“I’m a great believer in, you only have one life and you have to take these chances when they come. I didn’t want to look back when I was ninety years old and think “I wonder what would have happened if I moved to America?” – Callaghan
Interview by Danielle Boise
After the Georgia Aquarium performance, Friday June 22nd, the UK born, U.S. singer songwriter, Callaghan, sat down and discussed with Target Audience Magazine what it’s like performing solo vs. with a full band, how her sound is evolving, what it’s like to write with different people and about taking chances.
How was it performing with the full band verses doing a solo acoustic show? The first time I saw you perform was at Eddie’s Attic last month; you were doing an acoustic solo show in between a series of full band shows. Matthew Kahler came up to join you on stage for a couple of songs, outside of that; it was just you, your guitar and the keyboard as accompaniment. Since it’s a completely different experience going from one to the other, do you have a preference or is it about playing music so it doesn’t matter what you are doing as long as you are performing?
Definitely, that is true. I love performing, whatever kind of version of that it is. There is definitely something magic about doing it with a band. Acoustic vs. band, I love playing either. There is something, I just love about playing with other musicians because I really feel like it brings the songs to life and how the songs are produced on the album, was how I really wanted them to be heard. So when I get to play with a full band, it’s really like “ok this is what these songs are like” (enthusiastically emphasized). And that’s fun and you can kind of mess around a bit when you are playing with other players, like try out interesting covers. For the band show I did at The Red Clay, I did a cover of “Alone,” the Heart song, like total rock out and it’s really fun because it’s something I wouldn’t be able to do on an acoustic guitar. So I get to perform a little more I think, when I’m with a band. It’s just so much fun, the energy – being able to feed off the energy. Yea, it’s really great.
Now that the album is complete, are you writing any new material for an upcoming album? Are there plans in the works for a new album or are you just so fully emerged in the process of the first album that you haven’t even started to think about what coming in the future?
I am writing quite a lot. I’ve got a good kind of bunch of songs that I want to start recording demos of and that kind of thing and start thinking about the kind of idea about what I want the second album to sound like and that kind of thing. But I don’t want to get too far ahead of me because I feel like this album has not been out long, so I want to give it enough time to go out there and tour the album. I always want to get back into the studio and record new songs. So I’m excited about getting the new ones done.
Will you return to working with Shawn again?
I don’t know. There are a couple of songs I’ve played that he has said that he’d like to work on them with me. I would be opened as well to working with other producers and playing with the sound and experimenting. I loved working with Shawn. I’m so thrilled with the album we created. I couldn’t have asked for a better producer, he’s just phenomenal.
How do you feel your sound has evolved? Where do you see it going or are you just enjoying the moment?
I think the more that I play these songs, they definitely are evolving. I’m playing around with them a bit more and getting to play them with a band as well means that I’m experimenting with different sounds. I think I’m moving further away from the completely acoustic sound to bringing in more instruments, like electric guitar and playing around with the drums, that kind of thing. I kind of like that side of it where I can rock out more on stage rather than the very quiet singer, songwriter side of it, although I do enjoy doing that as well. I try to see building to bigger venues and being able to play with a band more often. I will still always do some stuff completely solo. I just hope that it grows. I’m seeing more people come out to each show each time, which is great. It’s moving in the right direction I feel.
How many writing partners are you currently working with? I know that you worked with Matthew (Kahler) and Shawn (Mullins), but are there any others or is it predominately those two?
On the album there are several writing partners, there is a guy called Luke Juby, he’s a friend of mine from London and we wrote a couple of songs together on the album. Then there is another song on the album that is co-written by two other people. There are two on the album that I wrote with Shawn. I’ve been experimenting writing with new people. It’s kind of funny because I find it’s such a personal thing to share with someone. The first time you write a song with someone you let them into the deepest, darkest thoughts kind of thing and so you kind of have to be fairly comfortable with them and feel like you are on the same wave length. So I haven’t found a whole lot of writing partners here yet, but it’s just because I’ve been so swamped in recording this album, getting it out, and touring it. Now I’m spending a bit more time in Nashville and I’m getting to know a few more writers there. So I hope I’ll be able to pick it up for the second album.
There are some great writers up there. I have a couple of friends up there and they are just amazing. You’ll find some great talent to draw from.
It’s great, it can often push you into a different direction when you are writing with someone else – it forces you to really think about what you are doing. It’s a very different way of writing I think, so it can be fun.
You’ve toured all over the states in a relatively short period of time. Are there any states that you are looking forward to returning to and with the states you haven’t hit, which ones are you excited to see?
I’ve toured 30 states up ‘til now, which is pretty cool. That’s one of the best things, I get to do music for a living and I get to travel all over the U.S. and its pretty good fun. I try now, every time I go back to a place I’m trying to do a little tour. The last time we were in Philadelphia we took a bus tour and I actually got to see the city. That’s the difficult thing about touring. You get to the venue, you do the show and then the next day you move onto the next place and you’re like “I don’t really feel like I’ve seen it.” I’m enjoying spending a bit more time in each place. So to answer your question (bubbling laughter), the west coast; I was just absolutely (pause), it just took my breath away – I couldn’t believe that it was so beautiful. The ocean on one side and then snow cap mountains on the other; that was awesome. I’ve only been there once, so I’m looking forward to going back. I’m actually going up to the northwest in September I think, no August, to Portland and Seattle area. So I’m looking forward to that. For places I would love to go, I really want to go to Colorado because I feel like that I’m really an outdoorsy kind of person and being outside and all of the outdoor sports, like cycling and all of that. So I would love to go to Colorado. The whole east coast, that’s where I have toured the most, I love it; such beautiful place with little towns that still have independent shops. It’s great to see that.
We touched on this a little bit earlier, in concerns to writing partners – it’s deeply personal writing with somebody. How do you prepare yourself to get into that headspace to open yourself up to another person in order to get the most authentic experience possible writing a song?
I think that as long as you kind of get a good vibe off a person and you feel fairly comfortable with them, then I think you just have to jump in. There’s no real being shy or coy about it, it’s like jumping into a cold swimming pool, you just have to bang and go straight in. Usually that way, I find that you get the best out of the session because you are saying whatever is on your mind and you’re exploring things and it works well. I’ve been lucky that I’ve never had a writing session where I’ve thought “Oh my God, this is God awful,” so I’ve been pretty lucky with the people I’ve written with; I seem to connect with them.
With the process of creating this album, what’s been the most surprising experience that you’ve gone through and thought “how did I make it through that”?
Well, learning the whole marketing side of it and all of that has been a huge learning curve because I’m doing it all on my own, with Steve obviously as well. We don’t have the backing of any big company. We’re going out there, trying to get this album out to everybody. Luckily, we’ve built a really good team around us of PR, booking agent and radio. They really are helping us push it out there. That is definitely been the steepest learning curve, thinking what a massive job it is to try and spread this album over the whole of the U.S., which is just so enormous; but it’s all going well and we are learning as we go. We are making mistakes, but learning from them hopefully.
It took a lot of determination and courage to pack up and leave what you knew and what you had. You had your family and friends and then you just packed it up for the unknown. How did you find the drive or impetus to strike out and be like “ok I got to do this”, that there was something inside of you saying “you have to do it; you have to do it now,”? What was the turning point that made it the now or never moment for you?
I think having the opportunity to come and work with Shawn (Mullins) was really the thing that made me think this is such a phenomenal opportunity and things like this don’t come around every day, so I just have to take advantage of this. I would come over for a couple of weeks in 2009. We recorded three songs together and then I’d go back to the UK. I still had a job back then I just “thought what am I doing? I need to be in the U.S. full-time and actually finish this album.” Shawn was really up for doing the whole album together. I thought this opportunity isn’t going to come around again. I’m a great believer in, you only have one life and you have to take these chances when they come. I didn’t want to look back when I was ninety years old and think “I wonder what would have happened if I moved to America?” So I figured, well if it doesn’t work out then I’ll have a great story to tell the grandkids. Thankfully, it’s going really well. It’s a good move. The thing that really pushes me forward is I never want to think “oh, what would have happened if I had done that?” I just want to go and find out what’s going to happen if I do that, work hard at it, hope for the best, and meet good people; which we’ve been lucky enough to meet good people who have been helping us along the way.
Are there any artists in the entertainment spectrum that are striking a cord to you right now, that you’re finding inspiration from?
That’s a good question, let me think. Sometimes you don’t really think about who it is. I have a pretty varied music taste. I never really listen to stuff for too long; I kind of move from album to album – just depending on mood. I’ve been watching quite a lot of Lady Gaga at the moment, her big stadium shows and then going back on YouTube and watching her earlier stuff. I think that’s kind of awesome when you see where she started to and then see where she’s got to now and knowing what a driven person she is. I admire that kind of determination. I’m a big fan of Coldplay. I’ve been interested to watch because I’ve became a fan of theirs way back when they were doing very acoustic sounding music and now you listen to them and think “wow, it’s stadium music with a humongous sound.” I think when you see that kind of change, I’d like to be able to change from album to album, from tour to tour and experiment with my music. It’s fun when you see other artists do that.