Callaghan makes a welcome return to the UK bringing with her in tow her new album A History of Now.
National Country Review recently caught up with Callaghan after her show at The Sage Gateshead to talk about her latest offering, her extensive touring of the U.S. and what it was like to work with Shawn Mullins.
NRR: Thanks for taking the time to speak to us at National Country Review. So we are here at the SummerTyne Americana Festival at the Sage Gateshead. You’ve just come offstage. How was it for you?
Callaghan: Oh great fun. It’s the first time I’ve played this festival, it was something I had wanted to do for a while and particularly at this venue. I remember coming up to Newcastle a lot in my twenties and always loved this venue, so it was a real thrill to play here.
NRR: You moved to the U.S. a few years back. How does it feel to be back in the UK again?
Callaghan: It feels great. It’s definitely been a while. It’s been five years since I moved there.
When I moved there in 2010 to record my first album I wasn’t sure how long I would be away, or how my music would be received over there. The last five years have really been building my touring in the U.S and my fan base over there. Now I feel like I’ve got to a stage where I can take some time away from that and come back to the UK and do shows here.
NRR: So how did it all pan out going over there initially. I know you said you got the chance to record with Shawn Mullins. When you got that initial opportunity, did you ever think that you would spend the next five years in the U.S?
Callaghan: It really came about as an opportunity I had got through getting in touch with Shawn on MySpace. Then I went out there in 2009 and did three songs with him and before coming back to the UK he said “you know I really want to do the whole album with you, you can come on tour with me and I’ll introduce you to my fans over here.”
So it was just one of those moments where you just think this is too good to pass up. At that point I had been living in London for a few years and I just felt like I was ready to do something and take a bit of an adventure. I thought initially I would go out there for a year, and do the album, go on tour with him and see how it goes and then that kind of went to two years and three years and things have been going really well over there.
So now I am doing my own headline tours over there and I recorded my second studio album. Now I get to come back and perform here, so it’s great.
Crazy Beautiful Life
NRR: Do you find the audiences differ between the U.S. and the UK?
Callaghan: I think there’s always that stereotype that American audiences are going to be really loud and British audiences are going to be really quiet and it’s strange because I haven’t really found that. I’ve done a mixture of house concerts over here and in America and regular shows in venues like The Sage. I just find if you get a room full of music fans together they are a great audience and it doesn’t matter where they are from, you just get that atmosphere in the room.
NRR: Over the last couple of years you’ve taken up the challenge of playing in fans living rooms and you did pretty much coast to coast tours across the U.S. What was that experience like?
Callaghan: It was amazing. It kind of started off as a bit of a challenge because I had been doing the odd house concert here and there in between regular shows and in 2013 I thought I wonder if you could make it coast to coast just doing house concerts, every single night and make it all the way across the country and apparently no one had done that before (laughing), so I just thought lets give it a try. That was back in 2013 and it went from Boston to San Francisco and we did about 26 shows in a month, it was crazy.
Last year the tour went from Key West in Florida, which is about as south as you can get and up to Seattle, so that was corner to corner. Then this year and I just finished it about a week before coming back to the UK ‘Callaghan Across America’ is the tour name and it was called All Four Corners. So it was two months long, twice as many shows and we went all the way around and back to Nashville. It was about 13,000 miles (laughing), so I’ve seen some of the country.
NRR: Do you have a different approach to playing house concerts as opposed to playing theaters and festivals.
Callaghan: Yeah, it’s a slightly different vibe. I mean house concerts are so intimate and because of that they are a bit more relaxed, a bit more informal, but we always try to make sure there is a really good PA system and everyone has a seat and its setup like a tiny little venue. We try to create as much of a listening room as possible, and that’s what you always want from a venue you know, that there is a good atmosphere and people can get drawn into the music and lose themselves.
NRR: How do you go about booking those kind of gigs, it’s not the type of thing you would send your agent out to do?
Callaghan: (laughing) I know, I’m very lucky that I have a phenomenal agent over here in the UK. I’ve been trialing a little bit of the house concert touring in the UK as a mini version of it that we are doing on this trip and that’s mostly through existing fans. Normally I will just put it out there on Facebook or on my website, ‘you know I’m coming to the UK I’m doing some festivals and I’m also thinking of doing a mini house concert tour whose up for it?’ and we just get offers from that.
We did one last night in Leicestershire in the most amazing house ever. It was in an old hall and there were over 100 people there and it was phenomenal. So you know never know, people live in all kinds of places.
NRR: So obviously you have played all kinds of venues large and small. Is there anywhere that you would like to play, like your dream gig?
Callaghan: Well now that The Sage is ticked off the list (laughing), the Royal Albert Hall and I’m sure a lot of people say that. You know I’ve seen some shows there and I think that is just one of the most magical venues ever to see live music in. Yeah, that would be phenomenal.
NRR: Your first album was produced by Shawn Mullins and your latest album “History of Now” was produced by Dennis Matkosky. What was it like working with those guys?
Callaghan: Oh great. I mean they are very, very different. I mean Shawn has a lot more of an Americana kind of feel, I suppose more rootsy kind of music. So that was really interesting working with him on the first record. That was the first time I had done a full length record with anyone, so I really learned a lot from watching him in the studio. Seeing how the record was built, and seeing all the players one at a time go in to record.
With the new album that was recorded in Nashville and we had some phenomenal Nashville players on it. It was so much fun because it was a completely different process. It was a faster way of doing it. When you bring in all of the musicians in one go there’s an electric atmosphere when you do a part of the song. They go from vocal and guitar or vocal and piano to suddenly you are kind of creating all of these sounds. Yeah it was so much fun.
Best Year 2015
NRR: If you could collaborate with any artist in particular who would be your dream collaboration?
Callaghan: Well, I think I’m always torn because I love Elton John. He is such an amazing artist and he would be a real dream artist to collaborate with. The other one that I am a huge fan of is Chris Martin from Coldplay. I just love his melodies and his voice, everything and especially their newest album that was quite an influence on my latest record because it’s so atmospheric. So that would be a cool collaboration.
NRR: What is the inspiration for your song writing?
Callaghan: Musically I am really drawn into different things depending on what phase I’m in. I’m just a real music fan, I download so much stuff. I go through phases of listening to an album non-stop and then I go out and find something else and listen to it and it’s across a lot of different genres. I’m pretty open with rock and pop and country and all kinds of stuff and I kind of like that. So much music now is blended between genres so it’s hard to put yourself in one category.
Lyric wise I feel inspired by people’s lives. I’m always interested in stories that people tell me at the end of shows and things that people have been through and you kind of stand there and thinking I can’t beleive that you’ve went through that and you came out the other side and oh my god. Peoples lives are so interesting I think and that was the idea behind A History of Now that everyone is kind of creating their own history as they are living it every day and someday one of your ancestors is going to read about your life and think wow I can’t believe all these interesting things that they did.
NRR: Who would you say are your musical influences?
Callaghan: It’s tricky because I listen to so many different people. I mean Shawn Mullins has been a solid influence for a long time, particularly I think his style of song writing where he tells the story, there are characters to the song it really draws you in. I am a big fan of the singer/songwriter so Elton John, James Taylor, Carole King, you know those people who really have a lot of emotion in their songs. Yeah I think that would be the closest for musical influences.
NRR: What else do you have in store for 2015?
Callaghan: I’m going back to the States in August to do some more touring and then I’m planning on coming back to the UK at the end of the year maybe October/November time so more shows over here and more promotion of my album and hopefully I will get to come back a lot more often now.
NRR: Thanks for taking the time to speak to us and we hope to catch you out on the road again some time soon.
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