It takes a certain level of grit to forge a career as an independent working singer songwriter in this day and age. If not before, then unquestionably more so now in terms of live income – the mainstay of a modern day musician-on hold. In an industry facing radical disruption, the threshold for entry has very much heightened. Not that it changes much for Reading-native, Calum Foad. The 24-year old makes sure that whatever the weather, his gifts for songwriting and performing drive him forward. Combine a unique mix of hard resolve and entrepreneurial flair with a striking, older-than-his-years voice and you have the foundation upon which a career is being carved.
An accomplished guitarist by age nine, Calum grew into his teens listening to the driving sounds of Green Day, My Chemical Romance and Good Charlotte. Offset by an affinity for the nostalgic ethers of the 80s – “Cyndi Lauper’s ‘Time After Time’? Incredible”, he adds – it’s clear to see that his idiosyncratic sound – one that flits between upbeat and evocative pop – is testament to an artist comfortable in his own skin.
As a teenager, with a quiet confidence belying his years, 2011 saw him take a chance and reach out to record producer, Dan Weller. Piqued by Calum’s approach and raw talent, worked on his first self-release – a well received debut EP ‘Flaws’ with Weller at the helm. Galvanised further by this success , Calum then reached out to multi-platinum and Grammy-nominated producer Marc McClusky (Weezer, Sia, Motion City Soundtrack).
A brief stint in NYC working with McClusky saw the birth of the triumphant ‘You & I’ in 2017, which led to Calum’s first TV appearance on ITV’s ‘This Morning’. A year-long, national school tour ensued before the 2018 release of ‘Rollercoaster’, through US based label services group, AWAL. The single embraced a markedly smoother, euphoric, synth led edge to his, so far, quintessentially-youth pop sound.
“Music for me is the mechanism of telling a story, every lyric has a clear reference point in my life. Fundamentally, I write songs I want to listen to and if others resonate with them then that’s a bonus,” he explains.
In 2018, Calum went on to reap multifaceted support across the music industry-from retailers to radio stations, brands and festivals. He was second to headline at Reading Pride that year, a performance that confirmed his flair for working larger crowds. BT Playlist came onboard to feature his music alongside brands such as EE, New Look and Legoland, amassing upwards of a million in-store plays to date. Endorsements from world-leading Sennheiser and Faith Guitars further boosted his ever-expanding network. The trajectory continued into July 2019, where Calum played to a sold-out Henley Festival as main support to ‘Björn Again’.
He has now established his own imprint label ‘Lil Bear Records’ and signed publishing deals with Matrix Songs (UK) and the prestigious Downtown Music (US). Having had some distance from his previous releases to reflect and grow into his experiences, he has a clear brief of his own.
‘High’, ‘Chemical’ and ‘Make You Cry’ quickly flowed out of the sessions with co-writer and producer, Nate Merchant (Jason Derulo, Flo Rida, Sam Martin). Following on from there, ‘Hope’ Calum’s first ever ballad, is newly recorded but written several years ago.
“The song was recorded and produced completely by chance. I played it acoustically to Nate, while recording in LA and he loved it. ..a month later the Coronavirus – which at the time seemed to be an outbreak confined to an obscure region of China – would escalate to a global pandemic and the songs lyrics would become a common theme. Following people being ‘locked down’, in a way unseen since world wars, the song has taken on a meaning beyond being about fighting to achieve aspirations, goals and dreams – it’s about retaining hope.”