American actor/singer/songwriter Zach Callison unveiled his debut single “War!” on January 12th.
Produced by Chase Ryan, Anthony Mazza, and Callison himself, “War!” offers an explosive debut single blending elements of rock, hip-hop and pop.
After numerous experiences in the acting world (including his work as the voice of “Steven” on Cartoon Network’s hit show “Steven Universe”), the Los Angeles-based artist is now introducing his distinctive musicality with an energetic and theatrical debut single “War!”, which will be followed by his upcoming debut EP entitled “A Picture Perfect Hollywood Heartbreak”, due out later this year.
“War!” is now available worldwide.
Introduce yourself. What’s your story?
My name is Zach Callison, and I’m a performer who does a little bit of everything. I moved to LA from St. Louis, Missouri to become a child actor about eleven years ago, and I’ve been working as an actor and (more recently) a music artist ever since. I like long walks on the beach and troubled artist stereotypes.
Growing up, what were you passionate about?
It was always two things: performing and baseball. They couldn’t be further apart from each other either. I was addicted to performing the moment I got on a stage and was constantly bugging my parents to find me more places to do it…in theater, film, singing, anywhere I could. Thankfully I was a small runt of a kid and sucked at baseball, so that career floundered quickly and I ended up monetizing the other one. I’m still a stat freak, though.
When did you know music was more than just a hobby?
It’s funny; singing and playing the piano is what first got me into acting through musical theater, but music quickly took a backseat. It was never really a hobby, per say, but it was always kind of a "pocket skill” that I wasn’t making a career out of. I’ve sang on the soundtracks of shows I’ve been on, and played in some cover bands as a teen, but it was never a serious pursuit until I wrote the first song from A Picture Perfect Hollywood Heartbreak and met with Anthony Mazza to break ground on production. Even then it was sort of a passion project…it took many more months of work to ramp up into a career for me mentally.
Could you tell us about your first experiences in the music industry? When did you start making music?
I started writing music seriously about three years ago. Around that time is when I wrote the first song that ended up making the record…but I wasn’t taking it nearly as seriously back then. Producing the first song was just an exercise in getting over a recent breakup. Once we got into the process, however, I realized there was no way I could stop at just one song. From there, and until now, my experience in the industry has been nothing but trial, error, and entirely too many questions aimed at anyone who would give me the time of day. Entering a brand new business is something I hadn’t done since I was eight or nine years old, and I’ve just tried to be an information sponge as often as possible, for both the creative process and the business affairs.
Could you tell us about your debut single “War!”? What’s the story behind it? How would you describe the sound of it? How was it like to record your first single?
It was some of the most fun I’ve ever had making “War!”…it’s wild, it’s loud and it punches you in the face. This song was the one that really made me feel confident that I had found a “sound” of my own. The story of the lyrics is actually the EP itself…“War!” is the final chapter of the continuous narrative story that I’m putting in the songs of the album. The “Juanita” I’m referring to is a real girl from my past that wanted to drag my name and start feuds a while back…so “War!” is my clap-back diss track airing out some things about her to the world.
What made you want to release “War!” as your debut single?
There’s a lot of thought that went into it; it’s a very dramatic, “blow open the doors” kind of song, and I felt like the first single needed those qualities in order to shift people’s perception of me. More importantly, the song best represents who I am as a person these days; most of the other songs are more indicative of who I was during another, bleaker time in my life.
You worked with Chase Ryan and Anthony Mazza on this record. How did you guys meet? How was it like to collaborate with them?
It’s been life-changing in so many ways. They both worked not only as my producers and collaborators, but also as mentors in music and the industry. The “entirely too many questions” that I mentioned above were almost always aimed at them; and they’ve been nothing but eager to help me find methods and inspiration for my sound. I met Anthony as a teen at an event…he was producing and performing with another artist friend of mine. It took me another three years to actually reach out and ask to work together; I just cold-called him one day and asked if he was still down to work together. It couldn’t have worked out any better. Chase and I met further down the line. We first worked together on some cover videos I was doing for my YouTube channel, at the recommendation of someone I was working with on my sketch comedy project. Soon after that I asked him to help me revamp the partially finished album, and we got to work. Him and I are finishing off mixing and mastering at the moment.
You are also an actor. What did your experiences as an actor teach you? Did it help you shape your music career? In what way?
There’s so many things that I could list here…when you’re a young actor working on professional sets, it whips you into shape pretty fast when it comes to collaborating and networking. In addition, watching and listening to people older and wiser when it comes to navigating the industry is a godsend; it makes you more savvy for the business and helps you plan out your own path. I know for certain that I wouldn’t be making music to the level I am now without having put in my time as an actor.
You’ve lived various experiences in the music/acting world. What were your biggest challenges? How did you overcome these challenges?
I can’t point to any one thing more than my levelheaded family and my strong support group of friends and their families that were doing the “child actor thing”. I never faced a lot of the controversial issues that stereotype young performers, and when things get bad, I’ve always had an incredible group of people to rely on. I can’t thank them enough for helping get through the hard times.
What keeps you grounded?
My parents, my friends, and my constant desire to delete all my work and start anew to make it “perfect”.
What does music make you feel?
Every feeling under the sun, depending on what I’m listening to. The goal of music, for me, is to make you feel something, and that emotion changes with every song and story. As long as it makes you feel, it’s quality in my book.
What do you want to accomplish as an artist, and as a person?
I feel like I’m balancing two sets of goals sometimes: I want to be the very best artist and storyteller I can be, starting by telling my own life story on the next couple albums I make. Simultaneously, I’ve become more interested in the business side of entertainment in the past couple years, in order to create and promote my own work; I’ve heard people dub it “empire building”. Kendrick Lamar summed it up best on To Pimp A Butterfly, with his allegory of artists “pimping” their own artistic gifts (their butterflies) for material and worldly benefit. It seems ideal to pull fulfillment from both sides, personally.
What’s the hardest thing about being an artist? And what is the best thing?
The worst thing is, by far, the self-doubt. I think almost anyone who does this for a living will agree. It’s a volatile business and an intensely emotional craft. That tends to foster a lot of harsh self-criticism and introspection.The best thing is the unpredictability; every day, week, and year is vastly different from the last. Artists are obsessed with the new, and the “next move”. While that can sometimes feed the aforementioned self-doubt, it also gives the craft an unique kind of variety that makes it exciting and addictive.
What keeps you motivated?
When I see the other artists that I came up with doing great things and new projects, it makes me want to up the ante and make my own work even better. It’s a bit competitive, but watching other people make dope stuff gives me the fire to go and workshop something that beats my previous “best”.
Any advices for those who’d like to pursue their dreams?
There’s going to be a lot of rejection no matter what you’re doing, so let it be your fuel. If the way up is easy, you’re doing something wrong; resistance means you’re on the right path.
What are you currently working on? Do you have an upcoming EP/album?
To follow up my single “War!”, we’ll be releasing an additional single from the EP and some awesome content along with it. The full EP, A Picture Perfect Hollywood Heartbreak is nearing mix and master completion for release in the coming months, so that’s taking up some of my time right now. I’m also working on a couple new cartoons right now, in addition to Steven Universe. (Which has new episodes coming out next month!)
What’s your purpose?
I’ll have to get back to you on this one…I have a pretty set-in-stone philosophy on my own existence and purpose, but it’s one of those things that I keep pretty close to my chest. Safer that way, you know?
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