I have been settling with Carys Calling…
as she tells me about the new single, Honest. The songwriter talks about the track’s story and which artists inspired her to get into music; relocating and moving to a new city; which three albums are especially dear to her – I was keen to know whether there are gigs coming up.
Carys Calling discusses the importance of being on stage and connecting with people; what upcoming artists should remember; whether she gets time to chill and unwind; which rising talent we need to get behind – I discover which recent musical moment is most ‘memorable’ to the songwriter.
Hi, Carys. How are you? How has your week been?
Hey, Sam. I’m great, thank you! Are you well? I’m in the middle of moving from Bath to Bristol which is keeping me busy, alongside promoting the new single and working on a university deadline before heading back to Newcastle for a few days. Can’t complain!
For those new to your music; can you introduce yourself, please?
Of course. I’m a Dark-Alternative-Pop artist, originally from Newcastle; singing/writing haunting raw songs. I always write lyrics first: I don’t play an instrument (YET), so the bare bones of every song starts with the words. I’m also obsessed with visuals to music, so I’m equally as involved with the artwork/videos.
I think a song can be transcended in different ways when you hear it and when you see the video/visuals. I had an accidental break from releasing/performing music when I moved to Bath, so expect more releases, videos and live gigs from the end of September!
Tell me about your new single, Honest, and how it came together. When did it start life?
Honest began one rainy November afternoon a few years ago when I still lived in Newcastle. I was living alone and in a new relationship that was quickly fading. The late-night talks blurred into silence, while the noise between the sheets continued. I was feeling emptiness and fireworks at the same time, clinging onto that feeling.
The sparks burned out and careless words were pouring out. I never released it but always hoped to. The production on it by my producer Tom Cory has just brought it to life in ways I couldn’t have imagined. I’m so proud of what it has become.
How did ‘Carys Calling’ start life? When did you get into music?
I’ve been singing since I was young and constantly wrote lyrics from eight-years-old, that were more like poems, throughout school. I wrote my first vocal melody when I was twenty-one; then Carys Calling took shape in 2015 when I released Soaked My Skin. I grew up listening to ABBA. My mum would play it when we baked together and my brothers would blast Eminem. Quite a mixture!
We didn’t have a T.V. until I was twelve but we had videos so I would watch Friends. I remember the scene where Rachel is looking out the window when it’s pouring with raining and she’s upset with Ross; With or Without You by U2 is playing. I got the biggest lump in my throat and remember what an impact it had on me. I have always had such a crush on music with visuals.
You are from Newcastle but moved to Bath. How important was that move to your career?
I had been itching to move from Newcastle for a year before I moved but I needed to finish my degree. I LOVE Newcastle but I’m always craving new people and new places. I love the challenge of starting afresh; not knowing anyone and shaping a life somewhere new. Every place I have lived has inspired writing, brought me close to new best friends and helped me grow through tough times.
The main reason for moving to Bath was to study my Masters. I feel like I’ve really found my true sound and image here. I don’t know if that would have happened if I stayed in Newcastle. If I feel too comfortable, I know I need a change. I feel very settled and happiest down South. I always think moving somewhere new and meeting new friends can never be a mistake and Newcastle will always be in my bones. As they say: you’ve gotta live life to write about it.
Which artists did you grow up around? Were you hooked on music from a young age?
I grew up around ABBA, The Bangles; Elton John, Eminem; Norah Jones and Dido. A mixture of what my mum and brothers listened to. I grew up in the Northumberland. I used to actually find the silence calming and writing poems was my escape. I became hooked on music when I saw Fame in the theatre and Grease on video. I joined dancing and acting clubs - all centred around music - and I loved it. In my teens, I started watching shows like One Tree Hill, Friends and Grey’s Anatomy. It got me through some chaos.
I’ll always remember the episode of Hollyoaks I saw at a friend’s house: when Hannah was in hospital with anorexia and My Skin by Natalie Merchant was played; the visuals and script with music sent shivers right through me. That’s when I knew I wanted to give people that feeling through the music I would maybe one day write.
What do you hope to achieve by the end of 2018?
By the end of 2018, I hope to be settled in Bristol - having performed a handful of shows with a full band - and to have released my next song, Friday Night Out, with a video too. Really excited to be releasing more music and playing more live shows.
Have you got a favourite memory from your time in music so far – the one that sticks in the mind?
This may sound random, but I played a gig a few weeks ago at the St James Wine Vaults in Bath. I played a song I haven’t performed in years and I forgot the lyrics; I just completely blanked. I brushed it off on stage and blamed the Strongbow I’d had two sips of. Haha....
Afterwards, I was so hard on myself and was so frustrated that I slipped up. It turned out to be the song that the audience liked the most, so it’s made me consider releasing it properly. We’re all just human in the end.
Which three albums mean the most to you would you say (and why)?
Norah Jones - Come Away with Me
I listened to this album for two-weeks-straight when I was doing work experience during high-school at a beauty salon. I was practicing nail art in the back and singing my heart out. That’s one of the moments I realised I wanted to be a singer and to write songs. I used Don’t Know Why for auditions into college and university. Something feels like home when I play this album. Beautifully familiar. She’s an effortless talent. She made me want to sing.
Phoebe Bridgers - Stranger in the Alps
I found Phoebe a few years back. The somewhat morbid darkness and honesty in her lyrics knocked me for six. I remember when I first heard Smoke Signals, Funeral and Motion Sickness. I was just absolutely frozen in awe. Her voice and stories are so pur:, I feel like she’s not censoring anything which is so fuc*ing refreshing. Almost like she’s just saying what we’re all afraid to say/admit? I’ve seen her live and every time I hear her songs it feels like the first time. I also cried out a brea-up while listening to this album. She’s a rare gem of an artist.
The 1975 - The 1975 (Deluxe)
I have been besotted with these lads since I saw them in Newcastle in the S.U. bar a few weeks after they released Chocolate. His lyrics move me so much. They’re brutal, heartbreaking; hilarious, awkward; clever and the truth. It’s not the obvious Pop I was used to. Obviously, there are some killer hooks, some absolute bangers; some slow heart-wrenchers and some depressing-as-hell ones…but you can NEVER guess what they are going to do. They are unpredictable; his writing and their songs are refreshingly surprising.
There isn’t always a huge chorus and I like that. They don’t always do what people expect. I feel like some songs can be better when they are simple and undone. They aren’t trying hard to impress, they are just being authentic. I could go on and on but when I first heard Robbers, Girls; Pressure, Is Somebody Watching You; Menswear, Sex and Falling for You; I just felt like I connected and related to the lyrics more than I ever had before with other artists. I listen to at least one song of theirs every day. They make me want to be better.
If you could support any musician alive today, and choose your own rider, what would that entail?
Phoebe Bridgers, without a doubt. Gluten-free donuts, Yorkshire Tea and Hobnobs. Oh, and tangerines! Gotta have vitamin C!
Might we see some tour dates coming up? Where might we be able to catch you play?
Definitely. I will be playing in Bristol, Bath; London and hopefully Newcastle too. Aiming to have some dates in the book for this winter. I’ll be updating my website/socials as soon as they’re sorted!
How important is it being on stage and seeing your music connecting with people?
It’s as important as the writing. If I’m not able to perform it, I don’t know what I’d do with myself. I’ve always felt a comfort on stage, unlike anywhere else. There’s something so special about singing songs I once penned at 3 A.M. in bed while having a brew, to an audience that choose to come and watch me play and hear what I have to say.
If I ease someone’s troubles or make their day or make them feel like they aren’t alone through my lyrics and songs then I’m doing something right. There’s no feeling like when people come and talk to me after I play and tell me how they felt or which song moved them. I am happy to be vulnerable and spilling out all my stories and I feel so lucky to be able to do this.
What advice would you give to new artists coming through?
Take it one step at a time and try your damned hardest not to compare yourself to another artist negatively. You could be comparing your step-three to their step-twelve. We all have our own pace and path. Believe in your art and try to tell the truth: people can see through the fake stuff in seconds. And it feels better if you’re honest.
Are there any new artists you recommend we check out?
Sasha Sloan is my new favourite writer. You will not be disappointed. She’s not really new but she’s new to me and possibly to some others.
Do you get much time to chill away from music? How do you unwind?
I try to make sure I do but I always end up getting distracted with music or writing in the end. My ultimate way to unwind is to go back to Newcastle and see my friends and family, get back to the countryside; have a few pints with my old school friends and reconnect. I find that music can sometimes make you disconnect; whether that’s forgetting to reply to texts, shutting off so I can write something; being busy gigging, rehearsing; working and at uni or feeling a little like I just wanna be on my own for a bit.
I have phases of it all but that’s my me-time: shutting off and putting my phone on airplane mode. That and a brew with a couple of biscuits. I think, nowadays, we all find it hard to unwind. We’re all so accessible and busy. I also ADORE going to live local gigs. There’s nothing like being in the moment in your own world while someone’s performing. Everyone’s having a shared but different experience and I really like that (smiles).
Finally, and for being a good sport; you can choose a song and I’ll play it here (not any of your music - I will do that).
Sasha Sloan – The Only
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