3x CMAO nominated singer/songwriter Callie McCullough is challenging society’s expectations and embracing getting older with her new single, “What if I Don’t”.
Recently, I spoke with Callie about her musical upbringing, her latest single and more.
Kyla Pearson: For those who are unfamiliar with you and your music, you’re a third-generation musician in your family. How has growing up in a musical family been advantageous for you, in terms of having a support system behind you who understands the challenges of being in the music industry?
Callie McCullough: Honestly, my parents were hoping I would do something else for a living, because they know first-hand how challenging the music biz can be. Once it was clear there was no turning back, they’ve been incredibly supportive; there’s a level of get it that’s pretty awesome.
Kyla Pearson: Your music is a blend of folk, roots and country. Would you say your sound and the genre you chose to pursue was influenced by your family’s artistry, other folk/roots/country artists or a combination of both?
Callie McCullough: I think it’s a rich tapestry of musical influences, and a certain kind of steeping that happens when you spend your childhood backstage and around studios, other musicians, and great music. My dad was a big rock, blues and folk guy. My mom was big into Country and Bluegrass. I was also surrounded by a lot of other musical mentors each of whom clued me into some incredible musical influences. Ultimately, the music I make is just following the muse of what I love.
Kyla Pearson: What is the primary message you want to share through your music? Why is this message important to you?
Callie McCullough: I think it’s all about being yourself, exactly as you are.
Kyla Pearson: This past September, you released your first single since 2021– “What if I Don’t”. Can you tell us a bit more about the track, as well as the songwriting & recording process behind it?
Callie McCullough: It was such a fun song, the minute it was done being written, and I remember showing it to my girlfriends back home and them all freaking out – “You have to put this out now!” I reached out to Dave Brainard (Brandy Clark, Jamey Johnson, Jerrod Neimann) whose production I’ve been a huge fan of for years and together we cooked up this saucy, grassy, version. He brought in some incredible musicians, and I called two of my friends to stack up some 3-part harmonies.
Kyla Pearson: Despite the fun & comical nature of the song, it also addresses some real issues–such as the societal pressure/expectations to hit life milestones by a certain age. What’s one piece of advice you’d give to a listener/fan who is trying to move away from what society expects of them and listen to their own heart?
Callie McCullough: When opinions are flying at you left right and center, it’s hard not to let them in, or to let it sting. I’m learning to quiet all the voices and try to just listen to what I want. You probably know what is best for you…just do you.
Kyla Pearson: You’ve also released a music video for the track, which was directed by Ryan Nolan. Did you have a set vision as to how you wanted the song illustrated on screen going into it, or was the creative direction something you left to Nolan? What was it like working on set to bring the music video together?
Callie McCullough: I had some pretty clear ideas for the video as soon as the song was written, I wanted it to be light, funny, and full of characters. I worked with Ryan Nolan on my last music video for ¾ Time and when we started chatting about this one, we had a blast just brainstorming ideas and moments for these characters. We ended up adding a second shoot day after the first shoot, because it was a pretty intense project to shoot all in one day…there were a lot of laughs on set for sure…
Kyla Pearson: Lastly, do you have any upcoming shows where fans can hear you play “What if I Don’t” live?
Callie McCullough: It’s been an awesome summer and fall season of shows…but I’m slowing down for a couple of months to head back into the studio!
McCullough, Callie. Interview. Conducted by Kyla Pearson, Oct 19 2023.
Nolan, Ryan. “Featured: Contemporary roots singer/songwriter, Callie McCullough” Photo courtesy of PR Team. Accessed Oct 13 2023.
Unknown. “Featured: Official cover art for Callie McCullough’s latest single, “What if I Don’t.” Photo courtesy of PR Team. Accessed Oct 13 2023.