Interviews with inspiring people have been the highlight of this blog ever since I started making them. The time has come to present one more of those talks packed with fresh inspiration, great music, and contagious energy for exciting experiences.
I am exceptionally hyped because I had the pleasure of talking with someone who is not only a hard-working musician but also a living example that one step out of the comfort zone is where life truly begins. The message of seeking discomfort shines bright in the story of Cal Brown and proves that sometimes you need to take the plunge in order to find what you are missing.
The interview I want to share today goes beyond music. It branches out to the price of growth, the worth of risks, the importance of personal stories, and sharing your experience with others.
Of course, music is the major driving force behind the interview and it is the reason I decided to reach out to Cal. But I have to give credit to the Seek Discomfort movement – one of the main reasons I got introduced to the music I will talk about below is the community of Yes Fam.
A place where strangers are friends you haven’t met yet, where people support each other in pursuit of new adventures, progress, and overcoming fear. A truly empowering movement uniting thousands of people with different stories all of which are worth listening to.
The other reason I had the pleasure of hearing Cal’s art is my personal lovely network always making sure I have access to upcoming music phenomena – thank you for that.
Whatever makes you uncomfortable is an opportunity to grow
A few months ago I was told there is a certain British artist with a radiant smile, fun stories to share, and Yorkshire tea always close at hand whose music feels impressively sincere and honest. It didn’t take me long to confirm that myself – Rooftops and Worldie hit hard at the right spots. I knew that I want to talk to the mastermind behind them.
I was once again lucky to get a “yes” and this time I had more than just music to discuss. Before I share my impressions of his music and introduce you to our quick but worthwhile talk I want to kindly ask you to check Cal out and follow him on Spotify and Instagram so you don’t miss out on his upcoming projects. Also, keep an eye on his YouTube channel where you can find interesting videos of his experiences and live performances.
Few things can compare with discovering an artist who has just entered the scene and is slowly but confidently making the noise that helps him generate a solid following.
Cal has only two releases so far (much more to come) and yet you can immediately tell the immense potential and clear passion for the art of music. As a person with a background in creative arts, it is only natural that he can sense the best way to transmit emotions and highlight important messages he wants to send.
Listening to his songs brings a warm feeling of easy-going appreciation of life served in a relaxing and mellow manner. The simple guitar tones and comforting voice perfectly match the intimate storytelling. Music just flows easy and extracts you from the struggles of everyday life for a little while.
Both of the tracks radiate personal experience and are extremely easy to relate to. Inspired by Cal’s personal life they gracefully showcase his perspective and retell some of the most important learnings he has made so far.
Rooftops has bits of Cal’s own tale included while emphasizing on the relevant message that each and every one of us has a story worth telling. With the well-executed song the young artist helps listeners take pride in their identities and encourages them to share their stories with others. I cannot stress the importance of remembering this takeaway but I think Rooftops will do the job with the catchy chorus and memorable lyrics.
Worldie – the second release the artist has made public completely focuses on the personal aspect and shares an experience that will without a doubt touch your heart. Feelings and emotions become easy to grasp and relatability reaches new levels thanks to the unforced way of delivery and acoustic instrumental elements.
Worldie, for my non-British friends, is slang for “something very attractive, excellent” – a small detail that makes the concept of the song complete and gives the necessary coherence when it comes to expressing a message.
Cal’s music feels natural and easy to take in which I think is admirable for an artist who has taken his first steps in songwriting just a year and a half ago. I can only imagine what it would feel like to experience his art and his presence live and I sincerely hope I manage to try it out one day.
It goes without saying but I will say it anyway – Cal, thank you so much for taking the time and showing interest in this interview. Talking to you has been a pleasure and I hope we can follow-up (preferably in person, after your show) sometime soon.
A stranger is a friend you haven’t met yet
I think it would be a good start to begin with an introduction – who are you and what made you start making music?
My name is Cal and I’m from Yorkshire.
I started making music as a sort of a way to express my deeper emotions because it’s something I find difficult talking about. I found out the best way for me to do it is by making music. So here I am today.
I consider music a very accurate transmitter of emotions, feelings, and ideas so I totally understand what you mean. Would you say music in modern days is something necessary? Both for artists and listeners.
I did a journey around the UK a while back. The whole idea behind it was to ask people what a song is worth. I found out that a song is worth something very different for every person. One person can value music so much and the other so little.
I think music is very necessary today for people who treasure it. To answer the question – I think music is essential for the future as long as it is important for you as an individual. It all comes down to personal appreciation.
Can you tell us a bit about your music – Rooftops and Worldie? They seem like they are inspired by your personal life and you say a lot of on-point things in there. How did they become a thing?
Whenever I write a song, I need to write about something I know and understand. Something I have experienced. It is like telling a story, reading a diary if you will.
The story behind Rooftops begins a long time ago. As a little kid, I would tell myself that I want to write a song and get it produced by the time I turn twenty-one. A month before I turned twenty-one, I realized that I had not lived up to my childhood dream. I frantically wrote my first song – Rooftops and got it produced just before my 21st birthday.
The song itself is essentially about the importance of personal stories and backgrounds. I find a lot of people say “Nah, I don’t want to talk about myself, I’m not that interesting.”
That’s not true. Everyone is interesting – everyone comes from a different place and has different experiences growing up and this makes us all worth the story. We need to learn to appreciate our uniqueness.
I totally agree with that. You are sending a very important message, I hope people come to understand that. What about Worldie?
That song is basically about a girl. It tells my personal story, I was not in the right mindset to be in a relationship and it talks about the experience around that. The song speaks for itself I think.
It does. When it comes to making music do you also produce and mix your stuff by yourself?
I write all of my songs on my guitar, I do everything I need to do and then I head to the studio to meet with the producers. They help me visualise my ideas and my song with recording equipment/instruments and the software to get the stuff ready.
I’m always searching for new producers to work and build relationships with, so reach out to me if you’re a producer.
In terms of songwriting – do you have a specific process you follow?
My songwriting process is really weird actually. I can write songs in like half an hour but other times it would take me three months to finish one. I usually write about my experiences – something I am currently going through.
What I try to do is match feelings and moods with chords and notes that fit the vibe I am trying to create and then I would write the lyrics about the situation I am in, what I am feeling, and the story I want to tell.
So that’s why it feels so real and you get listeners immersed in your songs.
I guess yeah, people can relate to those stories and feelings.
Let’s talk about performing in front of others. What do you think about that experience and how is it different from writing and recording a song by yourself?
That’s a funny story. I initially had stage anxiety and I didn’t want to perform in front of others at all. But I decided to take the plunge and keep challenging myself because of Yes Theory and the seek discomfort movement.
The first time I performed was at a friend’s charity event and I was super scared. I threw up two times before the show because I was so nervous. But I think I really needed to do this and go through with it because after that I started progressing and getting more and more gigs and playing festivals. And the more I did it the easier it got – it is like training a muscle, the more I did it, the more it grew.
When it comes to performing in front of people I think it depends on the crowd quite a lot. I have a lot of songs I play and depending on the audience. I choose what to perform based on what I see. I usually play my original songs to the more chill crowds. My songs are mellower and set that type of mood to just relax and ease up while enjoying the live music.
I have to say that I think gig playing is quite a skill in itself. You have to be able to read the audience and react to them in a way that will give them what they want.
I can see that, yeah, playing live has to be a completely different story. You mentioned seeking discomfort and the Yes Theory guys. How did you get into this movement and how has it changed you?
I actually got introduced to Yes Theory by a friend of mine. I saw some videos and I was like “yeah, I like those guys they are doing some cool, crazy things”, that’s all there was to it at first.
But then they created the Yes Fam Facebook page which I joined. I eventually met some people from the community. Meeting them for the first time was a bit crazy because I was meeting a stranger for the first time in my life and I didn’t really know what to expect. That was a form of discomfort for me.
But gradually those things started becoming comfortable, the more I did it the more I got used to it. The thrill was no longer there. So I kept on building upon this and doing crazier and crazier things to challenge myself.
Even now with my busking events, travelling with no money – I have done this a few times already and it started feeling like something quite normal. I try to look for the next step of discomfort to reach the next level.
Check out Yes Theory for some more inspiration
Busking and travelling with no money are part of the things I want to ask you about. I started following you around a time when you were doing a challenge about travelling with no money around Europe – how many times have you done that already? It seems like a very exciting thing to do and you meet a lot of new people based on your Instagram stories. How did the idea come to you?
That’s also a cool story.
I graduated university last July – half a year ago. I was sitting at my graduation, waiting for my certificate and I was thinking about how much I want to travel.
I didn’t have much money to afford it as a freshly graduated student. I started thinking about what I can do to make it happen regardless of that, what I can do to get the money to afford moving from one place to the other.
I can play the guitar, I can sing a little bit so why not try going around and singing on the streets? I had never done it anywhere before, not even in the UK, I never tried playing on the streets. I thought it would be awesome to do it straight up in a new country.
What I did was search for the cheapest way to get from the UK to somewhere in Europe and I found a bus from Manchester to Gent, Belgium. It cost only 20 pounds so I immediately booked it – right there on the spot during my graduation. I left the same night – it was extremely spontaneous, I didn’t know where I would stay and how the whole thing would go. My father gave me 20 euro for food, I got my guitar and that was it.
There was the whole thrill to just throw myself in a situation I am not used to and see where it will take me. It was super exciting. I thought I would last no more than a few days but I ended up doing it for a few months. I visited four different countries and met some seriously incredible people. It was probably the best experience of my life. Saying “yes” to this one bus journey has changed my mindset and I think I wouldn’t be who I am now if it wasn’t for that.
You can see more about Cal’s challenge on his YouTube channel
Huge respect for that – not anyone would dare to jump into something like this. You definitely learn a lot from those experiences.
Yeah, I learned a lot. I strongly believe that only the experiences can teach you the skills. The best way to learn things is by doing them.
I didn’t ask you about your background. What did you study?
Nothing to do with music. I actually started learning guitar when I was 19 – that’s only three years ago. So if anyone says “I’m too old to learn the guitar” – no, you are not. Start learning and just practice. I was so bad when I first started, it was terrible.
Back to your question – I studied film production. Knowledge and skills I still use because I always bring my camera with me to make small films and record my experience while travelling.
Do you plan on turning music into a full-time thing or is it something you just enjoy doing for fun?
Those two months of travelling and playing music were some of the happiest times of my life, it was incredible.
When I came back I got offered a job at BBC in Manchester working on a TV series project. This was an amazing opportunity, I studied filmmaking and I love it. I was super excited about this job.
When I worked on this TV series for a few months I was genuinely unhappy. I was like “Nah, this is not what I want to do”. We had long 14-hours days on set, it was rough, and I was basically full-on part of the system. It was a good job and the people were awesome – no denying that but I was comparing this with the time I went around with my guitar, traveling, meeting people, and making music. That is what brought me real joy.
Through those times of working on the TV series and contemplating my options I realized this is not what I want to do. Making my music is the only thing I could see in the foreseeable future. So I stopped the job at the BBC and dedicated my life full-time to music. That’s what I do now.
Always ready for the next adventure!
It is great that you managed to realize your true passion quickly and act on it without hesitation. I really admire that. Music is definitely something you are good at and I’m sure things are only going to get better and better.
Do you have any music in the making or plans for future projects?
I have three other songs recorded and I plan to release them as a small EP – just those three songs. I’m not sure exactly when yet, I’m aiming for the end of March or beginning of April. There are some things to figure out and the cost to produce them is also high.
Right now I’m only relying on my music so I’m also trying to figure out the economic situation.
Yeah, I know it can be a challenge. But I’m looking forward to hearing them. What would you say about the music industry? Is it more of a tough place to survive or an inspiring environment to thrive?
I was stupidly naïve when it came to the music industry. I didn’t know anything about how it works, not to mention I haven’t taken any singing or guitar lessons. All I’m trying to do is find out where I can make my wave in this huge sea of opportunity.
But it is a cool place. It is great to see so many independent labels coming up. This brings up a lot of opportunities for new artists to make it. Especially with social media – it is helping a lot. You don’t have to rely on big record labels to push you through because you have all those platforms to reach people. It’s not an easy place to thrive but it is an inspiring one.
Back to live music – do you have a story of any performance that you would always remember?
There are two popping up in my mind.
You know, I still get quite nervous before I perform but I try to overcome it by constantly performing more and more. So when I was still starting out and I got asked to do my first paid gig I was quite happy. I had to play two songs at an award ceremony for the university I was at. What I thought was there will be like 30-40 people watching, it’s just a small award ceremony at a university. I didn’t think it would be a big deal.
So I walk in this theater – quite a big one actually. I thought probably only the first few rows will be used so at this point I was still quite chill. I went backstage, talked to the organizers, everything is fine. But things gradually start getting louder and louder outside bit by bit and it keeps increasing.
I look out to the stage to see what’s going on and I see about 500 people cheering, talking, making noise. It was ridiculous.
I went out and I played – I still feel blessed for this opportunity. It went great, I played my songs and they even asked for more. But there was a lot of pressure when I first stepped on stage.
Do you still have this fear when you go on stage? You have played a lot and in front of many people now.
I did play a lot and the nerves have gone down for sure. The fear is still there before I start but when I begin playing and get into it the anxiety subsides.
What I have noticed is that if I don’t play for a long time the nerves do come back. I perform a lot when I’m in other countries but when I’m back in the UK I also take some time off. I still play gigs here and there but I take the time for myself as well. Let’s say I don’t play for a month – the nerves come back hitting hard.
I think it is about consistency when it comes to this fear. You overcome it by playing more and more and being consistent at it.
Makes sense – like with everything else practice and consistency seal the deal. Tell us the second story.
The second story is about my show at the Yes Party at Utrecht. It was in December last year and it was an amazing experience. The thing that will make me remember it and stood out for me was that a lot of people already knew my music. Rooftops in particular.
There were around 80 people at the show and when I was playing Rooftops half of them started singing along word to word. It was a really, really cool feeling – the first time something like this happened to me. The fact that so many people have heard the song before and could even sing along with me was mad.
That sounds incredible. I hope I will see you live one day. Do you plan to do any shows anytime soon?
I’m trying to get shows and book gigs all the time so whenever I can I’m gonna do it.
In terms of inspiration – what kind of music can we find in your playlist?
I mostly listen to Indie as a genre.
But in general, I choose my music by mood, not by genre. I have a lot of different stuff in my playlist. From Indie, to Grime, even to Latino as well. I would listen to anything that gives me a specific vibe I am in the mood for. For example, I have a “down time” playlist which is quite slow and relaxed and I have a “morning” playlist which is supper poppy so it can get me dancing in the morning.
Last question – I cannot allow myself to miss this one. Yorkshire tea – why is it the best?
If you are wondering why my voice is so good, it is because I drink a lot of Yorkshire tea. That’s a joke, of course.
The thing with the tea started when I was travelling around Europe that summer. I was travelling with no money so I felt bad just staying at someone’s house without being able to pay them or offer anything. So I was thinking what I could bring with me that is part of my culture and people can enjoy. I drink a lot of Yorkshire tea so I thought I could take some with me, make the people a cup of tea as a gesture, you know.
But then people started really liking it. I think it’s because of the way we make it in Britain – we add milk and sugar, you don’t do this in Europe. So people are interested because it is something new and different. It started like that but now everyone loves it and connects the Yorkshire tea to me – people message me daily with snapshots of drinking it. That’s my thing now.
You can buy me a coffee if you like my content