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INTERVIEW: Jason Callear

Jason Caellar is a UK-based singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist who delivers a gritty, eclectic fusion of American music in a wonderfully retro style.

We have had the pleasure of interviewing him and this has been the result.

Can you tell us a little about your experience? Where are you from and how did you get into music?

I’m from Uttoxeter I’m Staffordshire, a doomsday book Roman market town on the edge of the Peak District. It’s a very industrial area. I have musical heritage going back over 100 years on my Fathers side which stretch as far as Vancouver Island. My first memories are of an obsession with percussion but also learned guitar aged six in 1978. I still play a couple of times a year with my original guitar tutor, a Cajun/folk star in our County. I listened to my. Parents vinyl as most did from Rock, Country, Folk, Motown and 60’s icons. From the late 80’s I’d done a small amount of rhythm and lead guitar and a couple as a vocalist which really helped shape my voice but for 20 years, most of my experience was on the drums albeit a key contributor to writing in the bands I played with. I always use an acoustic guitar to write with and demos ultimately ended up as an acoustic jam, which I love in a 90’s ‘Unplugged’ kind of way. In 2001/2 I got the opportunity to play 2 x UK tours and The Whiskey a Go Go in LA with Michael Bruce from Alice Cooper. From 2002 I started recording my own material more and more but didn’t really think about promoting it. In 2012 I released a 4 track EP for the first time at 39 called ‘39’ XXXIX. From that point I started to put together a new album ‘Contrast’ a mix of 60’s and 70’s inspired folk rock. Again I didn’t really promote these and started to take advice on further direction. The result was a hard steer towards Americana and to embark upon professional PR for the first time which has started to bear fruit with the success of ‘Fortunate Sons’, the first release of 12 track Album ‘Train Rolls On’.

How is your sound evolving? What artists and genres do you enjoy mixing right now?

I’m sticking to my guns when it comes to writing in a retro style born out of my main influences. I think there’s a market and I’ve learned the hard lessons not to chase trends. I write from the heart in the hope that the feeling shines through. 😎

How do you feel that your music influences or impacts its listeners?

I know that the folks that have fed back positively and like a sound that harks back to some old favourites and the fusion of genres that are not to over produced. The story telling is the key focus as it should be and my attention to vocal presentation both in the lead and multi-part backing, after all, I believe the voice is king above all else.

What projects are you working on right now? What can you tell us about your last project?

The team are planning the release of the second single from the Album ‘Letter’ which was voted for against 2 other contenders by my followers on the socials. The difference this time from the last track is the following increase and positivity from the engagement.

Has that sound changed a lot in recent years?

In many ways no but vocally I’ve learned to improve the presentation and keep the tracks shorter, more radio friendly and not too cluttered. Less is more.

We all know that the digital revolution has affected sales, but do you think it has affected creativity?

I think it’s helped indie artist to self propel, it certainly enhances your chances of presenting a really good song in a polished and professional sense but also the pool is now a sea so it’s probably more difficult to stand out. Using social platforms is also difficult and folks are probably fatigued with the barrage of unknowns flooding their space with music at all levels. Ultimately thought it’s a pretty level playing field to launch material if your happy to lose money. 😊

Can you tell us about your present and future projects?

The Album is pretty much ready to go, I have a couple of cover versions I’d like to put out separately and I’ve got 6 brand new songs in progress which are workable live as a solo act. I’d very much like to increase live shows in 2023.

Do you remember any album or concert that made you see everything in a different way? I saw Alanis Morrisette in 1995 which was the first gig I’d been to where I could hear everyone and realised that getting the levels absolutely right is key to enjoyment instead of shear volume. She is also an artist that crosses many genres and I applaud that but realise it’s difficult to market an act that’s not firmly boxed off.

Since you got into this professionally, what has helped you grow the most, including believing in yourself?

One thing getting back into being a front man again in an acoustic covers act has reignited my passion to get out live again and interact and dare to experiment with new ideas. I stick to the notion that we all have a place and all add value irrespective of talent and style. The audience will love the variety on offer and we shouldn’t stress too much about how much better you think another act is. (But I do 😬). I do think you should present your content to the best of your ability, not just the recording but the PR. It’s not good enough to just say, ‘hey guys, here’s my new single!, go buy it!’ Again less is more don’t release 20 Travis a month, take your time and build the momentum. Get a good PR company to help with that! 😊

How did you decide to embark on your project?

Again I wanted to properly engage, increase my following and promote the new album so a few conversations later I signed up with Rachel at Scarlet River and enlisted the services of Marc Cotterill at Creative CI to build a team and help with the decisions required to give the songs a push. Rather than just drop the album we took the decision to put out a few singles in advance, nothing new here but it seems to be more effective than I expected. For me I’ve been writing, recording and performing for over 35 years and this is new and exciting for me to finally see a little traction with the right folks on board.

How are you living in the music scene in your city with this cloudy pandemic situation?

Ha. Well I live in a Town where you can play as long as you do ‘Mr Bright side’ so I don’t play so much locally. I think it’s getting back to normal I’m terms of footfall but the wider areas have not really started to bring music back on the menu as yet and now we have the cost of living crisis affecting our venues further. I’ll need to branch out still further and do the miles required to play.

What are your favorite places to hang out in the city?

I’m well located to get out to most major Midlands Cities within 90 minutes. Love The Cavern Club and would love to play there! I played a few cool venues in the past, The Borderline, Mean Fiddler The Bedford and The Underworld in London, Bradford Rio’s, Trillians Newcastle and The Limelight Crewe to name a few. Always looking for something new though.

Have you had time to focus on making music, spending time with your family, or planning future projects?

Yes all of the above. I think the success of the last single has fired up additional enthusiasm, 3 new songs and a collaboration over the festive break, Country walks and entertaining friends so it’s been a good one.

Do you have any final words of wisdom?

Always back yourself, go with your gut, don’t overthink it and most of all enjoy it because if that feeling comes through in you music then folks will notice.

How would you present your work to someone who doesn't know you?

I like to use the word Retro, some might say out of date but trends come and go so I’ll stick with my bio strap line that is ‘A gritty, eclectic fusion of Americana music in a wonderfully retro style’ 😎

And your last project? Where did it come from? And where do you want to lead?

Following professional advice I tuned this album (Train Rolls On) of 12 tracks to suit the Americana genre just by altering my production style a little and I’m really pleased with it. There’s still an amount of cross over in there and you’ll easily spot my influences. I wanted this to be deliberately ‘familiar’. The first 2 singles have landed well with the listener so I’m hoping folks will enjoy the rest of it. Will be out later in ‘23.

What message would you like to convey to the public?

If you love the Country Rock or Folk sounds of the seventies then please check out my tunes, it’s a real shame that most of those good ole bands are long gone but hopefully I can bring a little something back.

How did your latest project come about?

I usually play most of the basic tracks and assemble the demos in my home studio then I’ll take them to my local studio ‘Inspire Music’ to bring them to life in a production sense but also to add any additional instrumentation from our great pool of Staffordshire talent. The songs came thick and fast from 2017 - 2020, just takes me a while to gather all involved post pandemic so it’s ready now once a few singles have gone out.

What do you want to transmit in this work? What is the concept behind it?

It’s not surprisingly a journey back through time, on a train through seaboard station or rolling down a freeway in a Lincoln the hood down and radio blasting. This sound takes me back and makes me feel good and I hope that others feel the same. I’d also love to pick up a film track or similar, I’ve been told a few times that my material would be well suited for sync.

As for your studio, what is it currently made up of?

It’s all pretty dated, I’ve got an 2008 Mac running Logic 9 and a MAudio sound card, late 90’s Alesis MIDI keyboard and Yamaha monitors. It’s enough to capture the basics and I don’t do drums at home, that’s the first job when stepping into the pro studio.

What is the one instrument you would never get rid of, no matter what?

I don’t think I’d part with any electric guitars. It takes a while to find the ones that suit you and can be irreplaceable. I will be adding to the collection in ‘23 with a high end acoustic since mine are not quite the quality I’d like going forward and a little tired.

What was the last record store you visited? And what did you salvage from there?

Well this was a significant past time as a teen and I found some gems bank then from the eras I enjoy but not so much these days. I might set up another record player before I’m done. I do have some vinyl left but parted with some of my collection to pay for other life challenges like bills. 😬

Do you have hope for the future of music? How would you like the future of the music industry to be?

It’s difficult to predict but I have noted that music stopped dating quite so much after the digital age, gone are the synth trends and instrumentation that defined an era. Thanks probably a good thing from my perspective and you can release a song from 5-10 years ago.

I’d hope that the artist might have a fairer share of their streams since I doubt there’ll be any radical changes to accessing music and let’s hope our venues survive in the hope that folks still wanna see a live show.

Can you reveal some future projects?

I’m well into the material for another album and I’d like to maybe do a cover or two, it helps fans as a reference sometimes and would be instantly familiar. Can also be a risk so I’d have to choose wisely. I’d love a little more collaboration even in part, helps to widen your reach and stretch from comfort zones.

What makes you happy?

Music of course, vintage cars, beer and curry. 😊

What bothers you?

Beer and curry. But also our rapid consumption of natural resources. We all have a voice and we should be proud to use it.

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