Callum Beattie gives TheBerlinClub. a vivid account of his determination to get his music heard. Through persistence & talent, the humble Scot is finally being recognised as a future star.
6 minute read
Interview: Sam // Words: Ollie
“Success is 50% drive, 50% talent…the key is to keep your drive”
A bustling hotel in North West London is the venue for Edinburgh-born singer-songwriter Callum Beattie to chat to us about his rise from stage invading an R.E.M. gig & blagging his way into backstage hangouts with the likes of Kings of Leon & Kaiser Chiefs, to being on the cusp of releasing his debut album.
“They were the lengths I was going to try & get my music out” he reveals.
The Start. //
Having been brought up solely by his father from the age of 6, Callum recalls his early forays in to the world of music: “It was just the two of us in the house & after school, my dad would crack open a bottle of wine & get the records he had collected over the years out. He had everything from Elton John to Rod Stewart & David Bowie. I remember becoming obsessed with all the writing credits on the back. By the time I was about 8 or 9, he would take me to the pub on a Sunday & put an ashtray in the middle of the floor. I would sing Elvis songs I had learned in the house & all the punters would chuck in money. Even at that early age, I loved singing!”.
As the years passed by, from a humble upbringing in Scotland sprang a performer with a passion to delve ever deeper into the music scene: “When I was a teenager, I was singing at a concert for school & my dad asked me if I wanted a guitar. With that, I started writing my songs & decided I wanted to play in front of thousands of people as a career”.
That passion to create music was surpassed only by the tenacity to get it heard, a struggle the Scot tried everything he could muster to overcome: “My first job was pushing trolleys in Tesco. There was a guy from Snow Patrol who used to come in & I would always try & make sure he could see me. I used to write lyrics on the back of his receipts & gave him demos I had made, but I never heard anything back…I wondered how I was going to get my music out”.
Using his hi-vis jacket from his job, the audacious 17-year-old Callum snuck into festivals pretending to be security. Recollecting one of these moments, Callum says, “There was one time when the Kaiser Chiefs were playing in Edinburgh & I went to the show with the jacket on. Nick, the drummer came off stage & I asked if I could play them a couple of songs in their dressing room. After running through a couple of tunes, I told them I was going to play a stage like them one day & they were like we don’t doubt it. They asked for my autograph!”.
Fast forward 8 years & the Scotsman had moved to London in search of a record deal, something to be found shortly after.
Positives Built From The Negative. //
“It’s been a long journey. This explanation may make it sound easy, but it’s just the 5-minute version” the pop-rocker clarifies. Continuing he adds, “I played in pubs for 8 years & it’s taken graft, persistence, drive & belief to not give up. When I started doing the pubs, I would take any gig I could get. I would get £50 for playing a Friday night in some places, but I was desperate & needed the money. Even the stage I am at now, while better, is still exhausting because you are just waiting for that one big hit to elevate you”.
The tough lessons of the music industry are something which have not gone unnoticed. Explaining his learnings, Callum says, “I have realised it is not just about the quality of your music, but about who you know. You could write the best song ever, release it on Spotify, not get added to any playlists & no one gets the chance to hear it. If that’s the case, you’re f**ked. It’s a constant battle, yes the record deal gives you something to live on, but you’re still always grafting”.
Carving a career out of such an uncompromising business is challenging enough, emphasised further when you have nothing else to fall back on. Callum reflects, “As I was always totally focussed on becoming a singer, I think I subconsciously f**ked everything else up. I used to draw pictures of Glastonbury in English class rather than doing what I was supposed to & at 14, I got excluded from school.
I remember my teachers pulling me aside & saying what are you going to do with yourself? I turned around and said I’m going to be a Rockstar, I have a career! I was brash, but I didn’t think you needed certificates to prove your intelligence…I still don’t, I express my intelligence in other ways”.
The intelligence shown to produce several anthemic songs is what has led Callum through a challenging childhood to the rewarding job he enjoys so much today. Callum describes the creative process that has made tracks such as ‘We Are Stars’ & ‘Without You’: “I try to take sh*t situations & paint them in a positive tone…my songs are positives built from the negative. Writing songs is about what people say to you or something you have experienced”.
While experience is what fuels the creations, Callum explains the sometimes-difficult balance with the approach: “My record label phoned me once & said it would be nice to write something about your childhood…but it’s not always that easy, sometimes you are just not in the right mental state to write about something like that. I go for walks when I am not with it, it’s my way of feeling like I am still working, because I am gathering my thoughts. I try not to pressure myself, after all, writing lyrics on my phone can be just as powerful as sitting there with a guitar.”
Callum also acknowledges the fortune of being in the position he is: “I have a good friend who works as a mechanic. He is up at half 5 everyday & we joke about the fact I can usually get up whenever. While being a musician can be tough with constant setbacks & hurdles, it’s a small reminder that it is better than a lot of jobs”.
On The Horizon. //
While staying grounded & maintaining a strong focus on the present, Callum is clear in what he is striving towards: “I want to be headlining shows, that’s my dream. If you don’t believe in yourself, what’s the point? I am sure there are many artists who never thought they would be where they are. A lot of folk would say you have already made it because you have carved a career out of something you love, but I am like that’s not what I got into it for. Even if I headlined Glastonbury, I would still be chasing the next hit…it never stops. I also don’t write songs because my bank account is empty…if I made a million pounds, I would probably give 99% away to charities!”.
With headline shows and a new single on the way, alongside a debut album (released in early 2020), the graft & persistence is paying off: “I had a recent single played on Radio 2 which was fantastic. I don’t know how I am going to get hits, but I know I will get there. I have come this far so I am not turning back now…the longer my career goes on, the more I want it.”
On the forthcoming album, Callum is realistic on its likely trajectory: “The album is going to be autobiographical. I’m nervous because I am putting my history out there for the world to look at. I want it to do well, but I’m not expecting miracles…a lot of songs take a year or two to get momentum. Rag’n’Bone Man, George Ezra, lots of artists have released songs which take a year or two to get serious airtime. It’s not going to happen overnight, it might even do nothing for two years & then peak later”.
We leave the interview with Callum providing a clear insight into his mindset & career philosophy. “I am not competing against others, I am competing against myself. I want to do the best I can. My brother used to say things like good things don’t happen to people like us. That made me angry, but I am channelling the emotion in a good way & want to prove that wrong” he says passionately.
Having come from very little, the determination to achieve a lot in contrast is undeniable & with catchy, emotive music such as that which has already been released, that target is sure to move soon within reach.
Watch Callum Beattie’s new video for ‘Easter Road’ below
Callum Beattie’s new single ‘Nothing Hurts Like You’ is out now.
For more info visit callumbeattie.co.uk