As March 27 passed this year, so did the one year anniversary of Callie McCullough’s standout debut EP, After Midnight. Named one of our favorite EPs of 2020, McCullough certainly made quite the first impression, and now a year later, both McCullough and After Midnight are getting the recognition they deserve.
She’s currently nominated for both Songwriter of the Year and Rising Star of the Year at the Country Music Association of Ontario Awards, and the album’s producer, Dustin Olyan, is up for Record Producer of the Year. The EP has collectively earned well over 100,000 Spotify streams, and most recently, McCullough is celebrating the release of her new music video for track five on After Midnight, “No Good Way,” which saw her returning home to Ontario and shooting at the historic Revival House.
We caught up with McCullough to chat about the success of After Midnight, filming the “No Good Way” music video, how she’s stayed busy, her plans for the rest of the year and more!
Pro Country: The last time we talked, you mentioned it was a long road for you to releasing your debut EP, After Midnight. Now that just over a year has passed since its release, how do you look back on the EP and the songs on it?
Callie McCullough: Hi Guys! First of all thanks so much for chatting with me again, it’s always so good to hear from you! Yes, the making of After Midnight was a lot of me finding my feet and my own voice as a solo artist and a songwriter after years of being in a band. Looking back on it, I’m so grateful that we did take our time with it, because I can still look at these songs and this album and say “Yes, that was so truly me at that time.” I love every piece of this record and the way that we made it.
PC: After Midnight earned well over 100,000 combined Spotify streams, as well as thousands of listens, streams and views across platforms. What did tangibly being able to see the support you received on the EP mean to you?
CM: You know, it felt good! For a first EP out of the gate, for an independent artist making roots music, with an album full of ballads, you’ve got every industry thing going against you right there. So the fact that people dug in, listened and sent messages saying they loved this music and what the songs meant to them was, for me, really amazing.
PC: “No Good Way” is a song you co-wrote with Scotty Kipfer. Can you talk about how the song came together and the inspiration behind it?
CM: Yes, “No Good Way” was only the second of the many songs I’ve written with Scotty (we currently live in different countries, but any chance we get, there’s chicken wings, tequila and songs). Anyway, that night, we were sitting at the kitchen table at the condo where Scotty was staying at the time. It was late and we were talking about someone’s past love life issues, and somewhere in the discussions, I just said, “Well, there’s no good way to break a heart, Scotty,” and we just looked at each other; there was our song. We stayed up all night writing it, and by the time I was driving home, it was sunrise. The whole thing was one of those perfect organic kind of times where you really feel the magic.
PC: You recently released a music video for “No Good Way,” which was filmed in your home town with a video crew all from your hometown as well. What was it like for you to be able to film the video in such a comfortable, familiar environment?
CM: Filming the video for “No Good Way” was special for a lot of reasons. I was home for the winter in beautiful snowy Ontario, Canada enjoying some family time, but our Province was enduring a series of very strict COVID lockdowns, which were really difficult on our communities. I managed to stay sane writing songs and doing horse chores, but as that lockdown lifted, I sparked an idea, so in a flurry of calls to Revival House, an incredible venue in Stratford, Ontario, the album’s producer, Dustin Olyan, and some super talented video friends in my hometown, Zack Bryson and Kris Von Kleist, the shoot for the “No Good Way” video came together in just a couple days! The concept for the video was a tip of the hat to the way we built the song from the ground up in the studio, with Dustin layering each part one at a time at his home studio, and I jumped at the chance to sneak into a showstoppingly beautiful church turned live music venue to shoot for the day. This shoot was a community of creatives pulling together to make something beautiful. It was a magical day that felt like coming back to life after a long winter’s nap, and now it’s a piece of my hometown that I get to share with the world!
PC: You’ve been nominated for both Songwriter of the Year and Rising Star of the Year at the Country Music Association of Ontario Awards. Can you talk about the emotions that came with those nominations?
CM: Yeah, it’s pretty wild! It’s been a long road around for me sticking to my guns about the kind of music I want to make, so to see this album recognized in mainstream Country Music Awards back home in Canada is pretty cool, and it also goes to show that audiences care about Roots Music! To make it even more special, sharing in the nomination excitement is Dustin Olyan, the album’s producer, up for “Record Producer of the Year,” and I get to share the “Songwriter of the Year” nomination with my good friend, Scotty Kipfer, for the title track “After Midnight.” I made this record with my best friends, so I’m really proud of us and I’m proud of this music!
PC: The past year and a half has been a trying time for most. In the midst of live performances largely being cancelled, how have you been able to stay busy and creative? What has the adjustment been like for you?
CM: For me, like everyone in the arts, my whole life went upside down this past year, but I’ll tell you, my family really was the saving grace. I’m very fortunate that I come from a great, big and very close-knit family; many of whom are musicians. I’m about the third generation, so they really understood. I ended up spending more than half of the past year back home in Canada between the cabin at the lake, the family farm and my sister’s house. After eight years of living hundreds of miles from home, despite all the crazy times, that was a massive silver lining. Doing horse chores, putting up countless cans of homemade salsa and pickled garden things, which we nicknamed “Homestead Story,” getting to snuggle my first baby niece and make up silly songs for her, I kept writing songs both in person and online, playing guitar, hiking and snowshoeing the closed down ski hills with my cousins, just getting to hang out and do day to day things with my parents again, like go for a walk or have dinner, or even come over for coffee for the first time in years was pretty special. I think you forget what it feels like to have family around after so many years of being far away. I was really feeling the pain of not playing shows with everything coming to a screeching halt, but we really made the best of it and soaked in our time together.
PC: Of the things you can control, what are your plans for the rest of 2021?
CM: Well, I’m happy to say that slowly some of the shows are coming back, so as of now I’m starting to play around Nashville and ABSOLUTELY looking forward to getting back out on the road as soon as I can! Lots of new songs that I’m excited to share, loving getting to collaborate in the same room with people again, so perhaps getting back into the studio, and maybe one more video from the After Midnight album in the works. It’s the 2020s decade now, so anything can happen! Also, I garden now. Thanks to my time back home, I’m officially a crazy plant lady, so I’m loving doing that this spring!
PC: Is there anything you’d like to add?
CM: Thanks so much for the chat guys and all the thoughtful questions! I think what you are doing and what you stand for is so great. I really love Traditional Country and Roots music with all my heart, and surely hope that we get to hear more of those sounds on Country Radio again soon! What you are doing matters, and really means so much to artists like myself, so thank you Pro Country, you’re an absolute gem!