2013 looks set to be a big year for 18 year old Sam Callahan as he releases his debut single Runaway Train.
We caught up with the singer/songwriter to chat about the new track, working with John McLaughlin and going from a band member to a solo artist.
- You are set to release your debut single Runaway Train early next year so what can we expect from the track?
The track is a bit fresh and a bit new as there is nothing really out there like it at the moment - you have got other solo artists such as Conor Maynard and Justin Bieber but they are more R&B. This track as more instruments and it is a mixture between Ed Sheeran, The Script and McFly.
I write all my own music but this track is about a massive opportunity that I had to walk away from. When I was sixteen I was signed to a management deal with Geri Halliwell and Simon Fuller in a mixed band, it was three girls and two boys.
We did this for two and a half years and we went out to LA and everything was really tight. But for whatever reason it didn’t work out and after two and a half years I said ‘I have got to go and do my own thing now.’
Leaving those people behind and crushing four other kid’s dreams was the hardest thing that I have ever had to do but I had to make that decision and now everything is going really well.
Ultimately I am glad that I did it but it was a really hard decision and that is what I wrote the song about.
- The track is produced by John McLaughlin so how did that collaboration come about?
John is actually managing me at the moment and I have co-wrote with him quite a lot. I wrote that song in my bedroom and I never thought that it would be played on the radio (laughs).
I write a lot with John and he is really helping me out a lot at the moment.
I have got a bit fan base in Scotland and so I have been doing a lot of gigs and radio interviews recently.
John spotted me when I was about fifteen years old when I was gigging in London and he was like ‘come and write with me and we will see what we can thrash out together’.
So I went to Chiswick to write with John and the plan was when I left school I was going to go off and work with him.
But the other opportunity came along and John was like ‘go and see if that suits you better’ but ultimately is didn’t (laughs). So it was meant to be, we came together in the end (laughs).
- You have talked about your growing and it really is growing on social networks and so on so how are you finding all of the early attention that is coming your way?
It is amazing and I love it. When I was in that band I wasn’t really allowed to promote myself but since about June time I have really been able to do that - I had about three and a half or four thousand followers on Twitter and now it has just gone over ten thousand.
I am doing most of what I do via social networking such as YouTube, Facebook and Twitter as well as the website www.samcallahan.co.uk and that has all the links on.
I think the social networking is so important now just to build a fan base and it is somewhere that all the fans can go and they are all together and it is like a little community.
There are different places around the UK that I have more of a fan base; one is London, Scotland and up north I also have quite a big fan base and yet where I live no one knows me (laughs).
When I was in Scotland I had to close my blinds because I had girls hanging around outside my hotel room and I was trying to get changed and stuff and I was like ’oh my god’.
But it has been amazing and I have had some people come to see me at the airport and I had one person follow me up the street when I went to get my Indian one night.
- And how have you found the response to the track so far?
I didn’t expect any of it to snowball as it has and to get as big as it has as quickly as it has.
So it was very surprising but I am chuffed and I think that the outcome is amazing, everyone has just been incredibly supportive.
- Is there an album on the horizon?
I am always in the studio so there will be an album at some point but I have no clue as to when yet.
But I am just keeping working and I am always writing, I have been since I was fourteen, so there is always new material being bashed out.
- Runaway Train is an upbeat pop track so does the rest of the album go down a similar path or have you mixed your sound up a bit?
It is nice to mix it up a bit and have a good variety but I think I am finding my sound now. We might have some ballads on there or some faster tracks but it is all around that genre because when I write that is the sort of sound that comes out.
- We have talked about John already and he is an incredibly experienced producer working with some of the biggest boy bands so how have you found you time with him?
Amazing. John is one of the most genuine people that I have met so far in the music industry. I know that I am only eighteen but I have learnt a lot in the last few years and he has been so helpful.
The only problem is he is hard to get hold of but I guess that means that he is a busy busy guy and because he does very well with what he does.
- You went to the Sylvia Young Theatre School so how did you find your time there?
Sylvia Young’s is really good but it is very musical theatre. A lot of my friends there are now in bands and it is quite weird… it goes from boy bands to lad bands to man bands before they disappear but as they are all disappearing there are a load of bands that are coming through and I have a connection with all of them.
There was a whole group of us, and it was mostly all my friends, who wanted to be in the music industry and be a little bit more serious rather and than the whole jazz hands/musical theatre thing and I guess that didn’t go down well with the teachers because they liked us to be more musical theatre and do exactly what they said.
I suppose at any other school I would be classed at squeaky clean but at Sylvia’s I was more of a boy’s boy and spent most of my time in the head teacher’s office.
- And how did your time there prepare you for the work that you are doing now? Did it give you a good grounding in the industry?
Possibly not in the way that it was suppose to but yes it did. It prepares you for auditions and for how you handle yourself around professional people and in professional situations.
It is a very small school with a lot of very big personalities in close proximity and I think that prepares you to compete with these different personalities and different people as in the musical industry there are some very out there people (laughs). It makes you able to deal with so many different situations.
- You have mentioned the band that you were in already but while that didn’t work out you were managed by Geri Halliwell and Simon Fuller so what were you able to learn from them that you have been able to take forward?
So far that is the period of my life where I learnt the most - the hardest thing is to pin point these things.
I learnt about trust and you have to trust who you are being managed by and who you are working with but I think that there are a lot of people that are hard to trust and it is hard to decide who to trust.
The music industry is full of people who are hard to trust but it is a great industry and you really just have to go for it. Leaving the band was the biggest lesson that I learnt and I learnt that if I was going to leave there was no holding back I had to just go for it.
- So how have you found the transition from band member to solo artist?
I love it (laughs). I like it because you haven’t got to rely on other people. The guys that I left when I was in the band were amazing and I love them all to pieces and wish them all the success in the world.
Doing what I do now personally suits me a lot better as I write my own music and do what I want to do and what suits me.
Being in a manufactured back you tend to get shaped a lot as well which can sometimes be a good thing and sometimes it really isn’t. I am very much my own person (laughs).
- Finally what is coming up for you heading into next year - can we expect big things?
I don’t know as it is so unpredictable - there has been a lot already that I would never have predicted. I am hoping to do some festival and some big gigs and maybe some bigger releases.
Everything I am doing now I just want to double it and make it bigger - so all the radio shows make them bigger radio shows and all the gigs make them bigger gigs and up the fan base again and again and again.
Sam Callahan’s single Runaway Train is released next year.
FemaleFirst Helen Earnshaw