Rising star Callum Beattie returns to Edinburgh to swap stage for street

You may have seen Callum Beattie on your Facebook timeline singing about Boris Johnson and Brexit along to the tune of Smoke’s ‘Who the F**k is Alice?’ - after all, it hit almost 2million views overnight.

Callum Beattie, the singer and songwriter, is back in Edinburgh. Picture: Contributed
Callum Beattie, the singer and songwriter, is back in Edinburgh. Picture: Contributed

But it’s more likely that you will see - or hear - him as you walk through the crowds of the Capital for this year's Fringe.

Callum Beattie, the singer and songwriter on the rise, has moved back to his native Edinburgh after living in Germany for the past six years.

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And while the 26-year-old has just released his latest single ‘Without You’, with its first play coming on Ken Bruce’s BBC Radio 2 show, Callum is back busking on the streets of his home town.

Callum Beattie, the singer and songwriter, is back in Edinburgh. Picture: Contributed

“I’ve just come back from a busking tour in Europe. I’ve been playing a few wee gigs on Rose Street, playing my old pubs that I used to play in, getting involved with the Fringe” says Callum.

Callum has just released dates of a free pub tour over the next fortnight of the Fringe, playing his local Scott’s Bar, the Pear Tree and the Cowshed.

“It’s my first time back playing - it feels good” says Callum.

But Callum won't be staying in the Capital for long, with plans to head west to Glasgow in the coming months.

“There’s not so many rules about busking in Glasgow - you need permits and all for Edinburgh.

“Even in the pubs, they’d have noise police coming in, complaining, being seriously intimidating. Bang in the city centre, and there are people complaining about noise.”

Callum is under no illusions about the Fringe and its issues with commodifying art and culture for large sums of money.

Last week The Edinburgh Evening News reported grass-roots promoters are demanding an overhaul of the Fringe, to end the “exploitation” of venue workers and enforce better regulation.

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Although Callum has played Glastonbury and Hyde Park, the smaller pubs in and around Rose Street and Easter Road are where his heart lies; where he wishes to return to play, and where he feels most penalised as a performer.

“It annoys me that they advertise Edinburgh as a hub of art and culture, but actually, the council only support it for the Festival,” Callum says.

“They close venues down, you have to have licenses. Even at the Festival areas, there are signs that say if you use amplification, it’s an offence.”

“I hope I do get lifted for it - it’d make a great story”.

Callum’s busking stories have recently started to make more of an appearance in his music - his new singles, ‘Easter Road’ and ‘Salamander Street’ all pay homage to his early busking and gigging days, when he would play anywhere and everywhere.

“‘Easter Road’ is about the culture growing up in the working parts of Edinburgh as a kid” says Callum.

“It’s topical and says a lot about me and my upbringing. I once played a bar next to the stadium, and a takeaway bar driver was assaulted. He ended up dying. There’s a lot to write about, from that time.”

“I’m trying to get a hold of Ewan Bremner for the video. If he’s not doing anything… he’d be a legend if he did that” says Callum.

Callum’s upbringing is the reason that he plays music at all. Raised by his father in a single-parent household in Musselburgh, East Lothian with an immense record collection, Callum was given his first guitar on his 13th birthday.

His tongue-in-cheek ditty about Boris Johnson and Brexit stemmed partly from his anger at the system, and how it treats people like his dad.

“We had nothing; we were extremely poor.

“I was just a wee boy, and I shouldn’t have been going hungry.

“I think it’s ingrained in me, that’s why I write songs about it. People say ‘Would you like to be rich and famous, Callum?’ and I say ‘aye’ and they're surprised.

“It's not because I want it for me. My dad is in his 60s, he's knackered, he works seven days a week. That guy shouldn’t be working. I want to say to him, ‘Dad, you don’t have to work another day in your life’.

My last question to ask Callum is the extremely controversial - Glasgow or Edinburgh?

“I watched Lewis Capaldi get asked this at TRNSMT and he said ‘I absolutely love Edinburgh, but I'd say I'm 55% Glasgow and 45% Edinburgh’. He was clever - I think i’ll say the same.”

Callum plays the Cowshed on the 13th and 18th of August at 7pm and Scott’s Bar on Friday 16th. ‘Easter Road’ will be released on the 30th of August and he will play The Mash House on the 24th of September