The Five Question Challenge with Calan Mai

(Photo courtesy of One in a Million Media)

By: Jacob Elyachar,

It is a pleasure to welcome singer-songwriter Calan Mai to Jake’s Take.

The Queensland, Australia-native began making music as a teenager when he caught the music bug.  His passion for music lead him to release an acoustic demo of “We’ve Got Love,” which found its way onto the airwaves of college radio stations around the country.  The song also caught the attention of the Australian music site Triple J Unearthed and BBC Radio 6 Music. This opportunity lead to him opening for Band of Horses and shared the stage with Frances and Will Johnson.

In this edition of The Five Question Challenge, Calan Mai talked about songwriting, overcoming obstacles breaking into the international music market, and his latest single: ‘Friend of a Friend.”

Jacob Elyachar: When did you get interested in music? How did that passion evolve into the desire to pursuing a career in the recording industry?

Calan Mai: My interest in music was really ignited by my best friend JB, who’d played guitar since we were kids. When we were 13-years-old, he showed me Led Zeppelin, Bob Dylan and how to play a G chord. He used to say we would be the next Lennon and McCartney and this confidence really rubbed off on me. It started me on the road to something that always felt bigger than just a hobby. But a desire for fame and the pursuit of it are two very different things. I didn’t feel sure I wanted a career in music until I would given up a lot for it.

Jacob Elyachar: Could you please describe your songwriting style to my readers?

Calan Mai: Singing words and playing chords until the song feels true. I grew up wanting to be a writer and I approach songs in a similar way to stories. The goal should be to make something as concise as possible without losing any information. I want to tell big stories in tiny packages.

Jacob Elyachar: What are some of the challenges that you face breaking into the international music market? How did you overcome those obstacles?

Calan Mai: Being heard, being remembered and being pursued. That’s a very simplified breakdown of the challenges, but we live in a world where anyone can make a song on their laptop and upload it to Spotify. It is hard to break out of this saturation, especially with branding and social media to contend with. I am still overcoming these obstacles, but I have a great team helping me in America and we have a lot planned!

(Video property of Calan Mai)

Jacob Elyachar: Let’s talk about your latest single, “Friend of a Friend.” Could you describe the song to my readers? Also, there is footage of you and your ex in the music video. Why did you decide to include it in your music video?

Calan Mai: “Friend of a Friend” is a breakup song written in advance. I chose to be alone so I could continue pursuing music. Now I am living the same life I was before, but without her. I have not really seen the benefits of my decision, only the downsides. But I trust it was the right thing to do.

Making the music video was painfully difficult because the lyrics aren’t really open to interpretation. We knew we didn’t want to show every line literally—that wouldn’t be adding anything to the song. Sincerity became the only option. That is, to show the results of my decision: living in small quarters, dreaming of glossy light-soaked stardom, and surrounded by the remnants of my past relationship. Using real footage of my ex was a way to cement the clip in that reality.

Jacob Elyachar: If you had the opportunity to meet with aspiring singer-songwriters who are looking to pursue a career in the music industry, what advice would you share with them?

Calan Mai: I would tell them to be themselves. It’s not as easy as it looks. You will never rid yourself of your influences, they’re baked into the cake, but you can strip away the pretense that comes from comparing yourself to people you think are better, or more woke, or whatever bullshit you see on Instagram.

The greatest artists, from Bowie to Tracy Chapman to Kanye West to Billie Eilish — they all tell stories that feel true. You never doubt what you’re hearing or seeing, even if you don’t like the songs. So work hard to find the nugget of truth that’s in you and shine a spotlight on that.

For more information about Calan Mai, visit his website! You can also connect with Calan on social media, visit his Facebook and Instagram channels.

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Copyright 2019 Jacob Elyachar