When Callie McCullough was in the first grade, she wrote in her journal, “When I grow up, I will be a singer.” In reality, that passion to pursue music blossomed well before she even knew how to speak or spell. In fact, her mother says she was “born singing” first.
McCullough’s love of music stems from her musical parents, who filled their home with folk, country, rock, and blues albums. But beyond sound-tracking McCullough’s childhood with classic tunes by Gordon Lightfoot and Joni Mitchell, their day-to-day lives, performing onstage and recording in studios, helped shape her world-view: “It was all so normal to me,” she says.
That sense of normalcy led McCullough to pen her first song at 14, and soon after head out on the road to perform as a country duo with her mother. “She really showed me the ropes,” says McCullough. “How to book gigs, how to talk onstage, how to run sound and lights.”
By the time McCullough reached her twenties, though, she felt drawn to Nashville, away from her Ontario roots. On the heels of a tour with her family, she decided to pack up her station wagon and make the permanent move, as many other Canadian country up-and-comers have.
In early 2020, McCullough will release her solo debut six-song EP, After Midnight, which, coincidentally, involves co-writing and production by some fellow Canadian ex-pats in Nashville: Scotty Kipfer, Ryan Sorestad, and Dustin Olyan. Its first single, “Five Dollar Pearls,” is a honeyed ballad that takes its time to languish in its banjo flourishes, but most importantly shine a spotlight on McCullough’s endearing voice.
McCullough admits that she’s still going through “industry ups and downs” as she settles into the fast-paced world down South, but After Midnight was a passion project that kept her motivated. “I’ll do it forever, even if nobody cares,” she says, of making music, especially on her own terms – which may not always veer towards what’s trendy in country music right now. “I made this album to be exactly who I am,” she says. “We’ve unapologetically crossed genres and expectations in pursuit of making good music.
“No one knows what to call it,” she concludes, “and that’s fine with me.”