Callie McCullough Is Finding Calm in the Chaos

Callie McCullough was born third generation in a musical family, and by the age of fourteen she was landing gigs. Her upcoming debut, “After Midnight,” is a collaborative and intimate EP that laces McCullough’s unforgettable voice with touches of dobro, fiddle, mandolin, banjo, and acoustic guitar. The result is an album that blends hushed nocturnal soundscapes with traditional influences, contemporary twists, sharp songwriting, and the expressive singing of a woman who’s truly found her own voice.

We chatted with her this week.

SDTC: Describe your dream vacation/getaway scenario.

CM: I loving being able to travel as much as I do as a touring musician, and there are definitely many more parts of the world I would love to see, but I’ve lived far away from my family for about six years, so my dream vacation would be sitting at my family cottage in Ontario with all my family just hanging out for a week. 

Who/what is commanding a lot of attention in your life lately?

Definitely releasing this album! I’ve been writing, recording and working on this dream for the past few years and it’s finally go time, so I’m definitely a little obsessed. It’s tough to tear me away from career stuff these days, but I am incredibly grateful and excited about all of it!

What have you learned about yourself in the past year?

I used to have a habit of slipping into negative thinking, and this year I’ve really focused on conquering that. I’ve learned that your thoughts and your words can change your life.

What is a fun little-known fact about you?

I’m excellent at making up funny characters/doing voices and just being a general goofball! A lot of my music is serious or has sad undertones, but I’m always laughing and making jokes! In another life I think I was a medieval court jester.

What book/film/show have you connected with recently, and what about it appeals to you?

I discovered the comedian Iliza Shlesinger this year and I am obsessed! Funniest woman alive.

What’s the worst piece of career/life advice you’ve been given?

To have a backup plan. I felt pressured into going to university by everyone around me “in case this music thing didn’t work out,” and in hindsight, having a backup plan is the same as saying you’re not brave enough or good enough to go after what you really want. So screw backup plans. Put everything you’ve got into Plan A!

What is your motto at the moment?

Find calm in the chaos! It’s been a million miles a minute the last few months. I’ve always been an OCD planner, so I’m learning to embrace the crazy and find moments of calm throughout the day!

What was the high point of your summer?

I took up golfing as a new hobby this year in an effort to get outside more, so lots of time on the golf course, and I’m loving it!

What are the qualities you like most about your parents?

Man, I love both of my parents so much. My mom is this fierce mama bear who always taught my sister and I to be bold and brave, and my dad is a sweet soft-spoken man who is always ready to listen. My parents are both musicians and I was so lucky to grow up in a house full of music…literally had the BEST childhood.

Rewind five years. What advice would you give yourself?

Care less about impressing other people and more about impressing yourself!

What is the most courageous thing you’ve ever done?

I’m not sure you’d call it courageous or just plain stupid, but moving to another country with no money and no plan, just guts and determination and where you don’t know anyone might qualify? One day I just packed up a station wagon and drove to Nashville. I never looked back, and it’s the best decision I’ve ever made

What childhood memory makes you laugh out loud?

Well, as an adult, school rules seem pretty ridiculous! Does anyone else remember having school assemblies where they made you sit on the cold, hard, gym floor with your legs perfectly crossed for two hours!? I used to always get in trouble for uncrossing my legs (’cause that’s super uncomfortable), and I remember being so ashamed that I got in trouble. I find that hilarious now. I’m not much for following the “rules” these days.

What unnecessary object would you love to own?

More shoes…just shoes…but I hardly deem them “unnecessary.”

What tip, technique or hack has made your life better in the past year?

Do things as soon as they come up! Procrastinating just makes everything harder!

What issue do you wish people took more seriously?

Paying for music! I think it’s amazing that we can all share music on the Internet, but buy not buying it, we are hurting the music makers, the songwriters, the musicians, the studio engineers, the producers and the artists. If we want to hear great music, we need to support the people who make it. If you love a song, don’t just stream it, buy it! If you love an artist, buy their album. Keep good music alive!

What outfit makes you feel the most you?

I’m all for being glammed up, but honestly my favourite thing to wear are my PJs.

Who/what has surprised you lately, and how?

Back when my mom was 14 years old, my grandpa helped her buy a D18 Martin Guitar, and it’s been her most cherished possession my whole life. He wanted her to know that he believed in her and that she should have the best guitar they could find. This year, right before my birthday, my mom passed it on to me with a handwritten note in the case–she wanted me to know that she believed in me as much as my grandpa had believed in her. I was and still am completely blown away and can’t wait to take it on all these new adventures with me. 

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