At just 19, Callie Wilson has been making her mark on the Birmingham music scene with performances at Saturn, The Nick, Cahaba Brewing, and the 2016 Southbound Music Festival. Earlier this month, she released the debut EP of The Lie Within Callie, Book of Hypocrisy —A formidable collection of songs she recorded with Will Mason (formerly of Moses Mayfield, cofounder of Mason Music). Wilson will be celebrating with a CD release show at The Syndicate Lounge this Friday, December 23.
Recently, Wilson spoke about the genesis of the Lie Within Callie as well as the special guests who made their appearance on her EP.
Weld: You’re tackling some heavy subject matter for a debut. Where was the genesis of all this material, and what was the timeline for the writing and recording of this collection of songs?
Callie Wilson: This all began when I was 15 and wrote “Skin & Bones.” High school was when I was introduced to the dangerous game of hookup culture. Freshman year was the first time I truly experienced being objectified, so I wrote that song about it. It was so personal to me that I didn’t actually share it with anyone until this summer at this beautiful event my friend Alexus Cumbie created called Literary Vibes, which artists of all kinds need to look into. The crowd reaction was more than I ever expected it to be. Everyone was singing along with me. I shed tears of pure happiness on that little stage. It was magic. If anything, I had to include it in the EP for the people in the audience that night.
As far as the other songs, “Love Is A Fire” was written when I was 16. “Kisses on Her Hips” was originally called “Lorella’s Lace.” The verses are all about America’s other woman, Marilyn Monroe, and the choruses speak for themselves. This was written when I was 17. “Book of Hypocrisy” was written during the same month.
“Bad Habit” is one that totally fell out of my a— this year. I had the hook in the back of my mind for about six months, but I didn’t actually sit down and make myself vomit the rest of the song up until a week before we went into production. But don’t tell Will Mason that! I knew it had to be on Book of Hypocrisy because it’s the one song that’s very blatantly calling me the hypocrite. Will and I started recording [the EP] mid-September of this year and wrapped up during the last week of November.
Weld: The song “Bad Habit” features Chad Fisher and Allen Branstetter of St. Paul and the Broken Bones. How did that collaboration come about and what element do you feel they brought to the song?
Wilson: I knew I wanted horns on this song. So one day Will texts me, “I think I have a horn section for you.” I was like, “Okay, sweet,” not thinking too much into it. But in the studio the next day he told me he’s terrible at keeping secrets and to not get my hopes up because there’s a chance it won’t work out. Then he dropped the news that he wanted to reach out to the boys in St. Paul. And of course, I flipped out.
We called up Chad right then. I had the hardest time containing myself during that phone call, and when Chad said he was down, I pretty much went into shock. I was overwhelmed with how lucky I was to have such phenomenal musicians on my first EP.
I was wide-eyed throughout the entire studio session. I didn’t know how to approach writing the horns part, so after hearing the demo in advance to get a feel of it, [Fisher and Branstetter] just sat down and let their creativity flow. They brought “Bad Habit” to new heights.
Weld: The EP incorporates both classic and modern songwriting tropes and recording techniques. Take us through some of your journey as a musician, singer, and songwriter from the beginning through the finalization of this EP. How has this experience changed your perspective on music and your future in the craft?
Wilson: My perspective is always changing. I’m always growing. I’m always searching for lessons to learn. I have an ongoing mental list of things I’m doing right and things I need to do differently next time to improve the overall experience, whether it being recording another album or getting another release show together. I’m already planning for both.
Weld: The technological advances over the last several years have leveled the playing field in a sense to where anyone can write, record, and distribute their music. How do you hope to rise above the noise and distinguish yourself as a hopeful career musician?
Wilson: Maintaining a more professional sense while also staying entirely myself. Can’t be too professional, or you’ll lose the humanity in your art.
Weld: Tell us more about your release show for the EP. What all do you have planned?
Wilson: Horns and strings!
I fangirl at every practice. I have a lovely horns section with Allen playing trumpet again. He’ll be playing with my friend Greg Jenkins on the sax, and Patrick Rutledge on the trombone. They make me feel like I’m in New Orleans during the ‘20s. I love it.
And my beautiful strings section, Meg Ford on the violin and Nancy Lewis on the cello. They’re such queens. If you know me, you know I have an overcoming weakness for strings, so my face basically melts whenever they play a single note. These folks are everything I’ve always dreamed of performing live with.
I’m also a complete geek for the cinematic arts. I made some visual projections a while back, and I’m hoping I’ll finally be able to include them at this venue, but we’re still figuring that out. And, of course, there’s a few small surprises I have planned. But you’ll just have to come to the show and find out what they are.
Weld: Beyond the release show, what other plans do you have for the EP? Any touring?
Wilson: Yes! This January we kick off in Los Angeles.
You can purchase or stream Book of Hypocrisy on Spotify, iTunes, Apple Music, Amazon Music, Google Play, Soundcloud, and more.
The Lie Within Callie’s release show will be this Friday, December 23, at the Syndicate Lounge with Riverbend and Matt Sanderlin. Doors open for the 18-and-up show at 8 p.m. and tickets are $8. Physical copies of the EP will be available for purchase, and a donation box will be collecting clothes for the homeless. For more information, check out the event page.