Interview: Callista Clark talks EP ‘Real to Me’, signing with Big Machine Records, writing with Laura Veltz and more

Big Machine Records
seem to always know where to find the freshest new talent and help turn them into a superstar and new artist Callista Clark is definitely one of those heading to stardom. Her youth makes her relatable to her peers but her old soul ways and musical stylings make her appealing to just about everybody.

A wickedly cool, slick and soulful voice, Callista is one of the most exciting artists to emerge in not just country music but music in general for a long time.

Having recently released her debut EP Real to Me, Callista has already gained a huge fanbase here in the UK and we cannot wait for her to come over and play as soon as it is all safe to do so again.

The five track EP is something surely special with relatable lyrics, catchy melodies and written with some of the best writers out there such as Laura Veltz, Liz Rose and more. Produced by Nathan Chapman this EP was bound to be a treat.

Only 17 years old, do not assume this young artist doesn’t know what she is writing about. Her wisdom and confidence translate well in her music and we just cannot wait to see and be part of the bright future that is ahead of her.

We caught up with Callista after watching an exciting showcase via Big Machine Records where she simply below us away with her vocals and personality.

Hey Callista how are you? How has your week been?

Hi! It’s been going great! I’ve been doing a virtual radio tour the past few weeks which is a lot of fun! I couldn’t be more excited that my music is finally out there in the world for people to hear.

We just watched the Big Machine Showcase which was amazing. Had it not been for the pandemic you probably would have been over here for C2C Festival as Big Machine are so good at bringing their artists over. What have your industry friends told you about the UK fans?

I’ve been told that the UK loves country music! And from what I have gathered, y’all love lyrics. You listen to every word and chord change and pick up on it and the meaning behind it. I cannot wait to get over to the UK to play live because I feel like we are gonna get along just fine!

During the showcase you mentioned that you have been signed to Big Machine since you were 14. How did that deal come to be?

I posted a video on my Facebook when I was 13 of me covering Have you Ever Seen the Rain by Creedence Clearwater Revival and it now has around 28 million views! That’s how my manager, Scooter Braun, and his partner, Allison Kaye, saw me for the first time. They emailed me and I got to meet them pretty much the next week! They introduced me to Scott Borchetta when I was 14 and I signed at 15. I’ve been working with Big Machine ever since. Everyone on my team is incredible and I’m thankful to be a part of the family.

You are 17 now so what have the last three years consisted of? Do you work on songwriting and honing your craft? Mentors?

I’ve written with some absolutely amazing songwriters, and I’ve gotten to meet some super talented artists. It’s been mostly writing, recording in-studio, doing press interviews, and trying to take this time to be as creative as I can while still looking towards the future. I also performed often at listening room venues up until the pandemic hit. Definitely spent a lot of time honing my craft.

What was it like with your peers? How did friends and so on take to your career success as I can imagine there may have been a mix of support and jealousy?

My hometown is very proud and supportive of everything that’s going on in my career. Of course, there is always gonna be a mix of feedback no matter what you do in life because you can’t make everyone happy, but overall I feel so supported and love to rep Zebulon wherever I go!

Your song Real To Me is about being so young and people constantly telling you that you are too young to really know or feel anything. Did you find that happened in the industry as well as in your personal life?

Yes. It’s definitely something I’ve been told a lot in my personal life by people who just want the best for me. Being a young girl in this industry, I’ve had a lot of people doubt me before they knew what I was capable of.

You mentioned also that you did shows with your siblings – was that hard to be taken seriously as a youngster?

It was hard at times merely because of our ages. But when it came down to it I chose to take music seriously and, in turn, got taken more seriously as time went on. It’s what I know I’m supposed to do and always have known that, even from a young age.

I was watching Netflix’s Series of Selena the Mexican-American artist. She started off singing as a young kid with her family to audiences who just thought she was cute and not taking her too seriously but she continued to do shows and seek that career which then became a huge success. What kept you motivated and driven?

My entire family is super supportive of me and my music and they all knew it’s what I loved to do. That kind of support encouraged me to keep going for it. I just knew it was something I could never let go of! My motivation comes from within but is strengthened by the support of my friends and family.

Who initially encouraged you to pursue a music career?

There are many people who have encouraged and supported me to get to where I am now but, my mom was the first person I ever wrote a song with. She was the one who taught me and my siblings harmony, she booked our gigs and later was the one booking my solo shows. She would teach us songs to sing at church on the way to school in the mornings. She definitely started the love for music for me.

Tell us about the Music Barn where you did your first show and what that felt like?

The music barn is a small country/bluegrass venue in my hometown. The audience is a mostly older crowd, so me and my siblings would play there and sing music the audience could recognize and what they wanted to hear. That led to us learning my favorite kinds of music; The Judds, The Doobie Brothers, The Eagles, Aretha Franklin, Hall & Oates…etc. The first song I ever played on guitar was Chain of Fools by Aretha Franklin and it was there at the Music Barn.

You have written a lot with Laura Veltz whom we love, she is so much fun. What is it like in the writing room with her because she comes across as the type of woman who can make a person feel completely at ease to just pour out their heart and say whatever they are feeling.

When I write with Laura, it usually turns into this thing where I start ranting about how I’m feeling and I just don’t stop talking. I’m so comfortable with her and she’s such an easy person to talk to. Usually, by the time I quit saying random things, she’s already placed everything I said somewhere in the song. And then all we have to do is go back in and make it all rhyme.

What did you learn from Laura?

I learned to always go into a write prepared to open your heart and tell your co-writers what you’re feeling. Just be honest about whatever you may be feeling or going through because the best songs come from being real.

As a rising star you will be interacting and crossing paths with many great artists but who have made you starstruck?

The most starstruck I’ve ever been so far has to be when I met Randy Travis. I had posted a cover of one of his songs and his wife saw it and showed him. A few weeks later, I went to the 2019 CMA’s Big Machine after party and there he was! His wife saw me and said that he wanted to meet me! Randy Travis! I got to talk to him and take a picture with him. It was so overwhelming!

You have been releasing music in the pandemic. Usually at this point you would be out promoting it with supporting artists on tour, doing your own shows, radio tours and various other promotional events – how has it been releasing music in the pandemic and probably doing most promoting from the comfort of your own home? What have been the positives of that and the negatives of that?

I’m so thankful that I’ve been able to release music during this pandemic. I’ve been waiting for 3 years to put my music out so I am just so glad it’s finally happening. It’s been kinda crazy doing my first ever radio tour and tons of press interviews all from my music room at home. It kinda feels like it’s not real, but it’s also given me plenty of time to be creative and listen to new music. So I’ve been trying to enjoy it in anyway I can.

Tell us about working with Nathan Chapman?

Nathan is a mind reader. That’s the best way I can put it. I didn’t have to give him much direction at all when we got in the studio. I sent him the demos I had from the day I wrote the songs, and then I sent him a new acoustic voice memo of me playing, just to get little rhythmic ideas from what I play, and I didn’t have to say anything else. He would send the track back to me and say “something like this?” And it would be perfect.

Did he bring anything out in your music which you never expected?

Yes! I’ve had the demos for these songs for a few years now. I’ve played them live and I’d been imagining what they would sound like fully produced, with my studio vocals on them. But it was still so much better and surprising than I thought it would be. They are absolutely amazing, and Nathan actually played bass on the tracks because he knows how much I love bass. I feel like that added something very special.

Tell us a bit about your family, are they all musical?

Yes, my entire family is musical! I grew up singing at my grandad’s church, and I still do every Sunday. I grew up singing and harmonizing with my siblings, so they taught me a lot about blending and singing with other people. My dad taught me the basics on guitar, my mom taught me the basics on piano, and here I am now.

Who are your dream tour artists?

My dream tour artists would be anybody who will take me! Haha. But, seriously, I love all of my fellow Big Machine artists so much. I am really fortunate to be on the same label with some of my favorite artists. I would also love to tour with Dan+Shay because I would LOVE to do a duet with them.

So we know you like Joss Stone for a British artist but what other British artists are you a fan of?

I really love Duffy, Leona Lewis, and I LOVE what Dua Lipa has been doing lately. Her whole album KILLS me. I’ve also covered songs by the Beatles, Lewis Capaldi and Ed Sheeran. So many amazing British artists!

Have you ever been to the UK?

No, I haven’t! I cannot wait to visit for the first time though! I can’t wait to play there live. Hopefully, very soon.

When you come here, apart from of course playing shows, are there any places you wish to visit?

I’d love to see a live show over there to get a feel of what a British audience is like. I’d also of course love to hit all of the tourist spots I’ve seen on TV and in movies.

What about foods etc? Any desire to try anything you may not necessarily get in the US? Whilst of course you do get Indian food in the US many artists say they want to go to a good Indian restaurant as we have some of the best (we do)is that something you will want to try too?

I’d love to try the Indian food (though I’m not the best with spicy food) as well as getting into the habit of drinking lots of tea while I’m over there. I’m a coffee girl myself, but can get down with some nice British tea!

You are an old soul musically, are you an old soul in person too?

I definitely am. I get that a lot and I have my whole life. My mom says that when I was little I would sit in her lap with my legs crossed and just listen to what people were saying and be a part of conversations like I was grown.

What are your hobbies and interests outside of music?

I really love thrifting, shopping, and designing clothes. I’ve had a few outfits made for me that I’ve designed myself!

What about guilty pleasures? Perhaps a movie or tv show?

Well, lately, I’ve been binge-watching America’s Next Top Model. It’s become very addicting for me.

What have you missed doing outside of music which the pandemic has prevented you from doing?

Traveling to Nashville. I used to be in Nashville more than I was at home and I loved it. I wish I could be going all over the country and to the UK, but I’ll have to be patient with that.

How many guitars do you have and which one is your favourite?

I have 4 acoustics right now and they are all my favorites for different reasons, but my Gibson J-200 is my go-to guitar for just about everything.

What is the best live show you have been to?

I don’t know if I could pick just one! But let’s say my first concert ever. It was a Jennifer Nettles show. It was such an influential concert for me and I just love her so much.

What is next for you? I imagine you are eager to tour so what is in the pipeline?

Well, I’m not really sure! I hope to be able to travel again soon, do live shows, get back into the studio, and continue to write, but we will just have to see. I can’t wait to figure it out for myself!

And lastly, what would you like to say to your UK fans?

Thank you so much for listening to my music and my stories. I can’t thank you enough. I hope there is at least one song in this collection that you relate to and learn to love. I can’t wait to get to meet you and play for you live! Hopefully that day is coming very soon.

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