I had the chance to chat with Callie McCullough following the release of her latest single “Three Quarter Time” and despite the mellow sound of this track, she’s a firecracker!
The artist possesses a dry wit and confidence that immediately gives the impression of old friends catching up over drinks.
I caught up with her after a snowy drive from Ontario back to Nashville just following the CCMAs, which she attended for the first time since 2016. McCullough’s album “After Midnight”, which she began working on in 2017, was nominated for Best Alternative Country Album.
The album was a labour of love, funded by McCullough’s tip jar earnings, as she quickly found that her style didn’t align with what the industry was promoting.
McCullough comes from a very musical family, with her mother performing under the stage name Ronnie Summers (winning the CCMA’s Rising Star of the Year in 1984) and her father touring the rock/blues/folk circuit in the 1980s.
Her parents met while touring and continued to do so after they married, leading to McCullough spending half her childhood backstage and half on the family farm, eventually touring Canada, Europe, and the US as a bluegrass-country duo with her mother for 7 years.
Watch The Music Video For “Three Quarter Time”
“I had a very, very traditional rural upbringing coupled with like a family musical caravan backstage adventure – jams in the house, that sort of thing – started playing guitar when I was 8, started playing piano when I was 5, was always singing, was always making up songs”.
Though McCullough has a deep respect for the talent and hard work of other artists, she feels strongly that the country music industry “[puts] people in boxes that are so inexplicably narrow-minded and tiny that it is killing creativity”, finding it “very disheartening to have a love and desire to make that music [that brought me to Nashville] and be told ‘well no, if you want us to sign you then you have to do this thing that you hate’” – a sentiment which she expresses throughout “Three Quarter Time”.
McCullough co-wrote “Three Quarter Time” with Scotty Kiper and Ryan Sorestad, and the track features artists from Grammy winning bands Union Station (Alison Krauss) and The Time Jumpers (Vince Gill).
“Three Quarter Time” is really the story of this record and my years in Nashville. Every lyric in this song is something that actually happened to me. Once after a long gig downtown I turned over the tip jar and amongst the ones, fives and twenty dollar bills out rolled a nickel and four pennies…nine cents- not a dime. This song is about the journey of musicians grinding it out in Nashville and it’s about my stone-cold love for sad songs…it’s a ballad about ballads…it’s me in a nutshell.”
More About CallieMcCullough
McCullough’s taste in music is eclectic – her main influences include Celine Dion, Gordon Lightfoot, Great Big Sea, James Taylor, Merle Haggard, Simon and Garfunkel, Irish ballads, Paul Brandt (especially his acoustic album, particularly “Virgil and the Holy Ghost”), and many others. She credits her lilting vocals to her time in a Celtic band as a teenager.
“When you make music organically versus formulaically, what spills out naturally when you’re making music […] is essentially the sum of everything that has made you … so the influences play a big role”
When asked what her current favourite artists are, McCullough admitted that she doesn’t listen to a lot of new music, but appreciates artists like Ashley McBride, Tenille Arts, Liam Titcomb, Mallory Johnson, and Chris Canterbury.
When not making, playing, or enjoying music. McCullough spends her time hanging out with her new cat (named Kitty), golfing (when the season is right), buying fresh flowers and arranging them, learning about alternative medicine and natural healing, and reading.
“I’m also really good at eating Mexican food”.
Her current go-to tracks are:
“If Hollywood Don’t Want Me” by Don Williams,
“Easy on Me” by Adele
Relaxing cat music playlist on Spotify (yes, you read that right – apparently it’s far more relaxing than people-relaxing music).
Check out “Three Quarter Time” and make sure to add it to your favourite playlist of melancholy tracks!
Stream “Three Quarter Time” ByCallieMcCullough
Growing up, I was an avid country music hater. Dean Brody won me over in my 20s and my enjoyment of the genre has steadily increased since then, especially after moving to Alberta. I'm a lover of music, explorer of new places, asker of questions, admirer of nature, and socializer extraordinaire.