Zach Callison dropped his second official single back on May 6, 2018, titled “Curtain Call“. The single follows up his debut track “War!” and it’s leading up to a debut EP, titled “A Picture Perfect Hollywood Heartbreak” that is due this summer – and we cannot wait for it to drop.
We adore the two singles he has released thus far, so when the opportunity arrived to interview this singer and actor, we really couldn’t refuse. We had so many questions to ask him that they just kept coming and he took every single one in his stride and gave us brilliant answers.
We urge you to check out his two singles “War!” and “Curtain Call” before you delve into the interview below. The songs are beyond addicting and we know you’re going to love them. We also chatted with him about his debut EP, being the main character in the animated TV show Steven Universe, as well as his career to date.
We truly believe that Zach Callison is a star you all should be watching because he is set to become a household name.
Hi Zach, how are you today? What have you been up to recently?
I’m great, just a little bit crazed. Wrapping up the album this week, working on some cartoons and doing a daily comedy bootcamp all at once this week has been keeping me on my feet. Ubers have become my office lately.
You dropped new single “Curtain Call” lately, can you tell us more about the song?
“Curtain Call” is special among the songs…it’s designed from the ground floor to be an epic, while also erratic and schizophrenic in its dynamics. It’s the most literal musical interpretation of a mental state I’ve done so far, I think.
What does the song mean to you?
It represents the highest highs and the worst lows of my life in the past couple of years; the song blasts egomania from the rooftops in its peaks and begs for relief from hardship in other sections. “Curtain Call” is my attempt to explain how mental instability feels on a day-to-day basis for someone whose life is constantly under scrutiny by the public.
Why did you decide to open the song with a quote with Psalms 25:11 from the Italian Diodati Bible?
Good catch. I can’t fully explain this without giving away the story of the upcoming full album, but both Diodati verses in the song were chosen with the purpose to serve the narrative. In short, there’s two different “Zachs” singing on Curtain Call; and while one of them opens the first verse section, the Zach speaking the Bible verse is undoubtedly the opposite Zach asking for forgiveness for what he’s about to do.
Where did you draw inspiration from for “Curtain Call”?
A lot of A Picture Perfect Hollywood Heartbreak draws inspiration from the character I’ve named “Juanita”, based on a real person from my past. This song is no different, but it marks a trend in my writing where her influence started to wane in favor of beginning to tell my own story. In a sense, that’s the arc of the entire EP’s narrative.
Who is Juanita? She appears in the lyrics of “War!” and her name appears on the front of the artwork for “Curtain Call”.
It’s a pseudonym for a very real person, with a very public image…which is kind of the point. “War!” was music weaponized; specific enough in the lyrics that she’ll know exactly who she is, but vague enough that nobody’s fans go on a witch hunt.
Relationships in Hollywood are weird.
How would you describe the sound of your second single?
Massive, crazed, unpredictable. Maybe a little melancholic as well.
Which lyrics are your favourite?
Usually, I have a more heartfelt attachment to my verses than my choruses, but this song is an exception:
Bourbon to kill my pain
Curtains to hold my shame
No they can’t look away
Cannot contain my rage
That took a long time to find and finalize, but ended up being uncomfortably metaphoric for how I see my experience growing up.
How is this song different to your debut single “War!”?
Little less rapping, for one.
As I mentioned before, there are two different “Zachs” that sing on this song…this holds true for the whole record. “War!” is very definitively the anthem of one Zach, while this new song is caught between two different personalities.
What was it like to release your very first song, back in January?
I’d equate it to vomiting up something toxic…feels awful and anxiety-inducing to the point of death, up until you actually do it, then it feels fantastic and incredibly freeing.
Can you tell us more about your debut single?
“War!” is a pointed rap-rock-musical theater number aimed at a girl named Juanita – who seems to be popular these days. It’s aggressive, almost cartoonishly filled with bravado, and fills the purpose of speaking directly to Juanita through coded messages while also telling everyone else about what went down between us. It’s a favorite of mine and was chosen to be released first very much on purpose.
What is the song about? And, what does it mean to you?
In short, it’s about suddenly ending one era of your life by forcing yourself to change into someone else…for better or for worse. It’s so important to me that I got this song out as soon as I could because I’ve never been able to describe that phenomenon properly before “Curtain Call” came into being.
The song was produced by yourself alongside Chase Ryan and Anthony Mazza. What were they like to work with?
I sing Chase and Anthony’s praises as much as I possibly can. Their production talent is obvious through the music, but the most important thing they both gave me is mentorship through my first couple years as an artist, and influence as I tried to find my sound for the first time. I can’t emphasize enough how fortunate I am to have met them, album or not.
Are there any plans for a music video to be released? Can you reveal any details? If there aren’t any plans, how do you imagine a Zach Callison “War!” and “Curtain Call” music video would look like?
This is in the works…more to come!
The two singles are taken from your forthcoming EP titled “A Picture Perfect Hollywood Heartbreak”. Can you reveal any details about debut EP?
A Picture Perfect Hollywood Heartbreak is my coming-of-age story in the entertainment industry, compressed into concept EP form. It’s grown from its original five-song vision to include a number of additional interlude tracks that feed the full story of the project. It started as a way to cope with a heartbreak, and eventually surpassed that to become this monstrous retelling of the darkest period of my life thus far. It felt necessary to present these parts in order and as I experienced them, in a way that in hindsight resembles something like a short musical.
In short, it’s something new and true to my life. I hope that resonates with my fans.
Where did the name of your EP come from?
I really like alliteration, I guess.
I blame Juanita.
Do you have a favourite song from this EP? And, if so, why is it your favourite?
Chase and I go back and forth on this subject almost every time we meet, so it’s hard to pick a definitive answer. I’m going to go with “War!” though, only because it is the song that most represents where I am now rather than where I was before. Other than that, it’s like picking favorite children.
Choose five words to describe your debut EP.
Grandiose, emotional, wild, unexpected. True.
What has influenced your music?
My dad has been a musician and singer his whole life, and I grew up watching him play the rock music that all my influence sources come from. There’s certainly some notable influence from my musical theater years as a young kid in St. Louis, even if I haven’t done it in over a decade. The hip-hop scene is the most recent addition to the list…I only listened to “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” [by Kanye West] and “To Pimp A Butterfly” [by Kendrick Lamar] for the first time three years ago. Everyone looks to hip-hop on the forefront of culture in 2018; that kind of magnetism through extremely specific and detailed storytelling has been impossible for me to ignore.
You’ve been acting for years, and you’re just launching in the music industry. Is music something you’re passionate about? And is it something you plan on focusing more on in the future?
I take both my music and my acting equally seriously as professions and probably spend equal time on them these days. No shift in focus will be necessary, I did that years ago.
You’ve been playing the main role in Steven Universe since 2013. What is it like being a part of this animated TV show?
Inspiring, more than anything. I’ve been able to watch Rebecca Sugar and her team at work, making something so personal and so important into a cultural phenomenon. To be a part of something like that at such a formative age left a massive impression on me; it might be the main reason I’m making my own projects now.
What’s your favourite thing about working on Steven Universe?
Working with the other cast members, undoubtedly. We’ve become a tight-knit family in a lot of ways, and they’ve been there for me through thick and thin. You don’t always see that with animation casts, given how separated we can be during the production process, so that’s been very important to me.
You also played Prince James in Disney’s animated show, Sofia The First. What was that like?
Playing Prince James was awesome for me as a young teen; it was my first series reg animation gig and I learned a ton from it between the voice acting and the musical numbers. I got to work with long-time hero Jess Harnell again and met the extraordinary talented Sam Riegel and Craig Gerber for the first time among many others. They do an awesome job over there.
How does working on an animated show differ from a live-action TV show?
On camera acting and voice acting shares a good portion of their individual skill sets, but there are some parts that don’t overlap. Voice acting favors the technically gifted; it’s precise and often mechanical when you’re reading the same line over and over again by yourself in a sound booth (while still injecting truth into the dialogue). On camera acting is technical is a different way: instead of channeling all of your emotion and focus into a singular aspect (your voice), you have to express and be genuine through your face, body AND voice…just as you would in real life. Also, TV and film sets are generally a hell of a lot more chaotic than recording studios, which adds another difference.
You’ve guest starred in many series, but which was your favourite to appear on?
Of the guest stars? Probably NCIS: LA…I shaved my head high and tight for a military cadet role and was playing a kind of rigidity and discipline that I’d never done before. I also got to beatbox underneath an LL Cool J freestyle during a break, so that was dope.
If you were cast in a remake of a film, what film would it be? And, what character would you play?
100% Steve McQueen’s role in 1968 classic Bullitt. It’s one of my favorite film classics by a country mile, right next to 1963’s The Great Escape. (also starring Steve McQueen!)
Back to your music, which artists do you look up to? And who would be your dream collaboration?
The most important three are definitely Matt Bellamy of Muse, Tyler Joseph of Twenty One Pilots and Kendrick Lamar. I’d bend over backwards to work with any of them, but Kendrick takes the win…his influence philosophically on nearly everything I do is even more important than his influence on my music.
Your EP, “A Picture Perfect Hollywood Heartbreak”, is out this year, how excited are you to release it?
Too excited, it’s got me worked up beyond belief. See my vomiting metaphor above.
What has been the highlight of your career to date?
This project and I don’t take that lightly. I think the final product lives up to that high standard, but all of you will soon take over the court of opinion on that.
What else can we expect from you this year?
More video content is just around the corner (in more ways than one!), more LIVE SHOWS are going to be announced tantalizingly soon, and there are more major announcements coming from my acting work for shows already on the air and shows as-of-yet unannounced. There’s a lot going on for sure.
And, finally, is there anything you want to say to your fans?
THANK YOU for your overwhelming support for my music up to this point. This project is a massive risk for me personally, financially, and image-wise…I hope that the message I’ve put together resonates with you. If so, hell yes! Now you can tell your friends.
We like to extend our thanks to Zach Callison for putting in the time and effort to answer our questions. We adored this interview and loved every single one of his answers. We really cannot wait for the release of his debut EP, titled “A Picture Perfect Hollywood Heartbreak”. He’s definitely somebody we all need to watch.
“Curtain Call” and debut single “War!” is available to download and stream right now. His upcoming EP is set to be released this summer, so keep your eyes out for it, we certainly are.