In the Middle with Callum Spencer

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On the 27th February, strangers and friends alike gathered in the underground labyrinth that is Wardrobe to watch an evening of music headlined by Seafret. The crowds gathered early to get a good spot and partake in the age-old method of artist discovery, starting with the guitar wielding Callum Spencer. Our online editor Jenny Pudney sat down with him before the gig to get to know the Skipton born singer-songwriter.

It seems Spencer’s immediate journey to where he now stands started last summer in Amsterdam, at The Brave Festival, where he bumped into tonight’s headliners. Yet, a much longer voyage can be traced back many years to when he started gigging at the age of 15. “I’ve been gigging for about five or six years, and now I do a lot of gig like locally for my living.”

Spencer’s a grafter; writing and interacting with the local music scenes and grabbing every opportunity from his room. Discussing his set tonight, “it’s just acoustic tonight. I sometimes play with a band, but yeah, it’s a similar sort of vibes to the Seafret (folk based indie pop). There’s some upbeat, dancey type stuff, and then there’s some horrendously depressing ballads which give me a little bit of a break. [So I can remember] that I need to breathe to remain conscious.”

A strong voice incomparably matched with his stage presence, you can tell his statement that “I’ve become quite hardened to idiots in bars and stuff” has given him a decisiveness on stage which is rarely seen in support acts taking their first tentative steps. However, once again this is far from Spencer’s first parley in music, already holding a good handful of melancholic guitar-based bangers to his name on Spotify. Sometimes success is like a slow filling of a bath rather than a tsunami, and he seems quite relaxed about his careers trajectory so far; “I’ve just put out an EP at the start of this month, and that’s doing alright; one of the songs got playlisted on Spotify and it’s starting to pick up, which is lovely to see.”

Faultlessly balancing moments of hope and lovesickness, Spencer’s EP is the perfect accompaniment to a steaming cup of tea on a cold day. Reflecting on his latest six-song collection, “I think my favourite track off it is the title track ‘Nothing but Strangers’. It’s not as ambiguous of a song as the title makes it out to be, it’s kind of sad folk. [There’s] a lot of the slow stuff on there as well, there’s a song called ‘Fade Away’ which we managed to get an artist from Manchester to come down and we did it as a duet, it’s beauty and has turned out really nice.”

Discussing the then impending International Women’s day the conversation turned to female inspirations. There’s a lot of artists who aren’t particularly famous which I’ve been working with in the local circuit in Manchester and Leeds. There’s an artist called Lyza who actually featured on the EP and she’s quality. She’s amazing. She’s a singer essentially, but does a lot of backing singer work, but she’s [definitely] an artist in her own right. Then there’s loads of amazing folky kind of girl groups like First Aid Kit and The Staves and they’re all beauty. So so beautiful. There’re so many amazing female artists out there. Sometimes a lot of the charts are taken up by indie bands or rappers, with not much female representation, but there’s so much talent there. It’s such a shame. Some of the grass roots artist just aren’t getting the kind of credit that they deserve, but I think it will change.”

The concluding words of our interview seem particularly poignant; “Music’s music. If it’s good, it’s good, regardless of what kind of music it is. There’s amazing music everywhere.” Tonight, the amazing music is bleeding out from the short sets in The Wardrobe, tomorrow it will be somewhere else. Spencer is the product of the local music ecosystem; there seems to be a drop of northern rain in every one of his drum beats. He is a sign of the new generation of Yorkshire artists who can enchant an audience with only a guitar for company. So keep your ear to the ground, because I’m sure he’ll take the train back to Leeds soon.

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