Bright Future Ahead
At first glance, Straalen McCallum may look like a typical 18-year-old – a keen surfer living the life on the beaches of Kirra. But with an art for smooth vocals and cruisy acoustics, he is anything but your average teenager.
With sun-bleached locks and a beaming smile stretching ear-to-ear, Straalen McCallum strolls into my local coffee shop and greets me like a long-lost friend.
Rising to fame at just 12 years of age, Straalen was the youngest solo artist ever to be signed by Sony Music Australia. From performing on the cult classic television program, Hey Hey it’s Saturday, to singing the national anthem to a crowd of thousands at the 2010 State Of Origin, Straalen is a teenager seasoned far beyond his youth.
Six years on, the singer/songwriter has waved goodbye to Sony, biting the bullet and redirecting his musical journey to an independent pathway. With over 250,000 Facebook views on his first original single Be Mine Tonight, his future is glowing with promise. Radiating a cool and relaxed charisma, Straalen and I chat over coffee about staying true to himself, his inspirations and the release of his upcoming EP.
profile: You were the youngest person ever signed to Sony. What made you decide to follow an independent pathway instead?
straalen: Sony was great experience, but I found as I got older, I was being lead into more of a pop market. I like to see myself as a serious musician – I don’t want to be seen as ‘just a kid’. The best way to define yourself as an artist is releasing your own music. It’s the only way people are going to get to really know you.
profile: You produced your first original single Be Mine Tonight with Lindsay Jackson. What was it like working with him?
straalen: It’s cool working with someone you get really good vibes off and bounce ideas off really well. There are writing sessions that can be so bland and boring, but with Lindsay it was the opposite. We shot the whole EP in two days, and he has a cut on one of Tori Kelly’s singles that got nominated for a Grammy. He’s got his hands in so many things, it’s crazy!
profile: How would you define your style of music without the restriction of a genre ?
straalen: A cross between Keith Urban, James Bay and Ed Sheeran.
profile: What is the creative process of your writing?
straalen: In each song I like to touch on a different subject or send a different message; I find that it’s the best way to write. I know that in the pop world they can pick up a pen and paper, and follow an exact formula to write a song. But when I write a song I see it as a diary. It’s my feelings, it’s my emotions; it’s everything that was involved in the event that I was experiencing at the time.
profile: What was it like performing to such a massive crowd at the State Of Origin?
straalen: I was this 12-year-old kid with spiky hair and a big voice who didn’t know what he was doing. There were 53,000 people and this was the second game where Queensland was going to win five-in-a-row, so the crowd was just nuts. It was a crazy experience and a great memory.
profile: What will we hear from you next?
straalen: My next single is Help. It’s probably one of my favourite songs on the EP.
profile: What has been a favourite moment of your career?
straalen: This upcoming EP would have to be my favourite. It’s 100 per cent me and I’m having the most fun I’ve ever had. Releasing Be Mine Tonight is just the start of it. Help made it to the finals in the Australian Songwriting Competition, so I was pretty stoked about that – I was sharing this competition with big names like Birds of Tokyo and Matt Corby.
profile: What are your top goals for 2016?
straalen: To get played on Triple J, support someone like James Bay, Ed Sheeran or Taylor Swift, get this EP to number one on the charts, and get a new surfboard.
Be Mine Tonight is available on iTunes. Follow Straalen’s journey at: www.straalenmusic.com