Calum Graham has already enjoyed a career that would be the envy of most artists twice his age. The Alberta-based guitarist and singer/songwriter has released five acclaimed albums, won major national music competitions, performed at the Olympic Games in both Vancouver and London and racked up some phenomenal views on YouTube.
Calum talks about how FingerStyle music fits into the wider musical landscape and his goal of being expressive rather than impressive.
AU: How do you think FingerStyle and guitar music in general fits into our culture?
CG: There's a human quality to it of just your hands on the strings and just the sound coming out. There's a purity to it that you don't get with digital instruments. And you know I'm a huge fan of Dave Grohl and the Foo Fighters. They are all about the humanity of it. I think music is making a slow shift towards that again and people are getting away from all the synthesised instruments and digitised this and that and getting back to something pure. That's personally what I want to convey, and what I do and it's nice to see that people have an appreciation for that especially with electronic music being as big as it is. It's nice to see we can find appreciative ears.
It's almost like a whisper in today's music landscape. In the mainstream everything's loud and in your face and pop music is really big and then there's FingerStyle is subtle and speaks from the heart.
“His command of the guitar is already really impressive!”Andy Mckee
AU: Can you talk about Candyrat records and what that has meant for your career?
CG: I initially got singed to Candyrat doing the album with Don Ross because Don was one of the first guys on the label and we thought it's be a great way to put out the videos and see how they did. Thy didn't do that well, none the less my name got out there associated with my guitar hero Don Ross. And then right after that I knew that I didn't want to be this guy following in the shadow of Don Ross, I wanted to do my own thing so I put out a solo album (Phoenix Rising) and that is what took off on Candyrat. It did well, Phoenix rising is sitting on around 2 (3 at time of publication) million views now. Candyrat in a way it's kind of a talent contest for 1 guitar, the audience is there to see what can be done with 1 guitar. I think that's where I did the videos with Don as duets, and it's like 'ah it's 2 guitar it's not as impressive' where people want to see like yeah '1 guitar, what can you do?'. I think that's the stage for Candyrat and it's really good what their doing, they've built up a reputation form Andy Mckee and his videos taking off. I've been able to leverage that in a way that I can tour and have fans all over the world that buy my stuff and listen to it and that's great so Candyrat in that way has been a really useful tool in terms of exposure.
AU: Does everyone appreciate this modern, percussive FingerStyle music?
CG: I think some people see FingerStyle as a fad or just a gimmick, like 'why is he trying to everything on 1 guitar, get a bass player and a drummer'. They just see it as tapping, slapping trying to show off. And you know, I can too. You see stuff that is just that 'look what I can do'. For me I come from a place of trying to be more expressive than impressive. The timeless quality of music is in the expression. When putting a song on 10 years from now and having that same awe feeling of being moved by music. And to me that's what I aim to achieve in my song writing more than just playing fast and all these tricks.