Calan Mai Knows How To Tell A Story

Emily Treadgold #3, Features Leave a Comment

Calan Mai has a crazy ability to write. "We've Got Love" immediately hooks the listener with quick lyrics that delve into his world. The song is dripping in sunshine and it brings back an aspect of music that was fading away, true storytelling.

How did you get started in music?

It depends what you mean by started. My best friend taught me guitar at 13 and I mostly just wanted to be Jimmy Page or someone similar—doing crazy solos, wearing tight clothing and blowing up hotel toilets. But then I fell into songwriting and found myself playing acoustic guitar and trying to make people cry. Even after all that, it took a lot longer to really start taking the whole thing seriously and pursuing music as my vocation. Who knows what I'll want to be next? Maybe a rapper.

Tell me about your song “We’ve Got Love”

“We've Got Love” is a song about my family and what it means to love and be loved unconditionally.

I love the storytelling aspect. Why was it important for you to tell a story with the song?

I mean, I think it's impossible for a song like this not to be a story. You can't write about the lives of real people without weaving a narrative. I think that's the way we make sense of our lives in general—by turning the hard bits into little stories that we read back to ourselves. It's a part of the process of becoming okay with things you can't change.

Why would you ever talk shit about Bob Dylan?! Totally kidding but I love that line I’ve heard he’s kind of a jerk.

I think most great artists are probably big jerks. I've heard a lot of questionable stories about Bob. As a teenager I was absolutely obsessed with him and tried collecting as much information as possible. I also spent an embarrassing amount of time perfecting my Dylan impersonation. I'm sure I'm not the only folk singer who's done this.

I saw your Kendrick Lamar cover, I like how you made it into your own. Why did you choose to cover him?

I think lyrics should be used to tell a story and that's exactly what Kendrick Lamar does. He lets you into his world and shows you a life you might be unfamiliar with—full of different rules, different words, different dreams. That's what all great art should do. I also just love challenging myself with an unconventional cover. I never really planned to play it live but now it's one of my favourites. Plus, 'Humble' is a certified banger.

What’s the message you want your listeners to take away from your music?

I'm not sure that I have an overall message because every song is saying something different. But if people listen to my music and feel a bit less alone, then that makes me happy.

What’s your songwriting process like?

The process is always changing. When I started writing songs, I wrote the lyrics first. Now I write the lyrics and music at the same time. It starts with a little line, a hook, a chord change—something that grabs your attention and makes you stop and think. If that doesn't happen, I walk away and do something else. Forcing a song is like willing inspiration. It's sort of impossible.

What’s been the biggest highlight of your career so far?

Opening for Band of Horses at the Manchester Albert Hall!

What’s the best piece of advice you would give to a young musician?

Write, perform and record as much as possible. You don't have to release the music you record. In fact, you should always think twice about releasing anything. Take your time. You only get one chance to show the world your debut album!

Calan Mai has a crazy ability to write. "We've Got Love" immediately hooks the listener with quick lyrics that delve into his world. The song is dripping in sunshine and it brings back an aspect of music that was fading away, true storytelling.

How did you get started in music?

It depends what you mean by started. My best friend taught me guitar at 13 and I mostly just wanted to be Jimmy Page or someone similar—doing crazy solos, wearing tight clothing and blowing up hotel toilets. But then I fell into songwriting and found myself playing acoustic guitar and trying to make people cry. Even after all that, it took a lot longer to really start taking the whole thing seriously and pursuing music as my vocation. Who knows what I'll want to be next? Maybe a rapper.

Tell me about your song “We’ve Got Love”

“We've Got Love” is a song about my family and what it means to love and be loved unconditionally.

I love the storytelling aspect. Why was it important for you to tell a story with the song?

I mean, I think it's impossible for a song like this not to be a story. You can't write about the lives of real people without weaving a narrative. I think that's the way we make sense of our lives in general—by turning the hard bits into little stories that we read back to ourselves. It's a part of the process of becoming okay with things you can't change.

Why would you ever talk shit about Bob Dylan?! Totally kidding but I love that line I’ve heard he’s kind of a jerk.

I think most great artists are probably big jerks. I've heard a lot of questionable stories about Bob. As a teenager I was absolutely obsessed with him and tried collecting as much information as possible. I also spent an embarrassing amount of time perfecting my Dylan impersonation. I'm sure I'm not the only folk singer who's done this.

I saw your Kendrick Lamar cover, I like how you made it into your own. Why did you choose to cover him?

I think lyrics should be used to tell a story and that's exactly what Kendrick Lamar does. He lets you into his world and shows you a life you might be unfamiliar with—full of different rules, different words, different dreams. That's what all great art should do. I also just love challenging myself with an unconventional cover. I never really planned to play it live but now it's one of my favourites. Plus, 'Humble' is a certified banger.

What’s the message you want your listeners to take away from your music?

I'm not sure that I have an overall message because every song is saying something different. But if people listen to my music and feel a bit less alone, then that makes me happy.

What’s your songwriting process like?

The process is always changing. When I started writing songs, I wrote the lyrics first. Now I write the lyrics and music at the same time. It starts with a little line, a hook, a chord change—something that grabs your attention and makes you stop and think. If that doesn't happen, I walk away and do something else. Forcing a song is like willing inspiration. It's sort of impossible.

What’s been the biggest highlight of your career so far?

Opening for Band of Horses at the Manchester Albert Hall!

What’s the best piece of advice you would give to a young musician?

Write, perform and record as much as possible. You don't have to release the music you record. In fact, you should always think twice about releasing anything. Take your time. You only get one chance to show the world your debut album!

Follow Calan Mai on Spotify, Twitter, and Instagram

  • Emily Treadgold

    Music aficionado and editor-in-chief at The New Nine. I'm most at home at festivals and concerts. I would love to start a band of all Kanye covers all on keys. I'm a dedicated Jack White fan and when I saw him in concert it changed my life. I'd never seen someone so passionate about music and preserving its history. Every project he does I just worship. Follow me on Twitter and Insta: @etreadgold

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