Callum Beattie17th December 2022, by Darryn Crow
Callum Beattie’s story is one of truth and persistence. The songwriter started his journey more than a decade ago, and he’s done it the hard way – but, as he insists, it’s the only path worth a damn. After years spent knocking on the doors of London record execs, this Scottish-based talent found that by remaining true to himself he could communicate in a way that few could match. Debut LP ‘People Like Us’ was an astonishing breakout success on its 2020 release, but with new album ‘Vandals’ he wants more – much more. Brought up in a working class, single-parent household on the fringes of Edinburgh, Callum Beattie quickly gravitated towards music. His father would constantly have the stereo playing in their tiny flat, educating his son in the classics – vintage blues, soul, and rock. Led Zeppelin and David Bowie became early touchstones, before Callum discovered groups like Oasis. “Anything with a good song, that’s all I really cared about, that’s what would catch my ear,” he recalls. “And then I start reading the writing credits of a lot of these artists, and just became obsessed with writing songs… so I got a guitar and started doing it myself.” Hurling himself into the local open mic circuit, Callum Beattie pushed himself harder and harder. Bold and ambitious, every gig became an opportunity to make a connection, finessing his craft in front of the some of the demanding audiences around. “When I write songs, I’m imagining that people are screaming them back to me at festivals,” he says. “If I don’t get that feeling, then I probably won’t stick with it. I like anthemic music, and I guess this new album is exactly that.” But it’s taken a huge amount of commitment to get to this point. During those soul-sapping weeks and months in London, Callum Beattie was told to change virtually every aspect of his life – his accent, his sound, even his name. “I went down there to follow my dream,” he says. “So to hear stuff like that… well, you can imagine how pissed off it made me. It made me incredibly rebellious.” Returning to Scotland, guitar in hand, Callum Beattie’s lucky break came when a dance DJ lifted his vocal, and placed it on a club track. Ears pricked up, 3 Beat Records intervened and suddenly doors began opening up. Debut album ‘People Like Us’ became a phenomenon, hitting the top spot on the Scottish charts and breaking out nationally. The hard-hewn home truths behind ‘Salamander Street’ for example – in actuality, about the life of a prostitute – or the naked emotion of ‘Daddy’s Eyes’ won over countless fans. Callum Beattie’s route is paved with empathy, a working class voice speaking with a profound honesty. “You have to have emotion,” he says. “That’s what music is – it’s about making somebody feel better about their life. And it’s also storytelling. They’re all stories, every song.” Unrepentant about the world he grew up in, Callum Beattie equally isn’t asking for a hand-up, or a sympathy note. “I hate sob stories,” he says. “This isn’t X Factor. Yeah, I was brought up by my Dad and things were difficult but there’s a lot of things to be celebrated there, as well. Let’s look at the positives. That’s what I’m trying to get out of it, really.” New album ‘Vandals’ goes right back to his roots. A selection of songs penned about Scotland, working class life, and coming of age, it also contains a rare universality. Worth comparing to peers such as Gerry Cinnamon, there’s also a hint of Frank Turner into his precocious, speakingtruth-to-power sensibility. At times, it’s almost punk in its desire to be up-front, raw, and – especially – honest. “It’s nice to be back in Scotland, doing this new album – everything about it is Scottish,” he grins. “Every person who played on it is Scottish. It was recorded in Glasgow, written in Glasgow. It feels more natural now that I’m away from that world.” Recorded at Castle Of Doom in Glasgow alongside close friend Chris Marshall, Callum eschewed fly-by-night London music industry tactics by building his band with people like him - ambitious, rough around the edges musicians from Scotland’s live music circuit. “I spoke to my manager, and I just said: look, I want to do things differently. I just want to work with people who have got good energy and are hungry to make a good record. I picked up some friends I knew, from my years playing in the pubs. Now they’re in the band, and it feels good.” After 18 months of pandemic enforced lockdown, the quickfire album sessions came as sweet relief to this relentlessly ambitious songwriter. “The feeling of just going into a studio, turning the guitar up full blast, and start strumming away… there’s no better feeling, really.” Lead single ‘Heart Stops Beating’ was also the first song recorded for the album – a breakneck slice of indie-punk that splices towards Buzzcocks and the more refined songwriting of Lewis Watson, say. “It’s a statement of intent,” he says. “It’s full of spirit. Honesty. What you see, is what you get.” By contrast, though, a song such as ‘Mammy’ lay bare his childhood memories, that experience of love but also longing. “It's very therapeutic, writing songs. If you’re writing songs that are emotional, and close to your heart, then obviously it can be like opening a can of worms at times. I don’t find them particularly easy to sing, but that’s how you know you’re singing about something that’s real. It’s a good sign.” A record that is unrepentant, and ruthlessly honest, ‘Vandals’ is the sound of a songwriter finally able to speak to his truth. After years on the sidelines, this is Callum Beattie’s moment. “It’s so hard to see people do well, when you know as a songwriter you could wipe the floor with them. And I’m not meaning that in an egotistical way, it’s the hard truth,” he comments. “But equally I’m a great believer in creating your own luck.” On the brink of a key moment in his life, Callum Beattie is now balancing the scars of the past and the promise of the future. His new album ‘Vandals’ could transform his life – but he’s fought for the space to be his own judge. “At the end of the day I’ve made a record that’s me,” he says, “and I love it for that reason."