Allysen Callery is an earth angel. Her lyrics, melodies, and haunting voice are truly unique and special. What's more, Allysen is a kind and thoughtful human. Man, some folks have all the luck! Read on to find out more about Allysen's songwriting process, creative influences, and what it was like playing at the esteemed South-by-Southwest music festival this year. How do you define creativity? I don’t. I think that’s anti-creativity.
Where does your songwriting inspiration come from? I get inspired every time I learn a new chord, or open tuning. I’m still learning, even after 15+ years of playing guitar. The melody comes, and the words follow. But sometimes it’s the other way around.
Can you remember the first time you had an experience with music? I was a toddler in Taiwan. My parents were there because of the Vietnam war. My father was a medic. Music was a part of our living space, and I first noticed where it came from by seeing that Here Comes the Sun by The Beatles was coming from a reel-to-reel.
Tell me about writing your lyrics vs. developing melodies? I was a poet before I became a songwriter. I don’t worry about hooks and choruses so much. I want to tell a story, and I want to make you feel and be transported. Melodies just come when I'm playing around on guitar. But the words and music come from someplace other than just me.
What have you been working on lately? I've been lucky to have been recorded lately by the great Bob Kendall, who also laid some production over my songs "for fun." The result was a session for Folk Radio UK that's gotten over 4,000 plays in the last month. I am going to be recording a British Isles covers EP for a UK label, and working with Bob for that, as well. I cannot wait. (Here the session here.)
Favorite artist or influence? Oh boy, so many. I was heavily influenced by all the wonderful artists my parents listened to: Joni Mitchell, The Beatles, The Incredible String Band. I learned how to sing by listening to Sandy Denny of Fairport Convention and Maddy Prior of Steeleye Span. Lately I have been really loving Jessica Pratt out of San Francisco. And, Anne Briggs really inspires me.
You recently played South-by-Southwest. What was that experience like? I was very well taken care of at my first "South By." I was lucky to have caught the ear of someone in a senior booking position, and he made sure I was given extra performance slots and all my showcases were in nice hotels. I made a few wonderful connections, and was written up and ranked highly in the Washington Post. I also made NPR Bob Boilen’s list of Intriguing Unknown Artists.
Any daily or weekly habits and practices? I’ve been posting homemade recordings on my Soundcloud page about every week, some covers and demos that may or may not make it onto an album at some point. I am not a very regimented person, but I try to play guitar every day, and am playing one or two shows every week. I still have a day job, and will probably always have one - I like to pay my bills on time!
Any advice for aspiring musicians? Practice. Be better than you thought you could be. Take risks, you should be frightened what people might think of your art. Don’t try to fit in. Don't try to play it cool. Answer emails. Be kind to everyone. Don’t let anyone other than you define who you are. Get nice head shots. Get a real website. Keep a part-time job that you don't have to get up too early for, that is not too physically demanding, so you can still play shows within a one to two-hour driving radius throughout the week. Officially release music every year. Upload new content weekly. Don’t get hung up on perfection. Pursue the press. Be true to your self, and your vision - you are unique and the world is wide, you will find your peeps, your tribe. They might be sprinkled around the globe, but that’s why the Internet is so awesome.
Allysen Callery is an alternative folk artist from Rhode Island, USA, with an intricate & unique finger style, and a voice that has been called mesmerizing and angelic. Growing up in New England, she was heavily influenced by her parent's British Isles Folk Revival records of the late 60's early 70's. She can be reached via her website here. (Photos by Gerd-Michael Tuschy)