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Interview: Callista Clark talks ‘Real To Me’ and life on the road

She may be only 18 but Callista Clark is already well on track to being the next big country music star.

After shooting to fame with a series of online videos – including her stunning cover of the Creedence Clearwater Revival classic ‘Have You Ever Seen The Rain’? – she released her first EP ‘Real To Me’ last year, which includes the top 20 hit ‘It’s ‘Cause I Am’. She also made her Grand Ole Opry debut last summer and has been on tour with the likes of Chris Young.

When Callista was in the UK recently for C2C, I sat down with her to talk about how she approaches her music, being out on the road, her plans for the rest of the year and more.

Hi Callista, welcome to London!

Thank you!

How are you finding it so far?

It’s gone really well so far. I’ve been super busy, so I haven’t got time to do all the touristy things yet but I hope to do that soon. It’s going good.

I was going to say when I saw you at the Big Machine showcase last night and you mentioned this on stage – did you find the good places to shop yet?

I have not yet. On the way over here though, talking about driving and everything, there was a lot of stores. I think I might have found my little road to go on shop on!

Are there any songs you’re particularly enjoying playing live at the moment?

I’m really excited to play the songs that I’ve put out on my first EP, because I’ve heard that everyone here learns what’s out and they not only learn the singles but they learn all of the cuts, so that’s really exciting.

I was going to ask you about the EP [‘Real To Me’]. It’s been over a year now since you released it – what have you found the response from fans has been like? Have there been any songs where the audience’s response surprised you at all?

I feel like this past year has been super crazy. A lot’s happened in just a year. I’ve been talking about this so much and it’s still so crazy to me that I’ve gotten to play and meet and create relationships with so many artists that I’ve looked up to for so long. I’ve gotten to play the Opry – I think I hit my sixth time playing there, and I had my debut in July. So it’s just everything seems to be happening super fast. I got my first top 20 single with my first single ever, and now I’m here in London already! So it’s really amazing.

How are you finding the experience of being out on the road and performing after the pandemic?

It’s really great. I think that every show is really awesome and I try and use it as a time to learn from any artist that I’m opening for and anybody that I’m getting to meet. And also just getting to book radio tour and things like that around shows where I can go see stations and catch up with all of them in person, since I did meet everybody over Zoom the first time. So it’s really nice to be able to follow up with that.

I know you started out doing covers on YouTube and Facebook – is there a particular favourite song that you’ve covered? And who would you want to cover one of your songs at some point?

Ooh! That’s a good question. I really love covering Chain Of Fools by Aretha Franklin. It was the first song that I ever learned to play on guitar so that one’s really special to me, and I do it at most of my longer shows. And I feel like honestly if any artist covered one of my songs, I feel like I would be just like “oh my God, this is so cool!” But maybe Ariana Grande or Tori Kelly. That would be amazing.

I also saw that Tim McGraw recently replied to your cover of one of his songs. How did you feel when you found that out?

It was so crazy. I had no idea. I covered that song on my TikTok a few months ago and so I kind of didn’t think anything of it any more, ’cause you know, TikTok is like post every day, so a few months on TikTok is like a while ago. And one of my mom’s friends sent it to her and saw that he had reacted to it, and I was just in shock. I still kind of am! And him just being like, “get it Callista” on the video. It’s crazy, it’s Tim McGraw. It’s awesome.

How would you describe your approach to your songwriting? Has it evolved over time?

I feel like I always try and learn from different songwriters. I’ve been really fortunate to work with Laura Veltz and Jonathan Singleton – just so many incredible songwriters that are super iconic everywhere, especially in Nashville. So I just try to learn as much from them as I can. But for me, I usually write on guitar, and I’m more of a hook and melody kind of person. So it’s always learning.

Is there anyone you’d particularly like to collaborate with in future – either performing or writing?

I really wanna write with Hilary Lindsey soon. I’ve been trying so hard to get our calendars to line up, but I’ve just been on the road so much and she’s Hilary Lindsey [laughs]. So that’s somebody that I’d love to write with. I’ve looked up to her for so long. And artists, I would really love to do a collab with Dan and Shay. I feel like that would be really fun.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received from anyone?

I think the best piece of advice I’ve ever gotten would have to be to be yourself, and know that you’re the only person that’s you. So just be confident in whatever it is that you’re doing. And you know, be kind to people and know you can learn from people, and just try to do that.

This is a hard one for a songwriter, but is there one song you wish you could have written?

I feel like one song for me that I wish I would have written is ‘I Will Always Love You’ by Dolly Parton. Super iconic and obviously then Whitney Houston redid the song and made it explode even more, made it even bigger. So I would have to say that one.

What does the rest of the year look like for you? I know you mentioned at the showcase you’re working on some new music…

I think the next six months for me are gonna be new music, figuring out some release dates, maybe a music video, trying to pick up as many tours as I can. I know in the summer I’m doing a lot of different festivals. So just getting out there as much as I can. Starting it all over again! [laughs]

Can you give us any hints about the new music? Will it be similar to ‘Real To Me’?

I feel like the fun thing about the first five also is that some of them are more country, some of them are more pop. And with the next five it’s gonna be even more country on some, maybe some are gonna be even more R’n’B and a little less country. So I think it’ll be really fun to figure out that balance.

And lastly – have you got plans to come back to the UK at any point?

I just know I wanna come back as soon as I can! [laughs] I’ve already told everybody that I’ve been talking to, “if there’s anything you need me to come back for, I will come back”. Because I really love it here.

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