Local Mic: Callaghan Belle



Callaghan Belle has had her foot in the door of the music industry since her early days as a songwriter. Recently, Belle has come into her own artistry by releasing her single “Dear Detroit” and an accompanying video. The single shouts out Belle’s hometown and demonstrates how powerful she is as the star of her own music rather than just behind the scenes.

Blended’s Jessica Doherty met up with Belle at Joan’s on Third in Studio City to discuss the specifics of the single and its meaning along with Belle’s growing career.

Let’s talk a bit about your midwest upbringing and how LA differs from where you grew up.

I wrote [Dear Detroit] way before I even got here. There's a specific story about basically coming back and forth to L.A a lot. It was such a culture shock, just even in those two week trips. I think that a lot of people here have their head in the clouds and it's such a different way of living than where I come from. You're not allowed to have your head in the clouds, it's very work-oriented. And just disassociating from that has actually helped me out. It took a minute to get used to [L.A]. It definitely was a whole different experience... I miss the realness in New York and in Detroit.  People are so upfront about what they mean and what's going on and where they are. My song was kind of inspired just by that, that homesickness and sense of belonging and real people and just feeling like you really know where you stand with me.

How do you like LA? How is it different from Michigan?

I love the weather. I love the sense of community. My full first EP I produced all by myself in Michigan, basically in my basement in Detroit. And since moving out here, all the songs I write are with people and it's a community based thing. I have a studio that I go to and everyone knows each other. And I really love that. There is a lot of music that still comes out of [Detroit] and it's amazing, but I think it's more isolated just because, again, it's that mentality where no one's really like looking around them to see like, oh, this person is doing that too. That would be a great collaboration. So something I really like out here is the community of other artists.

Tell us a little about your first EP and how your music has changed and grown since.

I feel like my music in Michigan was very “I don't belong, I'm growing up, I'm coming into my power, I'm so lonely.” Now it's all just happy pop songs. It was really important to me to put out a song that was unique and said something distinct almost instead of just putting out like a bubblegum pop song. I really wanted to establish some type of different kind of writing style and that makes sense. I didn't want to go super pop. The first EP has definitely like more dark pop, a little leaning more towards the alternative genre. I've already almost finished the second EP and it's definitely changed, but it sounds younger. When I was first started recording, dark pop wasn't really a thing yet and now I'm so unique and so different and I'm like, “Oh, I'm glad I'm shifting in a different direction.”

Who are you biggest musical inspirations?

I have such a variety of influences and I feel them as a unit inspired my music, but no one in particular. I love Lana del Rey, her lyrics are like poetry and it's just wonderful. I grew up listening to the Beatles and so that's a completely different thing. My dad was super into rock. I was like this weird rocker kid. I love Kelly Clarkson’s vocals, JoJo’s vocals. I love Aly and AJ, they're making a comeback, that kind of thing. So it's inspired by all different areas.
Are there any themes in your music you gravitate towards?

This first EP is definitely a very vulnerable side of me because I feel like a lot of people put on this like this act where they want to seem so tough or whatever... I really wanted show that it's okay to be fragile and it's okay to just say how you're really feeling because people relate to that. And that was like the biggest thing with “Dear Detroit” because it's so different and weird and like look, people really relate to feeling out of place.
The “Dear Detroit” video features a dichotomy between LA imagery and Detroit lyrics. How do you bring the two together?

This is like my third year out here and I've finally felt like I’ve melded the two worlds. But at first it was very much like when I would go home it was very different than when I was up here. Growing up in an environment that wasn't super privileged or super fantastical like L.A, it was good because now that I'm out here I know my values.

PHOTO: Callaghan Belle

PHOTO: Callaghan Belle

You said you used to write songs for other people. What’s the difference between writing for yourself and others?

I feel like when I'm writing for myself, it's not a selfish thing, but it's more just like I can just do whatever I want. When I’m writing for other people, there's always a level of respect for what they're aiming for. My first song was actually with Colbie Caillat when I was like 16 and freaking out. She's very like California and very happy and positive so that was an awesome experience.

I've written a lot for horror movies, I did like a thing on Netflix last year for this movie called “Extinction” and it was very dark. Whenever I go into those sessions, I walk in and they're like, “you're the girl that writes the dark music?” Like you're wearing a sundress and they’re expecting a rocker dude.

It's really fun to write for other women because it's such a collaboration. I've been writing songs since I was, I think it was like seven or eight. So it's just always been like breathing for me and it's very therapeutic. Whatever I'm feeling in the moment I write about. I'm not really someone that gets inspired by something and then plans it out. It just washes over me and I write a song. My mom would be like, where did this miracle come from?

What can we look forward to next?

I want to tour. I have so many songs ready. Like this first EP has been done for like three years, so I have that whole thing. I'm going to put out a few singles somewhere, too.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing songs?

Right now I'm doing school, so read political theories. I'm a political science major. I love going to the beach. I love hiking.I've really embraced the California lifestyle. I feel like with yoga and that whole thing.

Since releasing “Dear Detroit,” Belle has also released another single “Paranoid.” Be sure to listen to the infectious, dark pop ballad.

Lead Image Credit: Callaghan Belle