Singer and Song-writer Sam Callahan’s life has been a whirlwind since his performance on The X Factor in 2013. Learning and experimenting a lot with his sound over the last few years, the singer is happy to say he is fully in love with the music he is creating. This year has been a big one for the rising star when he gained his first chart single ‘Burns Like Fire’ proving he is one to watch. We caught up with Sam Callahan to discuss his journey so far and upcoming most real and honest creation to date ‘Stitches and Scars’…
Q1. Hi Sam Callahan, thanks so much for taking the time to speak to us! How’s everything with you at the minute? What are you up to?
Everything is wicked thank you! I’ve been working a lot on new music in the studio with some new co-writers. I’m working on getting an album together too but that’s kind of had to take a back seat this month as I’ve done all the artistic creation on the new single myself. I filmed and edited the promo and music videos, wrote the track and created the artwork for ‘Stitches and Scars’. It’s been a tall order but when you have a clear vision in your head for what you want everything to look and sound like, I just had to make sure it was nothing but honest, organic and right on the button, inline with that vision.
Q2. For the sake of anyone that hasn’t heard of yourself yet, tell us a bit about your career so far and how it came about?
In a nutshell, before my recent music releases, most people know me for my appearance on The X Factor in 2013. However my career in music started way, way before that! At primary school age I was never much good at academics and my school mates usually outshone me in most school subjects which was a huge ego dent and meant I began to severely lack confidence and self assurance. When my parents noticed this they enrolled me in a Saturday morning performing arts class called ‘Stage Coach’ which is where my love for being the centre of attention really came into its own! With two left feet and an ability to shout an almost recognisable tune to the songs they gave us to sing, my love for entertaining grew beyond belief. I did my first professional job at 10 years old in a Xmas pantomime and then was accepted to attend ‘The Sylvia Young Theatre School’ after being bullied for being the ‘out there kid’ at my first secondary school in year 7. Aged about 1, I bought my first guitar and taught myself just four chords … in fact those same four chords I used to write about 100 songs to that year. My love for writing my own music and wanting to be a pop artist grew so much during my time at school, that I’d even began to rebel from singing the musical theatre songs that were assigned to us in the singing classes as they felt a little too, ‘jazz hands’ to me at the time!
When I left school at 16 I turned down 5 full time musical theatre college scholarships and was signed in a mixed gender cheesy pop group managed by former ‘Spice Girl’ Geri Halliwell AKA Ginger Spice and Pop music mogul Simon Fuller of 19 Management and XiX Entertainment. After 2 years in the group I made the decision to jump ship as we hadn’t seen much progress for a while and I didn’t feel the band had any real direction or therefore much of a future! After leaving that situation I bought myself an old banger which I could fit enough music gear in and drove the width and length or the UK gigging for free, using social media to grow an organic fanbase who later self dubbed themselves ‘Callafans’. That year I toured with Union J and some other cool bands, I released my first single ‘Runaway Train’ and then performed on a tour of hundreds of schools too. It was around this point that I realised that I was struggling financially to support my crazy hopes and dreams with the small town bar job I had in my home town of Maldon in Essex. Then came the opportunity to audition for ‘The X Factor’ and switch the game up in 2013! Since leaving the show, life’s been a bit of a whirl wind! I’ve learnt a lot and I’ve definitely found myself exploring different sounds and types of music a lot along the way too, but this year I can finally say I am fully in love with the music I am creating. I had a wicked start to the year with my single ‘Burns Like Fire’ becoming my first chart hit. I’ve surrounded myself by a wicked team of guys, not forgetting the lads from ‘Mean Recordings’, performed all kinds of shows and festivals globally and I’m now about to release my third single this year, which just happens to be what I’d call my most real and honest creation to date, ‘Stitches and Scars’.
Q3. What was being on The X Factor really like for you?
The X factor for me was a whirl wind of emotions. It’s like a rollercoaster ride! Its up, then its down and all at a million miles an hour. I can’t thank the show enough for the platform it’s given me to release my music from. But I will say this… the experience itself is not for the faint hearted!
One of Sam Callahan’s performances on The X Factor
Q4. Any advice for others considering applying for talent shows?
I think the most important thing to consider is what kind of artist do you want to be, and do you really have the gonads? My X factor experience had a member of my family hospitalised through stress, it put me under pressure I’ve never before, and not since, experienced anywhere, it can really mess with your head! However, if you can handle the heat and the experience for you turns out to be a good one… the possibilities are endless!
Q5. Tell us a bit about your upcoming track ‘Stitches and Scars’ and the meaning behind it to you.
‘Stitches and Scars’ is a song that I created with 100% real, raw emotion at a time when I was probably in the most vulnerable place I’ve ever been. This song comes from a place so personal that I even feared the idea of releasing it for a long time, but you know what? I think that is what makes the music beautiful.
At the time I wrote this track, I was in a super dark place. I’d made some real, what I saw as, stupid decisions and I was continuously beating myself up about them! So much so I spent whole days starring at my feet hanging my head in an insanely negative head space. Then one day my brother Toby turned around to me and told me to ‘snap out of it!’ He told me, that I have people around me who love me and they don’t love me because I’m perfect, they love me because I am me! He told me, ‘You could have not made those decisions, you could have not made those mistakes… but then you could also be boring, you could be a stamp collector or a bin man’, he said ‘But you’re not, you’re Sam and as much as it sucks right now, it is partially your ability to make those crazy, rash decisions, mistakes and of course your imperfections that make you YOU!’ This resinated with me so much that evening and that’s where the line comes from, ‘Would I really be me without my stitches and scars?’.
Q6. How would you say yourself and your music has changed since your time on the X Factor back in 2013?
There have unfortunately been a couple of times in the last few years where I have been a little lost and most definitely misguided musically. I tried a rock band for a little bit, I tried some RnB style tracks, but at the end of the day the most beautiful thing about my music now is that it is just a more perfected, grown up version of the stuff I began creating from day one when I first picked up that guitar aged 12 and began to write with those 4 chords that I learnt. That is how I know my music is organic and straight from the heart.
Q7. What’s been your biggest highlight so far?
I have two! The first one would be charting. That was awesome, to see my own music that I wrote in my bedroom about my own experiences in the charts was really something. The second though has to be the arena tour after The X Factor. There is nothing like doing the one thing you love more than life itself and getting to do it in front of 20,000 people a night! That to me, was a dream come true.
Q8. And what are your biggest aspirations for yourself and your career?
Personally I’ve always had some crazily high expectations and aspirations for myself in my career. Firstly, I’ve always wanted to travel with my music. I am an adventurous person and often you find that adventurous people get to a certain age and take a number of months or even years out to explore, to travel and to see the world! If it wasn’t for having chosen a career that requires giving so much of myself so much of the time, I’d definitely be one of those people who had embarked on some of those things. Instead, I promised myself that if I was going to choose a life in music then one of my key ‘MUST DO’s’ had to be to travel with my music! So far I’ve performed in LA, Miami, Australia, Malia and The Canary Islands among other places! I think the other general goals with my music have always been to tour and to chart!
I don’t have to be the most well known artist in the world and I don’t have to be gigging every day of my life, but I want to do the odd tour, performing to people who love my music and myself for all the positive things that I stand for and that my music has to say! I want to wake up every day doing what I love and I want the people who support me to fall in love with the music I am creating the way that I do.
Sam Callahan’s first chart single ‘Burns Like Fire’
Q9. Who are your influences, and why?
I HAVE A FEW! Whenever I go for a session in the studio, I tend to pick between 5 and 10 references for the idea that I have come up with, or the song that I have written just to give my co-writers and producers the best chance of hitting the nail on the head when it comes to getting in the booth with me and trying to create our next master piece! There are always a few that come up almost every time and these are: Shawn Mendes, Ed Sheern and Maroon 5. I love these artists for their lyrical content, their sound and their overall vibe when it comes to creating new music and other areas. Of course it’s not all just down to the music, I think the overall vibe of an artist in today’s industry is super important!
So much of my job relies on social media platforms and the way we choose to portray ourselves on those platforms, I think a lot of this can make up that ‘vibe’ I talk about when it comes to today’s music industry artists! It’s important to take influence in those areas too.
Q10. What should we be expecting from Sam Callahan next?
Like always I want to keep creating music and just keep improving, leveling up and achieving as much as humanly possible. I’m working on new music which is shaping up a pretty cool album, but who know’s how I will go about releasing it yet. I want to do something different, something that hasn’t been done yet! After all, what’s the point in just being like everyone else? Music is art at the end of the day!
Interview by Lucy Rix