“Music Is A Very Powerful Thing”: An Interview With Callum Hornby

With a debut project under his belt and a steady flow of material since, Callum Hornby reflects on his work and influences

British rock musician Callum Hornby resembles something of a local Harry Styles. In his debut effort Another Daydream, he moves through classic rock dead ringers, indie acoustic ballads and casual interludes to compile a sharp 22 minutes. Since, he’s sang on William Reigate’s roaring pair of singles ‘First Contact’ and ‘Wabi-Sabi’, and released two new tracks of his own, ‘Live a Little’ and ‘What Is on Your Mind?’. The former blends an enormously produced Rage-style riff with a catchy chorus and synths reminiscent of Muse’s best work, while the latter is a strangely Christmassy lounge tune that flirts with muted jazz. Much like Styles’ self-titled debut, Hornby sounds mostly compelled by material inspired by his rock influences, but uninterested in letting a specific branch of this dictate his songwriting. One for thing’s for sure: it’s going to be interesting to see where he goes next. I recently had the chance to sling him some questions, eager to pry and discuss the singer’s philosophies. We talk about — amongst other things — songwriting, genre and dream venue in an interview below.

Your debut project Another Daydream came out in July. How was the process of making the record?

The process was relatively quick and was completed way before I anticipated. Because of work commitments before lockdown, my scheduled release date was late August. Being out of work for that long, I recorded the vocals and bass from my humble abode, while my very amazing producer/guitarist/drummer/jack of all trades William Reigate did his parts at home too. I also worked with another cool guy called Joe Wright who produced a few songs on the record before, and during the pandemic from Hillside Studios.

Do you have a favourite song from it and why?

I am a big fan of the song ‘Part-Time You’ from the album as this was the first time I delved into something softer. The music was primarily composed by Joe Wright but the vocal melody and the lyrics came to me pretty much instantaneously. The whole song was created and recorded in just 15 minutes. Another song that sticks out to me as a fond memory more than anything is ‘I Never Knew’. This song speaks of growing up and thinking you’d know everything when you get older. Only to realise, you don’t!

The record ends with a cover of Matt Bellamy’s ‘Tomorrow’s World’. What made you decide to tackle that song and why put it last?

This was a bold decision I made quite early on in the process of making the album. When I first heard this song I thought it was extremely relevant with the madness that is going on; I thought it was a very fitting, melancholy way to end. I wanted the album to have its high highs and its low lows. ‘Tomorrow’s World’ was put in the album almost to say that this ‘daydream’ can be reality. We have this life, so we shouldn’t waste it.

You have kept busy since the release of Daydream, with two new tracks. Is there a new project on the way?

When isn’t there a new project coming? I have tried my best to keep the momentum going from the beginning of the writing process of Another Daydream way back in January. I haven’t really stopped! I am planning on going a different route with this next record, but I won’t give too much away.  

How do you approach songwriting?

Every song I have ever written has undergone a different approach. Some ideas are naturally conceived when simply jamming and I get a lot of ideas from just sitting down with a guitar. When I have the idea of “I’m going to write a song” in my head, it never goes well. The best ideas usually come to me when I least expect it. Primarily I write all of the music and vocals, but there has been a few times where I have collaborated in the writing process. For example, Joe Harvey, my lovely pianist, wrote the lyrics to my first track ‘Ethereal’.

Some of your lyrics appear quite personal. Is that a conscious choice?

I have always had trouble getting my words and feelings out when going through a hard time. It’s never been a conscious decision but certain chords call for a certain emotion within the song. In writing lyrics, I am letting out all of my feelings onto paper, but most of the time it’s not a conscious choice.

You’ve tackled a few genres. Your most recent single ‘What Is on Your Mind’ differs stylistically from ‘Live a Little’, for instance. What inspires this genre-hopping?

Because of having influences from so many different genres, there has never been just one genre I’d like to tackle. You come across a lot of hard rock bands that only do rock, and I didn’t really want to fall into that. Not everyone likes the rock songs, and not everyone likes the softer ones. I think if I can have a mixed bag on genres I can appeal to more people and different audiences. 

On this note, what other artists inspire your music? Any favourite records?

I think it goes without saying that I am a huge Muse fan, and I was specifically influenced by Black Holes and Revelations for this record. That was probably the album I listened to most throughout the writing process of Another Daydream. Other notable artists that have inspired my music are Electric Light Orchestra with their records Time and Out of the Blue, and more recently Father John Misty. I try to keep an open mind with music, and I regularly listen to local artists. There is so much good music and rich talent in the world that you just haven’t heard yet. Not that I can sing anything like them, but Chris Daughtry and Paul Rodgers are both pretty cool too.

How’ve you been coping this year? It’s been a sticky time for musicians.

I’ve been coping well thank you. Would love to be gigging right now! But other than that things have been great. The pandemic has given me a lot of creative down time to focus on music.

A few months you announced the members of your live band on social media. What brought you lot together?

I did! Every person in the band is someone I have seen play before, and all people that impressed me beyond belief. If I was to put together a band, it would be with these guys! Members like Joe and Will I have previously played with, but everyone else is entirely new to me. We’ve had an absolute blast rehearsing this record live, and everyone has put their own spin on the songs and made them their own. I want you to be able to know who is playing what and for them to have fun with it! 

What’s your dream venue to play?

My dream venue to play would have to be the Boileroom in Guildford. Back in 2017 or 2018 I played there with Electric Milk, and the audience were so appreciative and fun. Alternatively, I’d love to play anywhere where people are enjoying the music. I have always written music as an expression of myself, but to perform anywhere where people are enjoying that is a bonus.

You’ve been playing bass (as well as singing, of course) for a while now. What draws you to that instrument in particular?

A lot of things have drawn me to the bass guitar. Primarily because I have NEVER been able to play guitar properly. Ask anyone who knows me! The first instrument I ever played was drums at junior school, so it’s a cool way to lock in with the drums and really hold the rhythm down. Also, it feels pretty badass holding a bass. They’re huge!

What’s next for you?

More music is the idea! We’ll probably have a couple of releases over the Christmas period, in the gradual build up for the next album. We are also working on some Electric Milk music, as we have our comeback gig on New Year’s Eve at the 1865 in Southampton. I have also done a lot of collaborations with Will Reigate, and will continue to, as time goes on.

Why music?

Music is great because for a lot of people like me, when I feel shit, music is the escape. Music is an escape for pretty much everyone and can get you out of some really low places in life. That’s why music is my outlet. It’s my way of getting my life experiences and feelings heard. Music is a very powerful thing, in the same vein as cinema and any performances; it’s a great escape. If I can make someone else feel better through listening to my music, that’s all that counts. 

Another Daydream is out everywhere, along with other material. You can follow Callum’s music here and check out a compendium playlist of his work below.

Images: Mix It Up, Jac Poulton (respectively)

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