Mindthis Interviews: Calan Walker

Shaaz Nasir

Young professionals sometimes take the generic road to find society’s perceived notion of success. Calan did not. He stood tall against the norm, dared to do what few can ever claim, and believed in himself.  Knowing him on a personal level, Calan could have not only done anything but be the best at it.

So what did he do?


Looked within himself and said yes.

He is an up and coming musician but above all he is an artist that transcends the gap between the listener and the musician. But what does it take to go against the grain? What does it take to raise both of your hands and stick both middle fingers up in the air towards what society’s sad notion of success?

Let us find out together.

First listen to these songs, experience his work thus far:

1)      X


2)      Hypotension


3)      Hypocenter


How would you describe your genre?

I’m still working at finding my own definitive style. My work is usually a mix of vocals with electronics. I use synthesizers, beats, loops, but always the emphasis is on voice work and voice manipulation. I’m a classically trained musician, so I’m always trying to create something new, and something smart. I like attention-grabbing chord progressions and movement.

My biggest challenge is to keep my music accessible. I always want to create something that people will listen to and will want to listen to. What’s the point of being experimental if you go so far that no one can relate to it? Accessibility versus experimentation and innovation. I try to make sure there’s room for both in my work. That’s the gap that I mind.

Why a musician?

I’ve always liked music. I’ve always followed music, and I wanted to see if I could develop something on my own, something new. There’s something amazing about creating your own new song, something that’s distinctly yours, that you thought of, wrote, recorded and perfected. And in the broader sense, it’s been even nicer to develop my own musical style over the last few years, something that I’ve seen grow out of my own tastes, out of my own influences, knowing that no one else does quite what I do. I’ve made my own recipe out of the music around me, and I love it. Aside from that, being on a stage in front of an audience is the best adrenaline rush. It never gets old, especially when you’re performing your own work.

Does the commercialization of music allow for greater incentives for the inner artists in all of us to break out? Or does it just mean more top 40 hits for our broskis who go to Cancun?

It’s hard to say. Music has always been commercialized. Certainly there’s a market that’s grown and flourished around the super-polished top-40 hits, and that’s where it’s difficult to get. It has become the end-goal. It’s always sort of been that way, and it always will be that way. But the way that music outside of that market is developed and shared is changing, I believe. It’s becoming much easier to make music on your own, and to spread it around as much as you possibly can. Entry-level software and hardware is becoming more and more advanced, and it’s becoming more and more user-friendly and approachable at every step. The age of file-sharing is a challenge for the money-making side of music, but it’s also an opportunity for the budding artist in everyone. It’s getting very easy to market your music to a lot of people, very quickly, and I think that’s beautiful.

Is everyone an artist?

In their own way, yes. Everyone has at least one thing, “artistic” or not, that they pour themselves into, that they make their own, and that they strive to push to a personal pinnacle. That’s artistry, no matter the medium.

When is your EP or Album coming out?

It might not be too far off, honestly. I have enough material now that I don’t think I’ll be posting anything new (and believe me, there is new material) until I have enough for a cohesive album. It will be soon. I’ve been planning and pushing a big concept for quite a while now, and it’s getting close.

Does living in Ottawa hurt or help your career?

Neither, at this point. Most of my work has been confined to a studio, and the bigger challenge for me has been to translate my recorded work into something that can be performed live by myself while preserving both the spirit of the recorded work and maintaining a totally “live” atmosphere. My live performances have been fairly small and fairly experimental so far, and Ottawa has been pretty good when it comes to small, open-minded audiences.

Does moving to Toronto ever entice you?

Toronto and Montreal are the two big cities for music in eastern-central Canada. I’m incredibly lucky that both are essentially on my doorstep. Ottawa has a very convenient central location in that respect. So there’s no need for me to want to move so drastically now. But eventually it may become pretty enticing.

Your song “X” is engulfed with sorrow, actually most of your songs are melancholic… why?

I think melancholy is tied very closely to a feeling of trying to make sense of a concept. In all our lives we have emotions and situations and occurrences that we are faced with and that we have to work through, and the feelings associated with that process are not necessarily happy. Happiness and self-satisfaction very often are end-goals. Everything else, and I mean everything, is a means to that end. In that sense, music is a means of self-expression and philosophy. It’s a means of reaching that end goal, and that’s what musicians and listeners strive to achieve by sharing music. Sadness and melancholy are very personal, and happiness is very communal. We celebrate our happinesses together, but we tend to keep the rest to ourselves unless we express it otherwise, sometimes through artistic means. I think we strive to reach out and understand each other in this way.

Songs must connect with millions of people from different walks of life, how do you accomplish this?

The idea is to find a concept that stirs you up. Something that gets emotion going inside of you, and would probably do the same to the people around you. Find something broad in your life and express it in your means. People can usually take that and relate to a subject or a musical line on their own terms.

Must a musician or artists in general go through hardship to be relevant?

Look at Monet. His work top notch. His personal life? Not so much. Same goes with Johnny Cash or arguably Old Blue Eyes.

I wouldn’t necessarily say so. All you need to be accessible is a message that everyone can relate to, and it’s even better if it’s something that everyone can be angry about. I tend to find that artists lose their cultural relevance when they stop being angry. Or at least when they stop having something meaningful to write about or observe. It can be political or it can be an existential observation on life and living. Or something in between. People who’ve lived through hardships tend to have meaningful messages to convey, or things to complain about, either simply to communicate or to try and work things out for themselves. That’s why I think there’s been so many artists with troubled or stormy pasts. I’m a born-and-raised middle-class suburban Canadian kid, though. My life’s been pretty tame. It’s my job to find something meaningful and relatable within those parameters.

 What’s next for you? 

More of the same, musically. Writing, recording and planning. It’s starting to become a very organized and exciting process, and I can’t wait to share the results further in the near future.