Earlier this year, Callista Clark released her debut five-track EP introduced by her lead single “It’s Cause I Am,” which Forbes magazine called an ‘unapologetic declaration of confidence.’
But to those who have followed Callista since her uber-viral video in 2017, this is nothing short of a surprise. Callista’s power-packed voice combined with a soul that’s so rich beyond her years and high-caliber performance, she (and her music) has always definitely exuded that captivating confidence. What’s even more impressive than that is the fact that she is achieving this feat at just 17 years old.
Intrigued? Then join us in getting to know more about this young and fearless soul – from her humble beginnings to her stardom.
Before The Fame: Who is Callista Clark?
Born on September 29, 2003, in Zebulon, a small town of 1,078 people just an hour away south of Atlanta, Georgia, Callista Clark started singing the moment she could speak.
For the young artist, it feels like she has been singing her whole life, and it comes most natural to her, probably even more natural than talking. And before she could even read words and sentences, she already knew how to harmonize. But that isn’t really surprising. After all, she is the (middle) child of a bank examiner and a math teacher-turned-homeschooling-mom who happen to be both music lovers.
But aside from being a singer, it turned out that she also had a knack for playing instruments. At 10, she learned her first instrument – the ukelele. As the story went, her little sister received a toy ukelele as a gift, and she started playing around on it. Soon, it led to a real ukelele, and within a few months, her parents handed her a guitar. Callista’s dad taught her the basics, and she never put it down after. Then when she turned 14, she started learning the piano. This time, it was her mom who familiarized her with the sounds of the black and white keys. She fell in love with it quickly.
After that, there was no stopping her. She learned the bass, electric guitar, banjo, and mandolin all by herself.
That’s not all, though, as Callista Clark is definitely full of surprises. At the age of 11, by the time she was learning the guitar, she was also starting to write songs. Her first-ever song titled “Wildfire” was initially a poem that she skillfully transformed into lyrics and then to a tune. And at the age of 12, she was gracing the stage. She even joined a 4H group for young artists, where she was among many singers who met and performed for Jennifer Nettles of Sugarland. Luckily, she also got the chance to be invited by Nettles herself to do a duet with her.
In a later interview about that performance, Callista admitted that she was nervous, but Nettles introduced her as ‘fearless,’ and so she pretended she was one. A self-proclaimed introvert, she also shared that she always liked performing a little bit more than how much she was scared to do it.
13: The Life-Changing Cover
Callista took a step further out in performing as she started to post covers on her guitar on the Internet though it wasn’t really a big deal for her. It was simply her way of connecting and staying in touch with friends. One of her first covers back then was Beatles’ “I Want To Hold Your Hand,” which earned her 100,000 views. But it wasn’t until she covered Creedence Clearwater Revival’s 1971 hit “Have You Ever Seen the Rain?” in 2017 that her life changed.
It was a song that her older brother used to sing all the time, and it got stuck in her head. One time, she just decided to cover it cross-legged on an outdoor deck with her hair unbrushed and with only a cellphone to film her. She didn’t really expect anything out of it, but the next thing she knew, it already blew up.
Her video may have lacked aesthetic cinematography but her vibrant and soulful voice filled in all the gaps. She was just 13 at the time, yet her voice sounded like a seasoned professional.
The Early Days: Small Town Girl Meets The Big City
Her uber-viral cover, which now has 28 million views to date, opened a big door of opportunity for the small-town girl. She got contacted through email by Allison Kaye, Scooter Braun’s partner. At first, Callista and her family thought it was just a prank, but a week later, they were sitting in Braun’s living room in LA. She then signed with Braun’s management company, SB Projects, and later on inked a record deal with Scott Borchetta Big Machine Records. At just the young age of 15, she was already traveling back and forth between Georgia and Tennessee to work with the best songwriters in Nashville.
At that point, she was living the real-life Hannah Montana, but the only difference was that she didn’t have to hide her identity. Zebulon was more than happy for her, and they have always been supportive of her. And besides, nothing has really changed for her despite being an artist preparing to debut. No one treated her like she was different and most of the time, being in Zebulon made her forget she was one.
Callista still definitely craved the rhythm of life in her small town where she could spend her weekends singing at their church, hanging out with her little sister, hunting new clothes at thrift stores, and picking up a new instrument. And more importantly, she just enjoyed things unfolding. She thought that if her career was supposed to happen, then it would just kind of work out.
And it did.
The Young Fearless Songstress: A Woman At 17
Just last February, Callista Clark finally unveiled her debut EP Real to Me, composed of five tracks she all co-wrote. Then in March, she released the lead single “It’s Cause I Am,” an assertive track with the 90s inspired songwriting, which peaked at number 22 on the Billboard Country Airplay chart and racked up over a million streams on Spotify. The country singer felt that this track perfectly introduced her – bold, strong, more sassy, and sarcastic.
According to Callista, through the journey of preparing for this EP, she realized that she had so much more to offer than just covers. And that she had stories to tell even though she’s just 17. As she says, she is more than comfortable singing “woman” in her lyrics because it’s never about the age for her. It’s about the power and confidence she feels when she writes about it. And as one critic said, she definitely showed in this EP that she had the ripe songwriting skills and the emotional maturity to match. Age is just a number.