By: Ryan King
The love of music seems to be at Kacie Callahan’s core. Despite her self-professed shyness, when she is on stage and the crowd is feeling the music, it does not look like she belongs anywhere else. Feeling so at home in the music, you will often find her on stage in her bare feet.
Callahan’s music career began early, as early as any career could begin. Her father, Gary Callahan, was a travelling musician, and he began teaching her how to perform at the age of four. She played at festivals as a travelling children’s entertainer, but by the time she became a teenager, her musical performances stopped due to a growing stage fright. It would not be until she entered her early 20s that should would begin performing again.
Raised in Grand Falls-Windsor, Callahan left town for Memorial University of Newfoundland in 2010 after high school. However, after spending a year back home, in 2015 she decided to move to Corner Brook to continue her education and become a kindergarten teacher Her teaching career may have started in 2017, but her love of education began long before that.
“I have wanted to be an educator as long as I can remember. I would play school with my younger sister day in and day out,” said Callahan.
It was only natural that she would use music to teach her students.
“Music was the first thing I brought to my classroom. Music has always been a huge influence on me from a very young age with a musician for a father, and I knew that it would not only entertain the children, but would provide them a new way to learn concepts, languages, and many other things. I brought a small blue guitar one morning, placed some blue eyes on her, and she became a character of her own, Miss Blue. She would sing with the children, speak in octaves and eventually go on to perform little shows for the school with her little friends in my class,” said Callahan.
Callahan would go on to create the Miss Blue’s Music School, a studio where she teaches children and adults guitar, ukulele, and vocal lessons.
Callahan’s style of teaching is unique. Believing that there are many kinds of intelligence and ways of learning, she seeks to turn the classroom in to an engaging interactive experience whenever she can. By doing this, she allows children time to explore concepts and to help develop their imagination.
“If you can use different methods, literacy, art, music, play, to invoke interest in a child, you will watch them bloom in various aspects, not just academically,” said Callahan.
Her favorite subjects to teach are music, art and science. Music being among her favorite subjects is unsurprising. Callahan is self-taught, other than some basic guitar lessons from her father, and that outlet has allowed her to explore her creative talents. Through teaching others, she passes on the skills to do the same.
Her creative process usually sprouts from an inspirational, emotional moment – such as the way a song makes her feel, or an event in her life. She describes writing songs in two different ways. One method she uses is to first create the music, and then she records herself while she ad libs the lyrics over it, going back to pick out choice phrases and melodies. Another method will have her start with singing a melody or writing poetry, and then going to her guitar to find the chords to match the melody or piece. Which way she chooses is spontaneous.
“What I like most about playing music is the feeling in my soul when I see toes tap, people singing, bodies swaying, smiles and sing-alongs. I love when people tell me they really felt something or enjoyed my performances, as it’s really the only place I feel completely comfortable and myself. It’s like a really good scream in your car after a hard day, to be able to belt out every feeling you have sitting inside of you,” shared Callahan.
Not confining her taste to any one particular genre, Callahan has a long list of musicians who inspire her own talent. At a young age she was first a fan of The Beatles, which in turn lead her to appreciate other classic rock. She then began listening to albums by Simon and Garfunkel, Janis Joplin, and The Doors. Led Zeppelin introduced her to the Blues, Ray Charles brought her Soul, and Nina Simone opened her eyes to Jazz.
Callahan considers her music as sounding the best when she performs in small theatres, or quiet seated venues. However, she still enjoys playing rock festivals and informal living room concerts. Besides playing as a solo artist, she also plays with her band, LoveQueen, and is also in the jazz band The Jazz Apostles.
It is difficult for Callahan to pick a favourite performance of her career. While she has had many that left her feeling like she was on a cloud, she cited her Patsy Cline tribute show, featured at the Rotary Arts Centre in Corner Brook last year. It received much praise, and she enjoyed crafting the show just as much as people enjoyed it. She also said she greatly enjoyed opening on tour for a Canadian comedian and travelling Ontario, which let her perform in venues that she never thought she would get to enter.
The performances that she looks back on as her worst would be her return to the stage in her 20s.
“I was so nervous that I would choke when I performed. I would forget words and literally choke on my own saliva from extreme stage fright,” said Callahan.
Despite feeling at home on the stage when the music is playing, performance anxiety has remained a part of Callahan’s career since the beginning. When asked how she currently manages her anxiety before getting on stage, she says that she does not have a ritual per se to dispel the anxiety.
“Hours before I am unable to focus on anything other than what is coming up. I’m unsure if I’m conserving energy, or working myself up. I will often make a few jokes upon entering a stage to feel more comfortable, and will start with a song I have played thousands of times. The first song is always the most nerve wracking so, if I know it well, the rest will be a breeze,” said Callahan.
While the pandemic has put a damper on live music on the Southwest coast, Callahan said that the times that she has made her way down from Corner Brook with her funk-rock cover band, LoveQueen, have been memorable.
“It has been a delight when I’ve been there, both musically and personally. My band has played in the area, and the people couldn’t do enough for you. Just kind, and fun and just what an entertainer would love!,” said Callahan.
Callahan circulates the Newfoundland music scene weekly. She is based out of Corner Brook but music lovers may catch her playing a show anywhere. She is currently working on writing songs for her first album, due to come out in 2022.
“Music is my heart and soul. It makes me feel things nothing else in this world has been able to. It shifts my perspectives, opens my world in so many ways, and allows me to be creative.”