Kirin J. Callinan on leaving tasks to people who speak the language

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Kirin J. Callinan on leaving tasks to people who speak the language

Kirin J. Callinan
Photo by Rahnee Bliss
Words by Lewis Noke Edwards

The new new single "Crazier Idea" from Kirin J. Callinan is out now, a precursor to the forthcoming album If I Could Sing, out February 2024.

Kirin J. Callinan has a reputation that precedes him. Combining masterful songwriting with shock value and an unparalleled sense of style, Kirin’s workflow is that of a true artist: he writes, composes and arranges, before the team around him handles their disciplines, with Kirin orchestrating it all and keeping it on track.

Read up on all the latest interviews here.

Ahead of the release of “Crazier Idea”, we spoke to Kirin J. Callinan about writing and recording the song, and working right up to deadline in Paris.

Kirin, congrats on the release of “Crazier Idea”. When and where did writing for this song begin?

Greasy Studios, Epignay, Paris, France. Started in 2023, finished in 2023, we conceived, wrote, mixed & mastered all in the one studio [with] Max Baby, Marcus Linon & I, with a little help from Wendy Killman aka Cyprien Jacquet on the drums.

A small team and all in the one location, which is very rare for me given my transient existence. Whilst from top to tail it took many months to complete, the actual time spent on it, in the studio all together, would likely be little more than a week, which is relatively spontaneous & minimal labour as far as my perfectionism is concerned.

We understand the single was written, mixed and mastered up against a deadline in Paris. Why and where in Paris did this happen? 

Greasy Studios, a beautiful set up on the northern ‘burbs o’ Paris proper, known as, among other things, being the studio of Magma, the iconic 70’s French prog rock band.

The reason for the rush was to make the literal pressing deadline of this album, an album that had already been set back by a number o’ delays. However, I’m glad I waited. “Crazier Idea” completes the album, and it is a vastly superior record for it. A beautiful song, “The Ghost I Love The Most” had to make way, but I’m sure it will see the light of existence, in a physical form, some day soon.

Do you think your environment ended up taking the song in a certain direction or did you have a strong vision for it from the start?

Naturally. It always does; irregardless of the initial vision or intention. And so it should! How boring if where you finally land is exactly what you had in mind. Where’s the mystery, the unraveling, the big reveal?

I’m a big believer that songs have a will of their own, and as a songwriter it’s your duty to follow that, to honour that, as best you can. Sometimes you need a blunt tool, some brute force, some clumsy, shody showmanship, but my favourite works I’ve been involved with have always seemed to be a force unto themselves. This one was one such one, inspired from the beginning, it took many forms. Never really felt like hard work to me (Max might disagree) it was spawned by a single, simple sample that Max had, and I responded.

Once we mapped out some shape & form together, the melody & lyric came thick & quick. It’s clothing however; the guitars, the Rhodes, the acoustic, the melodic flourishes etc. ~ they were later additions, often added en masse in a single day, months apart, then sat on & stewed upon. We loved the song, at its core, so much we felt compelled to constantly identify its weakest links, and to continually raise the bar, both in the performances & sounds, and within the arrangement/finer details.

And how do songs usually begin for you? While this is a musical release, but artistically you do so much more. How do you define yourself? 

There’s no one way, ‘n’ certainly no right or wrong way, to write a song but again the best or “truest” ones usually come quick, and with some clarity, in regards to sentiment, lyric, melody.

However, the armour, the flourishes & frills, the context, even the intent, can twist and morph many times. I think this is just a part of story telling, whatever the medium. In that sense, I am only telling stories, or  simply charting some sort of atmosphere, there within you can create your own.

How involved are you in the production process once a song is ‘written’? Do you like to relinquish some control to a producer or engineer, or do you like to oversee the process?

I’m not hands on. Will barely touch a computer, if at all. I leave this to people who speak this language. My language is performace, musicality & sentiment.

In that regard, I see the production through to the end, and am present every step o’ the way. I wouldn’t think of it as relinquishing control however; to not man the tools, because honestly there is little control to begin with. I work only with people I resonate, that share my ambition and openess, we find our process then let the rest take its course.

The last few years have seen you collaborating with some huge artists. Do you think this has altered how you work on your own music? 

Honestly, I can’t say it has. Maybe this is arrogance? Could even be bullshit. But again, as I really am not trying to ever force something, when it comes to KJC output, and with originality & individuality high on my list of artistic priorities, I’m not really attempting to cut & paste anything I’ve learned from others.

Except for maybe a continued sense of self belief, even when all seems futile. This is something all ambitious and searching artists, big or small, must share.

Keep up with Kirin J. Callinan here.