’re still weighing that out. That part’s a big mystery to me. I’m excited, but a bit nervous.

So is this going to be the first album you’ve recorded?
Yeah. I’ve done a little recording, but as a drummer. I’m really excited about the whole process, getting to see it all come to life. I’ve been dreaming of the studio.

When are you hoping the album will come out?
From what I understand, from the time we turn in a finished album, there’s a three-month setup period. So if we start recording, let’s say, at the end of this month, we’ll probably be in the studio for another month, maybe month and a half. I’ve done the math, and I think it ends up in October, with a single in August or September. But who knows?

Do you have any possible titles for the album?
None at all. I guess there’s a few ideas, but I don’t want to let out any ideas.

Moving to a question that I’m sure you get asked all the time, have you been watching this season of Idol at all?
I have! Early on I was watching a lot. The last two or three weeks, I’ve been traveling so much, I haven’t gotten to keep up. But I hear we’re already at the Top Five. I like the lineup. That’s probably what I would have picked.

Do you have any favorites you’re rooting for?
I don’t know. Everyone’s great right now. I think Adam [Lambert] is a unique talent all on his own. I love Danny [Gokey]’s voice. I think Kris [Allen] is really cool — me and Kris could sit down and write some music. And Allison [Iraheta] blows me away. I can’t believe she’s that young, commanding the stage like that.

If you had to predict now, who’s going to go all the way?
I don’t want to do that. Then it comes back to me. I think it’ll be two guys, though.

More on EW’s Music Mix:
Jason Castro signed to Atlantic: Hallelujah!
American Idol‘s Adam Lambert and Antony Hegarty: Musical Kin?
Should American Idol let the over-30s in?

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