Calum Scott was catapulted into fame when he received the “Golden Buzzer” on Britain’s Got Talent. After that, his journey truly began, intertwining his making music and his coming out. Calum’s first album Only Human contained some powerful singles and some heavy hitters. His “You Are The Reason” garnished 1 billion streams, the haunting cover of Robyn’s “Dancing On My Own” that is almost as good as the original, and October 2018 released single “No Matter What” speaks to the conditions everyone should have attached to their journey, putting those songs and more together make the Only Human album a must have.
Calum is working on a new album, and if it is at all like the first one, it will cover something deep and emotional, though I am not sure what is left to cover after going through his first gift to us. In light of the current persecution and division of the world at this moment, a heavy album, a heavy experience, and introspection are what the world needs. I hope the somber feeling and depth of Calum Scott reaches you as it did me. GRAB A TISSUE CAUSE TEARS ARE COMING!
Calum is the first interview from a series of artists highlighted in “POP of the 2000s: Celebrating Pride”. For Calum’s and other artists’ music we will be covering, head over to the “Pop Of The 2000s: Celebrating Pride” playlist.
Jeremy Hinks: Good day Calum, let’s start off with the fun stuff. ROBYN, “Dancing On My Own”, I am going to be honest, right after hearing your version, I mean, I LOVE ROBYN, who doesn’t right? Anyway, Right after I went through yours, and was very happy and impressed, it rolled into the Kings of Leon version, that was a serious DOWNER. Your take on it was great, really it was, but man KINGS, those guys sound like nails on a chalkboard. Congratulations on doing it well, cause you did it better than the guys that inspired you to do it. How was it for such an undertaking, I mean, ROBYN, you have a small margin of error with such a piece, especially for it being your initial audition for Britain’s Got Talent?
Calum Scott: Firstly, thanks for the kind words, Jeremy! I knew when I first covered “Dancing On My Own” that I found something beautiful, but I had also prepared a couple of other songs for the audition including a duet with my sister because I was so convinced that I wasn’t going to get through! I think what really made that audition special was the raw emotion in the performance. I mean, my little sister who I look up to, who inspired and encouraged me to audition for the show had just been brutally cut down by Simon [just before I auditioned] and at the moment, I hated him… I also wanted to impress him and earn his respect. But looking at the side of the stage every time I had a moment I saw my sister in tears… talk about a rollercoaster of emotions. Despite being a massive fan of Robyn, I never even considered what I would say to her if I had the opportunity, I just thought “when is someone like me, ever going to meet someone like her?!”
JH: Did you get to talk to her and what was her response to it?
CS: So a few years later after singing the song all over the world on TV and radio and at festivals and my own shows, our paths crossed at the BBC building in London and I wished I had spent a bit of time crafting that conversation… I was speechless, I just hugged her and pinched myself as she said “I love your version of the song and to see so many people connecting to it is beautiful’ – yeah, I cried.
JH: Talk about the video, I loved the simplicity of it, just, everyone in there was so simple, beautiful, hoping to connect. I really “FELT” the connections we saw in that video. What I got from it was being in the crowd, and to connect, hoping that just that one person could be able to feel what you had to offer, and want to feel it. Where was the concept for that coming from? It could be from that song, but plenty of other places too.
CS: My very first music video so it’s very special for me too. I remember turning up to set that day and genuinely felt like I had won a “behind the scenes pass” for someone else’s video… madness. The concept was exactly that. It was to demonstrate a uniformed, emotionless world with two people trying to break free and find their soulmates. I think that hope and desperation is what I connected to most. I connected to the lyrics instantly on hearing “Dancing On My Own” but stripping out the production tells the story in such a powerful way. The ‘visual metaphor’ concept From Ryan Pallotta just seamlessly bridges what you hear, to what you see.
JH: I felt a “different” message from your video than I originally got from the song. Your presentation of it was more like, people seeking out someone in some loneliness, and getting over the “shy, I can’t talk to someone” anxiety. Did you see it differently when you picked that song? Or did it end up that way with a different story by the end of the video?
CS: Yes, I did come from that place with the video. The reason I related to the lyrics so much was that growing up I always hated being gay and that made dating and relationships almost impossible. If my friends I and were out at a club or a bar or whatever, I would always find myself talking to a good looking, funny guy and would be thinking ‘I really like him’ and then I would see him cracking on to a girl… cue the lyrics in the chorus. It made me not want to pursue finding love which only added to my anxieties. As I said before, the desperation is something I related to but also the hope… the hope is what you want to leave people with.
JH: How was the overnight jump to fame? Were you ready to brave it letting the world know who you are?
CS: I have to admit, that ‘overnight fame’ was awful… I didn’t think people would react that way to my audition. I remember the night before it aired I had posted on my Facebook saying ‘My sister I are on BGT tonight, tune in!’ I got three likes and one was my Mum. Literally, the second Simon pressed his buzzer on the show my phone didn’t stop. I woke up the next morning with thousands and thousands of notifications! I didn’t know what to do with it… suddenly a very normal lad from Yorkshire had hundreds of people wanting to connect. It gave me pretty bad panic attacks because it’s not a normal thing for someone to experience. Definitely wasn’t brave enough for it and believe me, I am incredibly grateful to Simon and the show and that platform I had, but if I had known in advance what was going to happen I would have thought more seriously about auditioning!
JH: The song “No Matter What”, no mistaking what the point was. You told a great story in the video. It hurt to just watch it, knowing what you were telling was so personal, but then so much of it was relatable for even straight kids in a lot of ways, but you showed how much more it was than just being an awkward kid. How hard was it to …. re-live all of that to tell the story in that video?
CS: “No Matter What” is the most personal song I have written and I knew the music video was going to follow suit. I knew it had to be very real, very relatable not only to the LGBTQ+ community which I know it touched but to all people who just want to be loved and to feel part of something. The actors did incredible jobs in visually telling the story, some of it directly my own, but my performance itself was tough to get through. In fact, the editor’s cut included the scene right at the very end showing me getting upset and him cuddling me which I felt needed to stay in for the official music video. It breaks that fourth wall but that’s what makes it real. The song and the video did give me the closure I needed but it also became a talking point for me to be able to use my art and my platform to help people.
JH: I also loved the scene at the end, the nervous guy, taking his fiancé or just boyfriend home to meet his parents, that was universal, and is a gender-neutral situation and applies to any couple, but you did it well. Was it a crowning moment, did you get closure maybe? What was the most powerful point you wanted people to see in that? For me, it was the father saying “Yes, I love you no matter what, and I am proud of you”.
CS: Me too. That was such a massive moment in the video because it brings it full circle. I remember telling my Dad I was gay not long after my audition because I didn’t want him to find it in the press and I remember desperately wanting his acceptance so watching that scene back always gets a tear in my eye. For me though, the scenes where the young guys both had their Mum with them, comforting them both in anger and sadness is me and my Mum – she has been my rock all through my life so that hits me too.
JH: I watched your piece about coming out, your personal journey, that was very powerful. I can’t imagine being that afraid as a kid. It was hard enough being a kid, not even to worry about not being able to have a friend close enough that wouldn’t go “out” you to everyone. Did you ever think it would come to a point in your life, where you could have made a video like that? Did you think when you made that clip that anyone else in that situation would feel inspired to take that step? Have you had people tell you they related to it, and were able to take that step?
CS: I’m very lucky that my music and story seemed to have resonated with so many people already that I hoped my ‘A Coming Out Story’ was going to do the same; it didn’t make it any less terrifying to tell. When I think back to my childhood, growing up, being a teenager, I never thought I would be strong or brave enough to confront my feelings about being gay. I hated it, hated what people might have thought of me if I told them. I think this is probably one of my proudest pieces of content I’ve created but the support and stories that came in from my fans were beautiful, it makes all that pain I went through worth it, even if it had just helped one person, it would have still been worth it.
JH: How did it feel when you started to write your material? Scary, or empowering, both?
CS: A bit of both but the terror came first, the empowering came later. I knew as soon as I put pen to paper, my own songwriting was going to be like diary entries of everything I have felt and been through. There’s nothing more relatable than real stories and all of them, even the ones that no one will ever hear, have helped me close those chapters of my life.
JH: So, the story about “Hotel Room”, was that hard getting stung, how long did it take to feel like you could trust your feelings?
CS: “Hotel Room” is a song about the only man I have only truly loved and he didn’t love me back in the same way… I finally told him how I felt about him and it ended up me having my heartbroken. It didn’t help me trust my feelings much but putting it in music did help me recover. That’s the thing about your feelings, they’re not reliable, but they are real.
JH: Your fear and anxiety sounds like it was kind of crippling, then taking it in front of BGT, I mean, Simon is a brutal bastard, he is a critic and that is his job to be harsh. How was that for a win? Have you laid the anxiety to rest? I only ask that cause, well, you are a great example of what you can do against your fears.
CS: As I said before, it was such a conflict of emotion that I didn’t think about it until after the show. He had given me his golden buzzer and I felt like I was in his debt. I reconnected with Simon two years after the show, sat with him and expressed my gratitude for how he helped me but he told me he was just as grateful and that he is so proud of me, that my success shows that people can achieve their dreams and that shows like BGT and AGT really do change people’s lives – that felt like a win for sure.
JH: After all of this happened, have those people who bullied you, or bailed on you reached out, has anyone apologized?
CS: They reached out after the show but so did a lot of people. It comes with the territory, unfortunately. I’m not someone to hold grudges so I don’t hate them for what happened but I know who has my back and I’ve had enough experiences to be able to tell who is genuine and who isn’t.
JH: I was told you are working on a new album, can you tell me a little about that one? Only Human is pretty powerful, and I would be surprised if there is anything you DIDN’T say in that one, is this going to be different as far as the subject matter goes?
CS: I was just in the process of finishing up writing the second album as lockdown came in. I was actually in LA on my first few days into a three-week trip followed by a three week Nashville trip which I had to cut short. I followed what I did on my first album when writing this one, led by my heart and my experiences. If there’s one thing you can guarantee with a Calum Scott record is that there are some heartbreakers in there but since my first album, I have matured both as a person and as an artist/songwriter. I feel that is reflected in my songs, more confident, more outward than in. I took a whiteboard and wrote out the songs from everything I have written for this album that I see on the record and it hit me that I am almost there with a second album!!
JH: I want you to know how incredibly lucky you are that your parents love you unconditionally and that they said they loved you no matter what. For them to say that, and to be proud of you, speaks volumes, I hope other parents in the world can look at yours and others like yours as an example as to what a child can become when they have unconditional support from their parents. I ask this question to every artist I interview. What would your message be to the young kid who is gay, in the closet, afraid to come out, ashamed, and in that vulnerable situation?
CS: The first thing I always say when I answer this question is to do everything in your own time – don’t ever feel pressured to come out because that’s only going to create more anxiety. I know if I had listened to songs like “No Matter What” when I was young it would have definitely helped me handle the feelings I had about my sexuality better. We have a wealth of LGBTQ+ artists now all writing stories we have all lived as a community and it’s important to listen to them, to listen to their interviews and their stories. There are also incredible charities and support networks out there that exist solely to help people with their anxieties so please take advantage of those. Most importantly, please know that you are not on your own and that we are not going anywhere.
Happy Pride Everyone. (Sniff).
Don’t forget to head over to POP of the 2000s: Celebrating Pride for more of Calum’s music and other great artists like Robyn, Tove Lo, and many more to be added as the month goes on.