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Interview: Callum Beattie is so much more than the Boris Brexit Song

Brig caught up with songwriter Callum Beattie on toxic masculinity, politics and Scottish football.

It seems like the only way is up for Edinburgh born singer/songwriter Callum Beattie, who came to light in recent weeks with his viral hit about new Prime Minister Boris Johnson, suitably titled: Boris Brexit Song.

Callum’s down to earth charisma and talent have in recent weeks led to him supporting Robbie Williams at Hyde Park Summer Sessions. That same charm and magnetism forecasts great things in the coming years.

It is with this new-found prominence that Callum embarks on a busking tour around Europe, where all donations from performing will be donated to the homeless of each city.

Brig caught up with Callum at Tiree Music Festival in early July after a stunning performance in the Scottish sunshine.  

This is your first time playing Tiree Music Festival how are you finding the Hebridean lifestyle? 

Callum: Yeah, It’s my first time here, as soon as I came off the boat, I saw sheep in folk’s gardens and I thought that’s the type of hoose I want.

And you’ve had quite a journey? 

Callum: Aye, I stay sadly in London at the minute and it took me five hours on the train, a four-hour drive, a four-hour ferry to get here. Then tomorrow I fly at eight in the morning back to Glasgow, then a train to London for a gig supporting Robbie Williams on Sunday.

That’s massive, you must be ecstatic. Let’s go back to your first gig when you had just started out, where was that?  

I used to play round the pubs in Edinburgh. There’s a bar that I first started off in at Easter Road called the Loch Inn. I mean it’s dreadful there, but the owners are lovely. 

Before I could ask if Easter Road held some extra significance, Callum laughs and cuts me off, “no I don’t support Hibs.”

It’s funny because I wrote that Boris song, right I canny stand Tories because it’s just austerity and everything. That’s why I wrote it, it’s funny because for some reason in Scottish football, politics always seems to get involved. Nowhere else in the world just Scotland.

I was brought up as a Rangers fan, my dad was born in Maryhill. His dad was a Rangers fan but he’s always been very clear that it’s not about discriminating people on their views so I’ve never ever been politically driven from a football team.

I have always been my own thoughts and processes.  

Do you think that gives you an advantage as a songwriter? 

I like to say what I think and just tell the truth. The first pub I used to play in for example, I would walk in the guys that were always there were regulars, and sadly had alcohol addiction problems. They would drink through straws for the first couple of pints till hands would stop shaking because they wanted a drink straightaway.

In the same pub, I used to get paid 40 quid for a Friday night and at the same time every night there used to be this prostitute that came in and she used to sit on the bar stool right opposite me, and she had nae pants on and just sort of had her legs open in front of me. There’s a story for you.

So that was my first couple of gigs, I learnt fast. But I definitely think it is the best start any song writer, a true song writer could want, because you’ve just got stories straight away.

How did your passion for music first begin?  

Callum: Well my dad brought me up on his own. It started off there, every night after school he’d get a bottle of wine for himself and he’d maybe give me half a glass.

Then he’d just play Elton John, Rod Stewart, Pink Floyd, The Who, all these amazing artists. I became obsessed with the writing credits, and that’s when I started deciding I want to be one of those guys on the sleeve.

I begged him to get me a guitar, so he saved up some money and got me one. Then he said to me when I was about fourteen, “we can go on holiday to Tenerife and camp or we can drive down to the south of England go to as many gigs as we want to go to, but we need to sleep in the car” and I was like it was a no brainer, so we went down to see The Who in Hyde Park.

Now, I’m supporting Robbie Williams there and that was the first gig I went to where I was like right this is what I want to do for the rest of my life. So, it’ll be quite an emotional thing to go back there and play and be like fuck I did it. 

That really will be a special experience but was there ever anything else you wanted to do? 

Callum: No really, I left school with no qualifications. I always loved music even back in English class I was drawing pictures of myself at Glastonbury with crowds of people. 

I think I deliberately gave myself no choice so it’s this or nothing. You need to do something with this and I knew it was going to take that. I never had anything else on my mind. I pushed trolleys in Tesco once that was about it. 

How do you feel about being known for ‘Boris Brexit song’, which is really different from your other material, which is beautifully written and touch on some tough topics?

Callum: That’s the thing the Boris song has obviously gone viral on Facebook but  it’s kinda weird. I’ve got better songs than that, it’s just a piss take song I wrote.  

Like your track, ‘We Are Stars’?

Callum: Aye it’s about a guy, well I think a lot of guys and women could relate to it. You know they get into relationships, date people and fall in love with them. Yet, when they want to talk about things that are more sensitive a lot of men bury their heads in the sand because it’s like we’re clearly no – I mean some people will disagree with this – but we are just clearly no programmed to reveal our emotions that openly because we feel uncomfortable with it.  

I still feel like that sometimes. I was crying on the phone to my mum a couple weeks ago on the phone about all sorts. I was like aw look at me a grown man crying cause I was embarrassed by it, and she was like naw don’t ever be. 

You never should be ashamed of your feelings for any reason but it can take a lot to get out of these reinforced ideals of toxic masculinity, do you think it’s still a problem?

Callum: I think it is a big problem. I’ve always been really sensitive even when I was singing at school. I remember people would shout “gay boy” and I’m not gay, and so what if I fucking was. It wasn’t actually till a few years later you I started to realise I’m just sensitive and I think that’s why I write music to pour out my sensitivity and feelings.

Best gig you’ve ever played?

Callum: I played Shetland with KT Tunstall. I love ‘Other Side Of The World.’ I know she’s got ‘Black Horse And The Cherry Tree,’ which is more edgy but I just love the long distance relationship.

“Over the sea and far away, She’s waiting like an iceberg, Waiting to change, But she’s cold inside, She wants to be like the water” I think that’s a fucking great lyric.  

You can tell you write their own songs, I know there’s artists that dinnae write there own songs. I wont say cause I don’t want to get in trouble. 

What would you say is your all time favourite song? 

Callum: One song that touches me every time is ‘Wild Mountain Thyme’, you know that song it goes, “Oh, the summertime is comin’, And the trees are sweetly bloomin’ And the wild mountain thyme…”. It reminds me of my granny so I love that song. 

Callum Beattie plays the Garage in Glasgow and Mash House in Edinburgh on a Scottish tour this September – tickets

 

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