At just 18 years old, Callista Clark has already positioned herself as one of the brightest new talents in Nashville. Her mature lyricism and impressive vocals showcase an artist of immense talent and it seems to diminish the depth of that talent to underline her youth, standing head and shoulders alongside the most mature upcoming vocals on the country scene.
The entirety of Real To Me: The Way I Feel is a thoughtfully composed and rounded project, showcasing the power both of Clark’s vocals and her lyricism – she co-wrote all the tracks on the record. The album is equally as filled with inspiring tracks that will hit the mark for her fellow teenagers, so too there are tracks that showcase her own strength and vulnerability that go further than just her teen years. ‘Real to Me’ that rounds out the record feels like her battle-cry – even though she may be young, her emotions are still ‘real’ to her. This track alone shows the potential of Callista Clark as a talent in this space, but one whose star doubtless will not be boxed just into Nashville. There’s a real, undeniable rock-edge to her vocal and her instrumentation that is intoxicating.
The first notes of ‘It’s ‘Cause I Am’ are bold and unabashed. Though it was the lead-out single to radio, it’s arguably it is the weakest note on the project and should not be a signifier of what follows. There’s something in her sound and instrumentation on this track that feels flat and generic – not testament to the true power of Clark. Though she sings of empowerment and not giving a damn – ‘I can’t help that I’m one of a kind / I’m more than meets the eye / If I ain’t what you like / Well, that’s alright / You want a one-dimensional woman / It’s okay, I understand / If I seem too complicated for ya, mm / It’s ’cause I am‘ – there’s something in the arrangement that does not back up the confidence of the lyrics, unlike the rest of the album to follow…
Clark is at her best when she plays with the edges of her production. So, many of the tracks possess a warmer, more country-hued production. ‘Worst Guy Ever’ is surprisingly rammed with charm as she questions how a guy could possibly do all the things he does, saying that she’d be the worst guy ever. ‘If I did that to someone, what would that say about me?‘ ‘Sad’ is another lovely, charming and jaunty track, as Callista questions why she isn’t sad at the end of a relationship. It’s truly a delightful track that provides some levity on the record.
There’s a huge depth to the record that is surprising for someone of Clark’s age. ‘Gave It Back Broken’ embraces a maturity that could fit seamlessly into Carly Pearce’s 29, with a vocal possessing many of the same qualities as an early Kelly Clarkson as she sings to a guy who broke her heart. ‘You don’t get to be the good guy, with a goodbye like that.’ The track is a display of every nuance and breadth of her vocal talent. Indeed, ‘Brave Girl’ is the latest single from the album and is an immensely insightful and inspiring album – penned alongside Emily Landis and Ben Johnson. On the track, Clark emboldens listeners to embrace their unique qualities, as the chorus delivers words of encouragement, “Be brave, girl / Jump in and make your own wave girl / Say what you wanna say, say it like you mean it / You’re gonna be okay even if you don’t believe it.” It’s an immensely emotive track, displaying her capacity as a songwriter of both depth and wit.
Elsewhere, Clark brings in a more RnB-tinged production on ‘Wish You Wouldn’t’ that marries perfectly with her vocal, dripping around the lyrics, as she pleads with a lover to leave her alone and let her go. ‘You’ll pick up your phone / thinking you should call me up / Cos you’re wondering how I’ve been… I wish you wouldn’t.’ It’s a moodier, more mature and seductive tone than the top half of the album, but that tone suits Clark to a tee. Indeed, the later half of this record is the strongest moment by far, where Callista brings in a sound that possesses a 00s rock feel. ‘Heartbreak Song’ is another song that is hugely reminiscent of an early Kelly Clarkson, with its layered harmonies that feel 00s in tone. This track is an easy standout and pointer for a potential direction in Clark’s music that we – for one – would be hugely supportive of! ‘Baby, ever since you’ve been gone / I feel a heartbreak song coming on.’ Finally, the star moment on the record, arguably, is ‘Don’t Need It Anymore’ another moodier heartbreak song that hits just right. With every listen, it just gets better – a true masterpiece of a track that showcases again the immensity of Clark’s vocal prowess. ‘This heart’s useless, worthless ‘cos it just doesn’t work / Like it did before / You stole the meaning, it’s not beating / You can keep it / I don’t need it anymore.’ The hefty drum beat is the main backing instrumentation of the track, with Clark’s vocal taking certain stage as the main instrument for the song.
Real To Me: The Way I Feel is a record that needs more than one listen to understand the enormous potential of Callista Clark and the later half of this record underlines this as a more hefty and bold 00s rock production is brought in that seeks to reinforce the immense and unique powers of her vocals. The record is a triumph that feels like the starting point for Clark.