"I always find it difficult to chose the songs to record" Catching up with Callaghan
Hey Callaghan, what have you been up to today?
I’m on the US leg of my album release tour at the moment, so I’ve been spending a lot of time in the car! The distances in the US never fail to amaze me, even after living and touring here for the last eight years. The first show of this tour was in Florida which meant a four day drive from LA. Our touring car now has 415,000 miles on it so I’m keeping my fingers crossed it makes it to the end of this run!
So, your new self-titled album is out, what can you tell us about it?
This album is the culmination of a year of writing and recording in LA. I made the album in three stages, recording four songs at a time. It was easier to fit around my touring schedule that way, but it also gave me a great freedom to keep writing as the year went on, and draw from those experiences and what was going on in the world at the time and then put that into the songs I was writing.
There are 12 tracks that range from very dramatic, cinematic pop ballads such as 'Broken' and 'End Of The World', to uptempo, feel-good, happy songs like 'Better Together' and 'Summer Days'.
I was lucky enough to work with some incredible producers out in LA. Starr Parodi and Jeff Eden Fair who have created music for some of the biggest movies to come out of Hollywood including Braveheart, Mission Impossible and the James Bond films to name just a few.
I also worked with Anthony Resta on some of the tracks, who is originally from Canada, and has worked with legendary artists such as Elton John, Duran Duran and Blondie
How did you go about writing and choosing which songs to record?
I always find it difficult to chose the songs to record - I write a lot and always want to put about 30 tracks on each album. But unfortunately the budgets as an independent artist don’t quite stretch to that so I have to try and be more selective!
I thought that recording the album in three stages was going to make it difficult when it came to putting the whole album together, but it actually gave me a great amount of freedom to keep writing as the year went on and draw from the experiences I was having and what was going on in the world at the time, and then put all that into the songs I was writing. I just chose the songs that I felt I had the deepest connection to. Also because of doing a lot of shows during the time I was recording the album I was able to perform a lot of the new songs for audiences and get a real sense of what people connected to most.
I’m gonna pick a couple of my favourite tracks to ask you about. First up, what can you tell us about ‘Solid Ground’?
I grew up listening to and playing a lot of Celtic music and this song really draws on those influences. The lyrics talk about being so madly in love with someone and the whole world falling into place, everything making sense. The production is influenced by bands such as Coldplay, Kodaline, and U2 who are all favourites of mine. I hope I’ve created a track that makes you feel like jumping up and down when you listen to it!
I really like ‘The Other Side, talk to me about that song?
I’ve never seen myself as an artist who is there to comment on current events or judge how people live their lives. But it seems like over the past few years we’re becoming more and more divided as a society, as we retreat further into our own worlds and echo chambers, through being chained to our phones and computers. Politics also seems like it’s becoming more vitriolic with politicians claiming to have simple solutions to complex problems. I wrote this song as a reaction to that feeling and hoping that we can come together again and focus on what brings us together rather than pulls us apart.
I think the listener can take it as a catchy pop song or dig further into the lyrics and figure out what the song is about.
What’s the one song on the record that you really want people to hear? And why?
'Broken. It's a song I co-wrote with my producer, Starr Parodi. We were discussing the state of the world back in 2016, just after the US election and the UK referendum, and how unpredictable everything seemed to have become. It's an extremely powerful song and we recorded it with a 30 piece orchestra which was an incredible experience.
How do you describe your job?
I get to do what I love for a living which is something I never take for granted. I think the job of a singer-songwriter is to try and make sense of some of the experiences we as humans all go through in life, then express those ideas and feelings in a song. Hopefully people find something they connect within the music that relates to their own life and stirs emotions in them.
What’s the toughest thing about being a musician?
I am an independent artist which is great in some ways and tough in others. I have a lot of creative control which is something I really value. To have the freedom to write and record exactly what I want to express is incredible. However, it’s also an amazing amount of work, and can be a challenge to reach people without the resources of a label to promote the music. But in today’s world more and more artists are going it alone and figuring out ways to build their own audience.
And what’s been the best part?
There’s no better feeling than standing in front of a room full of people, singing them a song I’ve written and seeing that audience react. It’s a physical as well as emotional experience for me to be on stage performing and I think I’d go crazy without that outlet. I also get to travel to the most incredible places through music, including to 47 of the 50 states in the US.
Obviously there’s a lot of talk about equality in general life at the moment, what’s your experience of being treated differently as a woman in your industry?
As a woman in the music industry it’s hard to ignore the fact that male and female artists are treated differently. Women are scrutinised differently for their age, looks and personal lives. I was living in Nashville at the time when the “tomato-gate” incident occurred - when a male radio consultant suggested at a conference that building a radio station playlist was like making a salad - the men were the lettuce and the women were like tomatoes. The suggestion was that you need a lot of lettuce and just a sprinkling of tomatoes. I've also been advised in the past as a songwriter not to bother writing for female artists because there were so few of them signed to major labels that getting a cut was much more likely writing a song for a male artist. It’s a worry that an entire century on from being given the right to vote, the female voice and female point of view is still not getting the level of exposure in popular music that it should be.
I don't let that negativity affect what I do creatively, but take inspiration from the fact that more people are speaking out about it now and pushing back against those kind of attitudes.
When was the last time you were starstruck?
In July I performed at the British Summertime Festival in Hyde Park and got to chat to James Taylor who was also performing. I’m a really big fan of his music and grew up singing his songs. I tried so hard to stay calm and have a normal conversation with him but a lot of my words came out in the wrong order because I was so excited to meet him! Thankfully he was lovely to talk to turned out to be one of the most charming people I’ve ever met.
Tell us about the upcoming tour, what can fans expect?
I’ll be performing songs from my previous albums, as well as lots of tracks from the new record, and I’ll be joined by some amazing musicians. I always aim to take the listeners on a journey throughout the show, with songs to tap their feet to, some to make them cry, as well as lots of stories and laughs. This tour will be going from Bristol to Edinburgh and lots of places in between so hopefully I’ll be coming to a town near you!
If you could recommend one song to hear this week, what would it be?
I’m a huge fan of Elton John and have always loved his music. I recently came across a project where artists have re-imagined his songs, and there’s a great version of “We All Fall In Love Sometimes” by another favourite artist of mine - Chris Martin. It’s really simply produced and just absolutely beautiful.
What’s the question we should have asked you today but haven’t?
Where people can listen to my music. You can find me on Spotify, iTunes and all the usual places, or visit my website www.callaghansongs.com for a free EP download that gives a taster of my albums. I’ll also be posting a lot of fun updates and stories from the road on my social media pages (@callaghanmusic).
Finally, how do you take your coffee?
Funnily enough I’m in a crisis on tour at the moment because I just ran out of my supply of Yorkshire Tea so I’m having to drink coffee which I don’t enjoy that much! I’ll definitely need to find some before the end of the day or my show tonight in Maryland might be in serious trouble!
You can catch Callaghan live on the UK tour right now, more details on dates and tickets are on her website.
You can also see what she's up to by following her on Twitter, liking her on Facebook, or catching her Instagram.