Music Q&A: Callaghan

A firm favourite on BBC Radio 2, she has just released her latest EP Skin On Skin and kicks off her biggest UK tour to date next month, including Liverpool and York

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What informs your music and songwriting?
I write songs about things that I’ve been through, stories people have told me or the shared experiences we all go through in life. I like to be moved emotionally when I listen to songs, whether that’s through the words or the music, so I try to create the same thing when I write. I’m also influenced by the music I’m listening to or my surroundings. Living in LA for the last year has been great because when I get writer’s block I can take a walk on the beach and it always gives me inspiration for a new song.

How have you evolved as an artist over the years?
With each album I’ve written I’ve been in a different place in my life both geographically and emotionally. Moving to the US from London eight years ago was a big change and really opened my eyes to a lot of possibilities as an artist. I always think that you have to live life to write about it, so I always try and absorb as much as I can from wherever I am at the time. It has been interesting getting to experience living in various places in the US – Atlanta, Nashville and now Los Angeles. I think it’s always inspiring to move somewhere new and see the world a bit differently, and that gets reflected in the music I make and the people I work with.

What are you up to at the moment artistically?
I’ve been writing and recording a series of EPs in LA, and enjoying working with different producers who have helped me explore more of a cinematic pop sound. I love the kind of music that creates pictures in your mind when you’re listening to it, and a lot of my new songs have that feel. Whilst I still love the simplicity of a song that just has vocals and one instrument, I’ve enjoyed exploring different sounds on my latest record, including a 30-piece orchestra, a brass section and a gospel choir.

What’s on your rider?
Living away from the UK a lot of the year makes me miss the home comforts, like being able to get a decent cup of tea on tour! So I always travel with a pretty big supply of Yorkshire Tea and request semi-skimmed milk at the venues. Not exactly rock and roll but very necessary for a good show!

Tell us your most embarrassing or surreal experience.
I recently had a surreal moment while recording my latest EP, Skin on Skin. Two of the songs on the record feature a 30-piece orchestra, which was based in Budapest. I was on tour at the time, so I was watching online from a living room in Michigan where it was mid-morning, the producers were tuning in from their studio in LA where it was early morning, and the orchestra was recording in Budapest where it was the evening, and being conducted by British conductor Nicholas Dodd, who has conducted every James Bond score since 1997. It was totally surreal and I kept having to pinch myself that they were playing my songs!

What song do you wish you’d written?
One of my favourite songs is Somewhere Over The Rainbow, which I recorded for my album Callaghan’s Acoustic Coffee House with just piano and cello. I also sing it a lot at my live shows, and no matter how many times I perform it, I never get tired of it. Considering how long it’s been around and how many versions of the song have been made, I’m always amazed by how powerful the song is and how enjoyable it is to sing. I think those songs are rare, which is why they become timeless and loved by so many people.

What’s your worst lyric?
I’ve written thousands of songs so I’m sure I’ve written loads of bad lyrics! But they never get recorded. To be able to write songs you have to be unafraid to write the bad lyrics to get to the good ones. I have to really connect with what I’ve written to be able to record a song or perform it live, so I trust my gut instinct on whether a song moves me or not. Then I hope it moves someone else when they hear it.

Callaghan tour dates

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