There are a lot of success stories emerging based on young artists gaining traction through performance videos on their social media platforms then attracting the attention of a label as they begin to launch their career. However, there is something about Callista Clark which feels that bit more exciting and that she is someone very special. This teenager from Zebulon, Georgia has one of the most powerful and soulful voices you will hear and brings creativity in her sound combined with honest and relatable lyrics that show her maturity as much as portraying life at a young age.
Her debut EP “Real To Me” was released on February 12th through Big Machine Label Group (Listen HERE) which we are really big fans of and previously shared our thoughts with our own review of the record HERE. Following on from this, we spoke with Callista to learn more about this exciting new talent and what the future holds for the seventeen-year-old.
After we had worked out that we both are big fans of rocking CC beanies and proper connoisseurs of drinking coffee, we got down to the nitty gritty and started talking about the recording of her incredible debut EP “Real To Me” and the challenges that the current global situation presented. “I started recording this last summer so the pandemic did affect it. As a matter of fact, the day we were supposed to go in and track the instruments and everything for the songs, all of the musicians got COVID so we ended up having to do this thing where they all sent their parts from their house. At first, I was like oh no, oh course this is happening, you know but Nathan (Chapman) my producer was such a champ about it! They would send in their parts and if he didn’t like one thing about it, he would say do it again this way so it kind of worked out to our advantage because he got to play baseball on the tracks. He got to add an instrument to wherever he wanted to, change this, fix this and be as picky as we wanted to be because nobody was worried about the time crunch in the studio.” Callista touched on Nathan Chapman being the guy who was sat in the producer’s chair for the EP to tie the project together but Callista herself co-wrote every song. In this aspect of the creative process she collaborated with some of biggest hitters on Music Row including a guy with very strong European connections: Chris DeStefano, who UK fans will also be familiar with from when he was a part of the CMA Songwriters Series in London back in 2018. “Heartbreak Song” was one of the very first songs that I ever co-wrote back when I was fifteen. Actually, so were “Real To Me” and “Change My Mind” but that one was such a quick write. It was one of my quickest song writes ever, I think it was like forty minutes or something crazy like that. We were also writing with Liz Rose and Emily Shackleton, who are all some of my absolute favourites so we started writing and Chris was laying down an acoustic part. He literally played that acoustic pass, turned around and said what are we all thinking? We’re like we’re done, it literally was that fast. Then Liz and Emily had left for another write and I was in there with Chris working on that track for hours. We had so much fun.”
In addition to DeStefano, Rose and Shackelton named in the credits you also see Dan Isbell and another old friend from the songwriter’s series shows here in the UK. To me, the way that Laura Veltz opens up ideas and invokes so much realism and connectivity as a songwriter is something you will not find too often even in Nashville. “Working with Laura is so much fun, she’s one of my favourites to this day, just a genius. It is exactly what you’re thinking to write with her, that’s what it’s like, she’s insane. With all these songs, I just went in and explained, said everything that I could think of about how I was feeling that day. With “Real To Me” and “It’s Cause I Am” I started doing this thing where I was just blabbing so much, just ranting you know. I just said everything that I could think of and Laura just starts writing or making little mental notes, like she said this, that’s pretty cool, I can do this, put it here then there’s a verse and there’s the chorus. She just starts constructing things, Liz Rose works pretty much the same way where she writes things down and will raise the last word that you say, then be ok let’s make that rhyme with this and that’s literally how I write with them. It happens so fast.”
Veltz is up for the Grammy Award for Best Country Song at next months awards in Los Angeles for “The Bones” as a writer along with Jimmy Robbins and Maren Morris. Laura Veltz to Maren Morris is almost as influential in a collaborating partnership as to you may consider Guy Chambers to Robbie Williams or Paul Epworth to Adele in the way that magic always happens. The interesting thing about this when talking about Callista is how there are a lot of comparisons between her and Morris in terms of their sound and the way that it incorporates a lot of elements across a variety of genres but also both ladies have this unforgettable soul and power in their vocal style. “Maren is one of my biggest influences, I love her so much and I obviously love Laura’s songwriting, so it’s incredible that I get to work with her. I think Maren is the perfect example of being genre less, she can sing anything and goes in with the same mentality that I try to have which is let’s get the best thing I can do for this song today! If I end up coming out with a pop song, that’s cool. Some of my favourite songs ended up being more pop than country, it’s just getting the best song that you can that day and there you go!”
Given this holistic nature and attitude towards writing and recording songs, I asked Callista who else had influenced her as an artist? “I love all kinds of music. I grew up singing in church, so there is definitely the Christian gospel side of things, I’m pretty sure Maren did too and Tori Kelly, you can just hear that in people’s voices to me. Then I also love Michael Jackson, Eva Cassidy, The Judds, Luke Combs, The Eagles, I love rock, Motown, Aretha Frankiln and just so many different influences. You just go with whatever the song feels that day, some of them will sound like a more Tori Kelly, R&B, pop vocalist thing and some of them are the full Bonnie Raitt or Luke Combs eighties and nineties country sound. It’s just whatever happens.”
As I pointed out in the introduction, she is teenager from Georgia that is just putting out her first release but has worked with the who’s who of Music Row in creating it so I explored how exactly Big Machine first became involved and got behind her? “I did a video on my Facebook when I was thirteen and I was singing “Have You Ever Seen the Rain” by Creedence Clearwater Revival which just started blowing up. I couldn’t tell you what it was about that video that made them do that, I mean it still blows my mind honestly that people like Scooter and Scott see something in me. I have been working with Scooter (Braun) since I was thirteen and Scott (Borchetta) since I was fourteen, I’m now seventeen and it still has not sunk in fully that they believe in me and I’m working with them. It just feels the craziest thing ever!”
Social media and technology like Zoom how we spoke are becoming more and more important as ways to connect in these current times and this is something that Callista is keen to optimise and take advantage of: “I have been trying to grow my socials for the last three years, I love it so much, it’s a fantastic way to reach that many people. TikTok is really fun, I spend so much time on that app, oh my gosh, I’m addicted fully! We were talking about coffee earlier, that’s my favourite thing to watch on TikTok. Literally people making coffee, you need to watch that, it’s so addictive. Before I put out the “Have You Ever Seen the Rain” video, I hadn’t realised your socials could be such a big platform. I mean, I knew that people had been found on the internet or whatever, but it never clicked, it just started happening.”
Real To Me Track List
“It’s Cause I Am” | Callista Clark, Cameron Jaymes, Laura Veltz