Callaghan is a country music singer-songwriter originally from Lincolnshire, United Kingdom. She moved to the US and has gone from strength to strength as she has performed successful house concerts which led to her selling 10,000 copies of her album as well as a loyal fanbase. With a new album ‘A History of Now’ out now and an extensive headline UK tour in 2016 we interviewed Callaghan about her material, her family and the world of country music. Enjoy…
JLTT: What was the first country music song you heard and who was it by? How important was that song in your career?
C: One of my earliest memories is being taken to a John Denver concert in Manchester when I was 5. I was such a big fan of his music and knew all the words to his songs. I still love the energy and positive message of his songs about embracing life and the wonder of the world. I recently recorded a version of “Annie’s Song” on an acoustic album that I’m working on, and it felt very special to get to record such an iconic song that brings back so many happy memories for me.
Are/were your parents musical?
I’m very lucky to have grown up in a musical house. My Dad plays the guitar and taught me my first chords on the guitar and piano, and both my parents were very into music, encouraging me and my sisters to all take up instruments from a young age. I’m really grateful to my parents for how much of a role music played in my childhood and what it has given me.
What musical instruments do you play?
Piano, guitar and flute.
Why do you think the genre of country music has grown in popularity in the UK?
I think a lot of that popularity is down to Bob Harris and his Radio 2 country show that has brought so much new music to people in the UK. It’s also such a wide genre when you consider that Willie Nelson and Taylor Swift are both called Country. It’s a genre that really lets you experiment with sounds and encompasses such a wide range of styles and music that there’s something to fit everyone’s taste.
Do you perform solo shows?
At most of my shows I usually have at least one other player with me – usually keyboard, guitar or cello. I really like the feeling of being on stage with another musician and playing off each other. It’s amazing what just one or two other instruments can bring to a live show and allows me to experiment more with creating different sounds on stage.
Which of your songs show you at a) your most relaxed b) your most vulnerable c) your happiest?
Every song in a live show has its own emotion attached to it and it can sometimes depend on how the audience feels that night or what’s been going on that day which changes a songs intensity. I have some joyful happy songs that are so much fun to play live and hear the audience singing along to like “Best Year” which celebrates life and following your dreams, and some more reflective songs like “When you loved me” which is all about looking back and remembering the feeling of falling in love for the first time. That song was inspired by an 85 year old friend in Atlanta who was the grandmother of a family i lived with for a while when i first went to the US, and a story she had told me one night about the first man she had loved when she was 17 in New York. She’s sadly not around anymore, but that song means a lot to me and I remember her each time I perform it.
Where are you planning to tour next?
I’ll be touring all over the UK in March including going to some places I’ve never performed in before like Edinburgh, so I’m really excited. I’ll also be bringing some amazing musicians on the road with me – my cellist from Atlanta, Pete Rinaldi on guitar and Adam Wakeman on keys. All of the dates are on my website at www.callaghansongs.com/gigs
Do you have any favoured stage instruments?
The guitar and piano both offer very different things on stage. The guitar is great for rocking out on but the piano will always be my first love because it was the first instrument I learnt when I started writing songs and there’s something so soulful about the sound of a piano.
What was it like working with Grammy-nominated Shawn Mullins?
It was a really amazing experience to work with an artist who I have looked up to for so long and been so influenced by. He is an amazing songwriter and producer and I learnt so much by getting to be in the studio with him and go on tours with him across America. I’ll always be grateful to him for giving me my start in the US.
Is there a radio DJ (of any era) that you are particularly fond of?
I’m a huge fan of Bob Harris. He has been such a supporter of my music for many years and is just one of the loveliest people I’ve ever met.
If the producers of the television show ‘Nashville’ asked to use one of your songs in the series what song would you like them to use and why? Who would you like to perform it?
Haha, I’d be more than happy for them to use any of my songs!
You have worked in Nashville for a while now. How was that experience for you?
I have lived in Nashville for the last 3 years and love getting to spend time there. Being near my producer and co-writer Dennis Matkosky is great for collaborating on new material and it’s a very friendly, calming city to live in. You only have to drive about 10 minutes in any direction to be in open fields which I really love.
Do you have a favourite venue in the world and where is it?
There’s a venue in Atlanta called the Red Clay Music Foundry which I do a birthday show in every year and thats one of the most special shows of the year because it’s run by Eddie Owen who gave me my first ever show in the US and it’s a really gorgeous theatre.