Scottish singer Callum Beattie talks TRNSMT and why he likes keeping it live and authentic

The Edinburgh singer-songwriter has been watching live music for as long as he can remember and is proof that People Like Us can be rockstars

Callum Beattie, winner of the Forth Awards Star of the Year prize, will perform at TRNSMT in Glasgow this weekend. Pic: Andrew Whitton
Callum Beattie, winner of the Forth Awards Star of the Year prize, will perform at TRNSMT in Glasgow this weekend. Pic: Andrew Whitton

With a month of music festivals coming in which we can get out and celebrate live music again, Edinburgh musician Callum Beattie takes time out of rehearsals after winning Artist of the Year at the Forth Awards to give us his take on TRNSMT at Glasgow Green where he’ll be playing on Friday.

Scotland’s music lovers will barely have time to head home to dry out their tents and bucket hats between festivals and gigs, with a summer of big names and new talent galore. With gigs including Calvin Harris at Hampden and Primal Scream at Queen’s Park, Glasgow tonight and this week Roger Daltrey at the SEC Armadillo, Glasgow, Michael Buble at Floors Castle, Kelso, then Haim at the Glasgow Hydro, Texas at Edinburgh Castle, and Gerry Cinnamon, Glasgow Hampden Park, and that’s just the start of the month of July, the stage is set for a summer to remember.

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Festival fans will be heading for Kelburn Garden Party this weekend to see Nova, Free Love and Maranta, Tiree Music Festival (8-10 July), HebCelt in Lewis (13 Jul – 16 July) with Texas, Seasick Steve and Admiral Fallow. There’s Doune the Rabbit Hole at Cardross in Stirlingshire (14-17 July) with Patti Smith and Band, Amy Macdonald, Belle and Sebatian, Teenage Fanclub, then Rewind at Scone on 23 July with Holly Johnson, Wet Wet Wet and The Pink Flamingo Club and Belladrum Tartan Heart Festival (28-30 July) near Inverness with Nile Rodgers and CHIC, Van Morrison and Emeli Sande and Edinburgh Jazz and Blues Festival (15-24 July).

As Summer Nights at the Kelvingrove Bandstand in Glasgow brings us into August with Van Morrison, The Waterboys and Pixies, the fun continues with Otherlands at Scone in Perthshire, with Bicep, Jamie xx and Honey Dijon, plus a line up of top acts in Edinburgh in August at the Cinch Summer Sessions with Michael Kiwanuka, Simple Minds, Tom Jones and Travis, Jupiter Rising at Jupiter Artland, curated by Alloysious Massaquoi (Young Fathers) and Tamara Schlesinger (MALKA/Hen Hoose) with Emma Pollock, AMUNDA and Poster Paints, and Connect (26 – 28th) at Edinburgh’s Royal Highland Centre Showground with Idles, Massive Attack, The Chemical Brothers, The National, and Mogwai and Little Simz before The Edinburgh Summer Sessions in Princes Street Gardens 7-14 August and Summer Nights at the Kelvingrove Bandstand in Glasgow, Fringe by The Sea in North Berwick (5-14 August).

But back to TRNSMT where Beattie - in the spotlight after his album People Like Us debuted in May, on top of six singles and two EPs - will perform alongside Paolo Nutini, Sam Fender, Nile Rodgers & Chic, The Strokes, Foals and Lewis Capaldi.

Are you excited about playing TRNSMT on Friday? What will be the highlight for you?

Am I excited? Only more than I’ve ever been for any show in my entire life. This is genuinely the biggest thing I’ve ever done, and it's been a dream of mine for years.

Edinburgh singer songwriter Callum Beattie, who performs at TRNSMT, has a new album due out later in the year. Pic: Gavin Watson.

It feels like the hard graft is finally paying off, I just can’t wait, and the whole experience will be the highlight for me - it's just bucket list stuff, and validation for me that dreams can actually come true. I've fallen asleep at night dreaming about playing on that stage.

Who do you think are the bands to see at TRNSMT and why?

You've got to go and see Lewis [Capaldi]. He’s headlining at his spiritual home - you can’t miss that.

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What other acts do you want to see at TRNSMT?

TRNSMT is part of a summer of music as fans flock back to festivals and gigs. Pic: Gaelle Beri

Well, Paolo is one of my heroes, but my manager called me yesterday to tell me we are playing a headline aftershow gig at King Tut’s on the Friday night, so two shows on the same day, at two legendary venues. The downside is that I’ll be missing Paolo, so it's bittersweet! I’ll also be sure to catch Sam’s (Fender) set.

Then we are traveling to Tiree on Saturday so I’ll only be at TRNSMT on Friday.

What does it mean to see all of these festivals happening again after the Covid shutdown?

After the pandemic, I’d have been happy playing at the local miners’ welfare, so aye, it’s a real honour to be able to go back out and play properly. It’s just such a joy to be able to see into people’s eyes, and hug people and spend quality time together.

Lewis Capaldi at TRNSMT, Glasgow Green, Glasgow, where he will once again play a hometown set. Pic: Ryan Johnston

What are your favourite music venues and festivals and why?

That’s a hard one. Obviously King Tut’s has a special place in my heart, but having played to 13,000 people in the Hydro with Amy Macdonald earlier in the year, that just has to be my favourite - it was an absolutely incredible experience.

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I also like some of the smaller festivals like Connect as it's a chance to really connect with the music and the bands playing.

What items do you always take to a festival?

Well….. here’s the thing. I am notorious for forgetting absolutely everything. I’d forget my guitar half the time. I usually remember my shades though! That’s me - remember my shades, but forget my guitar. Do you think that might be an insight into my character?

Are you a mosh pit or take it all in from the balcony person?

Paolo Nutini was due to headline at this year's TRNSMT at Glasgow Green. Pic: Contributed

Mosh pit, and usually topless too! It’s a no contest.

What festivals would you really like to play and why?

Obviously it's the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury, but I’m also buzzing about playing the main stage at Belladrum - that’s a really big deal for me.

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Which venue would you really like to play and why?

I did get to live out one of my many dreams when I played The Roundhouse in London last year - another bucket list thing, but I’d love to play at Carnegie Hall in New York.

What do you most like about playing live?

I just love spending time with people. No two gigs are the same, and I can’t think of any other “career” like that. It can be very unpredictable, and edgy at times, and that’s what I love most about it. You’re always pushing yourself to the limit of your ability, and that creates a level of vulnerability that can be hard to find in other walks of life. As weird as it sounds, I love that feeling of vulnerability.

Who would you most like to duet with?

It just has to be Springsteen.

How do you feel about winning Artist of the Year at The Forth Awards?

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I was totally overwhelmed by the whole thing. I still find it mind-numbing to be honest. It's taken me over 10 years to get here and there have been many many times that I felt like giving up, so winning the award is just amazing, and fills me with gratitude.

It's not just about me though. I have a very hard working team behind me, and in actual fact, the award is in my manager’s living room, as I thought he deserved it just as much as I did.

How do you feel about the reaction to People Like Us since it was released in May?

I still can’t believe the response we’ve had. It’s phenomenal and beyond what I ever dreamt was possible. It’s also given me the foundations to make my new album, which is out in the autumn.

Words don’t convey just how grateful I am for all the support I’ve had from everyone.

How would you describe your career so far?

Every day gets stranger and stranger, it's a rollercoaster, and I LOVE it.

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When you were a child what did you want to be when you grew up?

The whole story behind People Like Us comes from the fact that I just always wanted to be on the stage. I told my brother that I’d be a rock star one day, and his answer was “that just doesn’t happen to people like us”.

I’ve never thought about doing anything else. I’m also not that great at doing anything else, so thank goodness for music and creativity!

What jobs have you had since you left school?

I pushed trollies at Tesco…. But I did have an ulterior motive. I frequently used my hi-vis vest to sneak into festivals.

Actually, one of them was T in The Park - if you check on YouTube for REM Orange Crush at T in the Park, you will see me rushing the stage!! That’s a true story - security ushered me off, but they did let me stay afterwards.

In fairness, I waited until the middle eight before I ran onto the stage, as I didn’t want Michael Stipe to think I was being rude interrupting his vocals!

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Who are your main musical influences, past and present?

I love lots of music, from Elton John and Rod Stewart through to The War on Drugs and Arcade Fire.

Where do you get your inspiration? And who are your musical heroes?

All my inspiration comes from my Dad. When I was a kid, he would sit me down and play me vinyl from Rod Stewart to Led Zeppelin. We didn’t just listen to the music, we would read every word of the sleeve notes, and that’s what really inspired me to get into writing. I was obsessed with the mechanics of songwriting, and how the universe seems to provide this flow of creativity, and I’m still completely obsessed with it today. It’s the lifeblood of everything I am trying to do.

My musical heroes are Bruce Springsteen, David Bowie, mostly older, legacy-style artists.

What was your first/favourite gig? What did it mean to you?

I’ve been going to shows for longer than I can remember, but definitely my favourite gig was seeing Bruce with my dad, and that’s where my own dreams really started. I’m determined to be standing on those stages too some day.

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What is it about your music that people connect with?

Who knows? I’m probably the wrong person to ask, but if you had to pin me down, I’d say it's the fact that I find it pretty much impossible these days not to be totally honest.

I think I tell the truth and be as authentic to myself as I possibly can. I think that really connects with people.

It’s a weird thing, but at gigs I sometimes feel like I can almost see the connection between my own heart and the people in the crowd. It’s almost like a lightning bolt.

You’re not afraid to be political such as in your Boris Song, which went viral. Do you think it’s important that your music reflects what’s going on around you?

If you can’t be honest in your music, what’s the point in making it? I’m not writing songs to a formula, or to try to get streaming numbers or to get on the radio or whatever, I’m making music because primarily, it’s my truth. It’s the world, as I see it, and that seems to connect with lots of people.

In my opinion, it’s the only way to do it.

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You’re also happy to be deeply personal - for example about relationships and having your dad in the video of Some Heroes Don’t Wear Capes, singing about him being a single parent and your mum leaving - is that hard? Do you feel it’s part of what makes you authentic?

Yes, of course. It comes back to being authentic and true to yourself. I have a song on my new record called Mammy, and so far, I’ve not managed to perform it live without bursting into tears halfway through it, and for me at least, that’s the only way to make music and write songs.

I want it to be right out there on the cutting edge of emotion, and if it doesn’t stir up those kinds of emotions, it’s not worth doing.

Music is just another expression of emotion, so I wouldn’t have it any other way.

What's next for you? Another album? More gigs and festivals?

Yes, my new album VANDALS is coming in the autumn. It was recorded in Glasgow with producer Chris Marshall (Gerry Cinnamon) and I absolutely love it. It’s a departure, in that it's a full band album, and a little bit heavier than my first record.

I have a new single coming out at the end of July, and we have a whole host of festivals and headline shows lined up between now and the end of the year. I’m also playing at Montreux Jazz Festival the week of TRNSMT, which is pretty special. It’s a very exciting time for me, and I’m relishing and loving every single minute of it.

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Callum Beattie is playing at Cinch presents TRNSMT on Friday 8th July, limited tickets still available https://trnsmtfest.com/tickets. TRNSMT, 8-10 July, Glasgow Green, Glasgow. TRNSMT, 8-10 July, Glasgow Green, Glasgow. https://trnsmtfest.com/

Lewis Capaldi is one of the homegrown stars performing at TRNSMT. Pic: Contributed
Sam Fender will perform live at TRNSMT. Pic: Isy Townsend