King Calaway has been going from strength to strength since the six-man group got together in 2018. The band’s debut album, Rivers, boasts a fresh new country sound, with lush harmony vocals and infectious choruses on songs like No Matter What, World for Two, and the cracking cover of the Stephen Stills classic Love the One You’re With. Despite only having been in existence for two years, they’ve already played the Grand Ole Opry many times (including one appearance with Ricky Skaggs), featured on major TV shows such as Jimmy Kimmel Live! The Late Show With James Corden, and the fabulous Kelly Clarkson Show. They’ve opened shows for Garth Brooks and Rascal Flatts, and will be opening several dates on the latter’s farewell tour this year.
I had the pleasure of talking to one of the band’s three lead singers, Chad Michael Jervis, on the phone while he was still isolated on lockdown in his Nashville home after having flown back from C2C, where they band had been due to play.
How are you Chad?
I’m hanging in there. As we all are! Yeah, it’s crazy.
Are you locked down somewhere nice?
I’m in my home in Nashville. I’ve been quarantining for the past week, ‘cause we travelled back from the UK not this past Sunday, but the Sunday prior. And so the CDC (Center for Disease Control) told us, “You have to stay indoors for 14 days.” So, I was like, “All right, I can do that! I can definitely do that.” So it’s been like day eight or nine now, that I’ve just been self-quarantining. I haven’t gone quite mad yet, but I’m on the brink! (laughs heartily)
I know how you feel! Thank goodness for music.
I know, seriously, that’s what’s been getting me through. That’s what’s been getting a whole lot of people through too.
So can you tell me about your C2C experience, because you were one of the few groups that were actually here, had already travelled over to London.
We were concerned, because we were in Europe when we got the news that all travel was being locked down from Europe to the US, with the exception of the UK at that time. And so all our concern was just trying to get into the UK so that we could travel out of there and get back to the US. So thankfully we made that. And yeah, like obviously, everything being cancelled, and being postponed, that was a bummer, but I think we were trying to make the best of a pretty crap situation. And there were so many people that were there, like round the O2, that were affected, that were just trying to attend the festival. We saw so many people that were just kind of upset, so we did a little show before all the restrictions were put in place, at All Bar One, that’s right at the O2, so just like a little thing to keep spirits high a little bit, and then we left soon after that.
So, I was glad we were able to at least do a little something for the people that were kind of stuck there, because they bought tickets for the festival and just couldn’t end up going, which was very unfortunate. We just wanted to do a little something for people that were stuck there, ‘cause we were in the same boat. We were stuck there as well.
Was this your first time in the UK?
We did a showcase at Gibson in London, not too long ago, which was great, and then obviously we have two guys from the UK, from Gibraltar and Scotland, specifically. But every time we’re out there, we just have a blast and we get to see Jordan’s and Simon’s families all the time, which is always so much fun. We love getting to go out there as often as we can.
That’s one of the other things about you that’s kind of unusual is that, particularly for a country band, you have members from several different countries. Could you maybe tell me a little bit about your story and how you all got together.
I’d say, it kinda started off, the one mutual contact that we all had that got this ball rolling was Robert Deaton, who is one of the executive producers for the Country Music Awards, and he had this vision of kinda what King Calaway is now, a group of vocalists and instrumentalists who could sing and play all together, basically, and with influences like the Eagles, and Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young, but like in a modern, contemporary music now.
I think all of us had those similar influences and wanted to be a part of something like that.
I was studying at Berklee College of Music in Boston, and that’s where I met Robert, and then the other guys in Nashville, and in the UK, and Los Angeles as well, like we all met through those different places.
Robert had us all come down to Nashville. This is like May of 2018, around there. Just to get us in a room and see if a band could work. See if there was any connection, something that we could really see a band working with the six of us together.
The first song we played together was Stephen Stills’ “Love the One You’re With,” and after that, I think we all kind of realised that this was something special, and that we should really try to pursue this. Playing that kind of created the blueprint for what the King Calaway sound would end up being.
So I guess like through that mutual love of vocal-harmony-based music that we all came together, and it’s been almost two years now.
Is the idea of having three lead singers to do with the whole harmonies aspect of it as well?
Yeah. I think we all decided from the beginning that there was no lead member of King Calaway. Even like with the vocals, instrumentals, we all wanted to make sure we each had a moment to shine on the record and also in a live show setting. And so that was a big part of splitting up the lead vocals three ways, but also really showcasing Caleb’s guitar playing, and Austin’s bass playing, and Chris’s drumming as well. So I think we all really wanted to make sure that there was no one person that was leading the pack, it was all of us, collectively, just making music together and being an integral part of this one band.
What can you tell us about working with the legendary Ross Copperman, who co-produced the album with Robert Deaton.
He has produced and co-written for a whole lot of people in town. He did a lot of work on Keith’s last record, and he wrote the first single that we put out here in the US from the album, “World for Two”. He wrote that and he wrote I Do, as well, on the record. He was a really cool person to have in the studio, because it was nice to have one of the actual writers who knew a couple of the songs from the beginning, and to really give that perspective of what he had, like in a writer’s perspective, to get that perspective into the song while we were recording it, I thought that was really essential.
Did you record it all in Nashville?
All in Nashville, yeah. We went to this place called The Castle, in Franklin, Tennessee, so about 30 minutes south of here in downtown. It is literally just like a tiny castle (laughs). And apparently was Al Capone’s hideout back in the day, which is really cool. So we had a lot of fun recording there.
And why the title, “Rivers”?
I think that was the one song that really connected with all of us, like on a lyrical standpoint. Especially the first line, “I know where we belong, I know where we feel free,” and I think we all feel that mutually when it comes to our love of music and our passion, wanting to make that as a career in our lives. And I think it was one of the first songs that was pitched to us for the album as well. And I feel like, for all of us, it’s our favourite song to play live, because of just all the energy that’s in the track, and that’s in the live performance of it, that it’s really like, every time we play it, it’s just like such a powerful moment for all of us.
Any other favourites on the album?
For me personally, I love “Driver’s Seat,” I think that’s ‘cause we usually start our set, most of the time, with that song. We have a new single out, “No Matter What,” which is a lot of fun to play live as well. Oh man, I love ‘em all so much. I can’t pick! (laughs)
The band has already done a lot of really interesting and unusual things, such as being in the TV show Neighbours!
Yeah, we did a little cameo in Neighbours when we were in Australia last year, which was so much fun. We all had a blast meeting the entire cast, and we had a ball with them that day. We want to go back. We want to be back on the show. We want to be reoccurring characters! (laughs)
Did you know what a huge program it is over there?
I wasn’t too familiar with the show in the US, but Jordan, he’s like, “My grandma watches that show!” She watches that show every day. So once he told me how big it was, not just in Australia but in the UK as well, I was like, “This is awesome, this is a big deal.” We had such a great experience, we got a lot of great feedback from that. We just had a lot of fun doing that.
You’ve also played the Opry, and toured with some of the biggest names in country music. Are you pinching yourselves?
Yeah. You have to step back sometimes and really realise, “Oh, I just played the Grand Ole Opry stage with Ricky Skaggs! But I do feel that every time when you step on the Opry stage, I feel like it’s the same nerves every time I walk out. And we’ve been so fortunate to play the Opry now in the past year about seven times. It’s such an honour every time, and you still get those nerves and that excitement that you’re about to play the Opry. And we did a version of “Seven Bridges Road” with Ricky Skaggs, who’s become a great friend of ours. I mean, he’s a Country Music Hall of Famer, he’s a legend, and so getting to just share the stage with him, and sing and play with him, that’s a big pinch-me moment. Pinch me I’m dreaming!
I think we all have to just step back and realise the impact that that’s had on all of us, individually and collectively. When everything is going so fast sometimes, you don’t necessarily have a chance to take in the moment, so I think for all of us, we really make it a priority to step back and realise, “Oh, I’m about to play the Grand Ole Opry.”
“Oh, we’re about to open for Garth Brooks.”“We’re about to open for Rascal Flatts.”
Those moments, you never forget them, and you never want to forget them for the rest of your life. So it’s really important for us to step back and really cherish those moments.
You’re on the next Rascal Flatts tour in the summer. Is that still going ahead?
We’re scheduled for their Mid West portion of the tour, and their West Coast leg as well. But we got to open for them last year in Nashville, along with our bud Jimmie Allen, and that was another pinch-me moment. I think, as far as vocal harmony bands go, another big influence you’re gonna have is Rascal Flatts. They are probably one of the best in country music. One of the best country music bands. And getting to meet them, and getting to see their live show
After opening for them, that’s such a big moment for all of us. Again, another pinch-me moment.
What a great bill!
Yeah, I know, and we’re very excited. It’s bitter-sweet, obviously, because it’s their farewell tour, but we’re very excited, and I know we’ll be the first opening act for a lot of the shows, and I think for when we play Red Rocks, we’re their direct support, like it’s us and then them, so we’re so excited to play that. I think for all of us, it’s been a dream to play Red Rocks in Denver, Colorado, and so that’ll be a big moment for all of us. So we’re really excited.
Finally, to wrap up, have you got a message for your fans around the world?
I guess I’d just say, this is definitely a hard time for so many people, but I also feel there’s some sort of sense of unity in our humanity, I think we’re all in this together right now. And I would say, just keep up the faith, hang in there, listen to the doctors, listen to the scientists, who are gonna help us get through this. And help us recover from this, after this is done, hopefully soon. Stay indoors, try and keep up the social distancing, because it’s really important, ‘cause it’s not just about whether you get sick, it’s also about you could be carrying it, and someone else who’s more vulnerable could get sick.
I think this is such an important time to really just look out for one another and to really cherish the moments that we’ve had that we kinda take for granted in our life. I feel like, for me, I’ve been kind of alone for the past two weeks, and it’s kind of lonely and sad, but also it’s like, you know, I’m never gonna take touring for granted, and meeting so many, I’m never gonna take going outside and meeting buddies for granted, because it’s moments like that, it’s like, one moment they’re here, the next moment they can be kinda taken away from you, as we can see now.
So I would say, you know this isn’t gonna last forever, hang in there, and once this is all said and done, there’ll be more shows, there’ll be more music, and hopefully there will be a lot more togetherness and unity for humanity. And that’s what I really hope that we get out of all this.
Thank you so much. I hope you’re alright. I hope you stay safe and well.
And we look forward to seeing you back over here.
Yes. We will be back. We will definitely be back. I don’t know when, but we will be back!
By Maura Sutton