Abbie Callahan, who was raised in Iowa, creates music that is as enthrallingly engaging as the artist herself thanks to her mesmerizing voice and lyrical storytelling. She began her career busking and performing at the neighborhood country fair. later made appearances on American Idol at age seventeen and The Voice at age fifteen.
She is in her final year of study for a songwriting degree at Belmont University. She received the Ashley Gorley songwriting scholarship at Belmont. Because of this chance, she has significantly improved as a songwriter. Abbie gives her songs the room they require to speak for themselves, and her music is a reflection of her worldview and the things she has been through. She creates a brand-new sound by fusing rootsy, Americana elements with contemporary country music. Check out her latest single and the exclusive interview below:
1. Can you tell us a bit about where you come from and how it all got started?
ABBIE CALLAHAN: I grew up in Iowa City, IA with a single mother, an older sister and a younger brother. I started singing in 4th grade when I transferred elementary schools. I entered the talent show because I thought that would be a good way to make friends and I just never could seem to stop since then.
2. Did you have any formal training or are you self-taught?
ABBIE CALLAHAN: I took guitar lessons while I was back in Iowa but I have never taken vocal lessons and I feel really lucky that my voice has been so healthy.
3. Who were your first and strongest musical influences and why the name ‘ABBIE CALLAHAN’?
ABBIE CALLAHAN: Some of my favorite artists and influences are Billy Strings, Dolly Parton and Chris Stapolton. But I am also really inspired by reggae music and I listen to Dirty Heads, The Common Kings and Bob Marley daily. I just decided to go by my name because I want my music to encapsulate me as my authentic person and be open with my listeners.
4. What do you feel are the key elements in your music that should resonate with listeners, and how would you personally describe your sound?
ABBIE CALLAHAN: My biggest focus in my music are the lyrics, that’s what my degree is in so it is just ingrained in my head. My sound is rootsy, story-teller, honest and unique.
5. For most artists, originality is first preceded by a phase of learning and, often, emulating others. What was this like for you? How would you describe your own development as an artist and music maker, and the transition towards your own style, which is known as COUNTRY?
ABBIE CALLAHAN: I didn’t grow up on country music but I always appreciated more rootsy music and my first concert was actually Dolly Parton. When I moved to Nashville, I started line dancing a lot and that got me into listening to country music. I started falling in love with the stories that the lyrics told. I definitely wouldn’t put myself in the category of making authentic country music but it’s somewhere adjacent to that.
6. What’s your view on the role and function of music as political, cultural, spiritual, and/or social vehicles – and do you try and affront any of these themes in your work, or are you purely interested in music as an expression of technical artistry, personal narrative, and entertainment?
I like to use my music as a way to not think about politics or the world around us too much, I do however like to talk about day to day issues like addiction, abuse and the realities of life. I love writing fun music as well and that is what most of my music is, its for entertainment.
7. Do you feel that your music is giving you back just as much fulfillment as the amount of work you are putting into it or are you expecting something more, or different in the future?
My whole goal in life was to make a living by playing music and to make music that I am proud of and I achieved that so moving into the next chapter of my life I would like to make my living by playing my original music. I am excited for the ride but I try not to have expectations for how things are going to go and instead just make music that I am really proud of.
8. Could you describe your creative processes? How do usually start, and go about shaping ideas into a completed song? Do you usually start with a tune, a beat, or a narrative in your head? And do you collaborate with others in this process?
ABBIE CALLAHAN: I usually start with a word or a concept that inspires me or that I’ve been thinking of. I write down at least one idea in my iphone notes everyday. I add to that idea just more words that inspire me or little verse or chorus ideas and then the time will come to complete the song and the majority of the song will already be written in my notes. I write the melody and at the same time that I am putting all the words I wrote down into a digestible song. I co-write often and I really enjoy that process, it’s a great way to get really close to people really fast. You have to lay it all out there with the hope of writing a good song.
9. What has been the most difficult thing you’ve had to endure in your life or music career so far?
ABBIE CALLAHANR: I have definitely faced some challenges in my path. I dealt with an abusive father growing up and then after I moved to Nashville a couple years ago, I was sexually assaulted. These are the two major hardships I have encountered and with both of them I had to come to the realization that it wasn’t my fault. I wrote a song about my childhood called “Journal Song” and that was a great way to heal from it. I will do the same with the assault when the time is right.
10. On the contrary, what would you consider a successful, proud or significant point in your life or music career so far
ABBIE CALLAHAN: I feel the most proud of my music when my family gets to see me perform, they are all my biggest supporters and I don’t know what I did to deserve such love. I am also always the most proud of my music when people go out of their way to come up to me after a show and compliment the song or send me a text or dm telling me how the song impacted them. It’s such a unique feeling.
11. With social media having a heavy impact on our lives and the music business in general, how do you handle criticism, haters, and/or naysayers in general? Is it something you pay attention to, or simply ignore?
ABBIE CALLAHAN: I get a lot of hate performing downtown Nashville. I play down there 5-6 times each week and every time someone says something negative to me there are ten people waiting to say something nice. I think spreading hate is insane, I would never take the time out of my day to go ruin someone else’s. I always feel bad for them, they must not be very happy or satisfied with their life.
12. Creative work in a studio or home environment, or interaction with a live audience? Which of these two options excites you most, and why?
ABBIE CALLAHAN: . I love it all. They excite me in different ways. The studio is intimate and the creativity is so contagious. I love the energy in the studio. It’s calm, inspiring, and welcoming. I also am addicted to live performing, there is nothing like entertaining a crowd and letting yourself fully feel the music. So studio vs. life performance really depends on the day
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