I caught up with another of my favourite finds of the last year or two. Callum Pitt is a ridiculously talented songwriter from Newcastle and it was lovely to chat to him about his musical career so far. I caught his show in London at Paper Dress Vintage – I can safely say, Callum and his band are going places!! I hope you enjoy the typically long and winding interview below! The longer the lockdown has gone on, the longer the interviews have become. Apologies in advance!
I hope you enjoy the read.
Like all of my recent interviews – I’d like to ask you about your experience of the pandemic and how you are coping with it mentally?
I basically sheltered myself away as soon as I could really. My part time job is working at North East Autism Society, it’s a care job where we take kids and adults on activities. When the virus started, I decided to take an extended period off. So yeah, I’m just trying to ride it out in my house at the moment. A lot of my mates are full time musicians and they do wedding gigs, cover gigs and functions all the time – they are all just on universal credit now so it’s not the best time.
In terms of the mental strain of it, I think I handled that pretty well at the start. I started doing this thing called the Wim Hof method breathing technique and then you do push ups and have a cold shower afterwards. Oh my god, it makes you feel insanely good for the whole day. I did it for a couple of weeks and it got me off to a good start. It’s definitely a good thing to do things outside of the norm as we are not going through a normal situation right now.
With all that is happening around us considered, what do you have planned for the immediate future?
From now, I’ve got four singles lined up ready to be released. I thought about it for a long time whether to release this first one right now. I put it to the fans and listeners to get their opinions and they all told me to just release it. I have seen other bands putting stuff out over this period too. I’m not sure how the release schedule of the four singles will be impacted yet. There will be one in May, one shortly after and two around October time. It’s literally just recording and releasing music online for now trying to think of different ways of doing things for the foreseeable. I’ve started to write songs with other musicians for the first time recently which has been cool. I have been writing material with Jake Houlsby and Eve Simpson, just for fun.
Who has influenced your music? Past and present.
My influences at the start: Elliot Smith was a big one, he was a sort of emo styled acoustic singer/songwriter who was prominent around the early 00’s. He did the soundtrack for ‘Good Will Hunting’. He was my main influence as I started writing songs. One of the main things he did that I liked was how he combined melodies into his finger-picking – this is something I incorporated into my own music. If you look at my first release, the falsetto I did in that one is quite similar to that of Blaenavon. Bon Iver and Kate Bush were also big inspirations – Bush’s voice was particularly high and I listened to her a lot growing up with my parents.
For now, Sufjan Stevens is someone I look up to. He has the longest song titles ever, they are sometimes two full sentences, pretty much. He influences my folk-y side at the moment. Soccer Mommy is a big one now too – I feel like a few of my songs have have grungy rock elements to them of late. Phoebe Bridges is another, her voice is just stunning – I’ve not heard such a clear voice ever.
I’m always fascinated about an artist’s first release and the thought process behind it. Why did you choose ‘You’d Better Sell it While You Can’ as your first ever release?
Yeah totally, it’s one song that’s going to represent you for a period of time. People have got no other way of judging it really. My first official release ‘You’d Better Sell it While You Can’ came out in 2017. I did lots of versions of it, it started as a demo in my bedroom and then through a friend, got it recorded in a studio professionally. The releases after that I wrote more on the spot, rather than picking stuff from the past. After the first release, a lot of songs I had built up were going in the bin and I was writing stuff and quickly getting it recorded. I think the first release of a band tells you a lot about them for sure.
I see you are managed by Andy Haggerstone at Kaleidoscope – How did you meet him and get working together?
Andy is wicked. It was 2016 when I got in touch with him, I was passed on his name by an artist advice service in Newcastle called Generator. They are a great outlet for artists in Newcastle. I reached out to Andy while he was in the middle of his PHD. He was only managing Shields at the time and managed to find time to take me on too. Since then, he has been literally everything, it would be great if every musician has somebody who supports them like he has. He has financed recordings, drove us to gigs and helped get the band together in the first place. At the start, I only had guitar, percussion and keys – he helped me find my bassist Luke and guitarist Rich. He worked press for the singles and has done everything you could ever ask for. He has been massively important.
I would like to touch on your experience touring – I was at the London leg of your UK Tour last year. How did you find the experience of your first Nationwide Tour?
I’d played outside of Newcastle like twice before that tour. I got a booking agent at the start of the year and decided to go to as many places as I can. It was very exciting and nerve-wracking to do it. A lot were headline shows and they were all in a row so it was new. After a few nights we seemed to get into the swing of it and we began to have good fun on stage. I feel I learnt how to talk to a crowd which I’ve never really been able to do. It was a massive learning experience for myself and the group.
Did you crave for more at the end of it?
Immediately after the ninth consecutive gig, I definitely was not craving more at that moment. I remember after the London show, we went across the road to a place called ‘Oslo’ in Hackney and we all had a drink. I steered clear of it the other nights but this was quite a nice night to do it. It was really loud in there so I was shouting quite a bit . The next day I woke up and my voice was completely gone. It was an absolute nightmare as we had to play at a festival in Norwich that evening and another headliner in Birmingham the following day. When I went up for sound-check in Norwich, I tried to sing and nothing was coming out – I had spent the whole day resting it and drinking tea and hot lemon. All the way up until to five minutes before, still nothing. We all walked up onto stage and as if by some sort of miracle, I managed to reach pretty much all the notes I wanted to. It was terrifying – I think nine nights in a row is just as much as my voice could handle.
There were quite a few of you in the band during the tour, how did you organize transport and stuff like that? How would you summarize the success of the tour?
We all came away from it absolutely enthused – it was a big financial burden on members of the band. I am ridiculously grateful to them for taking time off work – Johnny (keyboard), Annie (Vocals), Gav (Drums) took an entire week off and Rich (guitar) and Luke (bass) took a half week off work. It was ridiculous that people do that because they want to play music with you, it’s such a humbling feeling. I desperately wanted it to be a good experience for everyone. I think in the end it was a positive experience for us all and we were all hyped about it.
In terms of finance, it was massively down to Andy yet again – he did the driving for the week, we rented a little transit van to bring us to most of the shows. I can’t really thank everybody enough for making it happen – it really brought us all together. We were planning on doing it again this September/October but I guess it won’t be until next year now.
You picked up a pretty cool songwriting award late last year – what was that and how did it come about?
Yeah it was called the Alan Hull award – they give it out every year to a songwriter from the North East. Hull was a songwriter from the band Lindisfarne, who were based up here – they did a song called ‘Run From Home’ which was used in St.James Park. ‘Fog on the Tyne’ was another one of their iconic Newcastle songs. I applied for the award, you have to apply, thankfully I managed to win it. Some of my mates had won it in the past and is a really really cool thing. I’ve never won an award for music before and winning the Alan Hull award is the pinnacle of my musical career so far.
You are now nearly a full time musician – what is it like to be an artist these days and what are the ups and downs you have experienced so far?
The ups and downs: Gigging is definitely one of those massive up and down things. For me, one of the biggest highs I get is when I finish a successful performance and I’m walking off stage. It’s one of the best feelings around. It feels like a mix between relief and being totally buzzed and happy. One of the lows is like when you are getting close to that gig and people aren’t able to make rehearsals and you worry it’s not going to be ready. Another worry are those pre-gig thoughts like ‘is my guitar string going to snap?’ or ‘what if I forget the words?’.
Releases are quite a big high and low aswell for an artist. They can be a bit hit and miss. The metric for success now has obviously become numbers of streams on Spotify. You can definitely fall into the trap of valuing your music solely on how it does on Spotify. I feel like I have stepped back from that now but for a lot of artists will judge themselves on it. I think, as an artist, if you put out a song and it doesn’t do as well as you think it’s going to, it can be a bit of a gut punch. That can be a massive low. Making something you are proud of is what it’s all about really and I believe that if something is good, things will organically happen.
Callum will be releasing his next single on May 8th! Make sure to check it out and have a listen to his previously released material on Spotify here.
I caught up with LANKS recently too. Check that here
Check out last week’s interview with NPR Tiny Desk Contest winner Quinn Christopherson here.
I caught up with new South Coast based eccentric rocker Billy Nomates in April too. She is such a talent. Check that one here.
Interviews on the way – Baiyou
About ‘The Sound Sniffer’
The Sound Sniffer is a music blog which is still only a baby – Founded and run by Kevin Coakley in early 2019. He is a music writer and ghostwriter. ‘The Sound Sniffer’ has also run showcases in London since Oct 2019. The showcases are picked from artists we find in our submissions inbox.