Who or what inspired you to pursue a career in music?
Definitely my wondrous Ma and Pa, both of whom were rocking classical violinists! I was so blessed to have the happiest, hippiest childhood soaked in music. We spent every Summer at the magical, mystical Dartington Summer School and I starting screeching away on the fiddle aged 3. In fact, my first concert was actually aged 4 at the Royal Albert Hall where apparently I got up on stage and slept right up until the moment I had to play. (Some things never change!!) My parents were a shining example of how to totally rock a career in music whilst also being the best parents ever and just generally being completely bonkers, completely awesome humans. They have always encouraged and totally supported me, pushed my boundaries and opened my mind and I am eternally grateful for their love and for my wonderful life.
It was at aged 10, on having the honour of sitting in on a private rehearsal with the fabulous Sir Elton John (blue velour tracksuit and Chihuahua in tow) at the Primary Academy, that I decided I would pursue a career as a pianist singer-songwriter.
Who or what have been the most important influences on your musical life and career?
All the incredible teachers I have been lucky enough to learn from throughout my life. My first (and best) teacher, was my Mama aged 3 on the violin. I then took the train from the country into London every week from when I was 8 and studied with Philippa Bunting, which led on to my composition lessons with David Knotts at the Junior Academy. When I studied at the Royal Academy of Music in London, I had the honour of learning from the great Colin Stone for classical piano and the one and only Dominic Alldis (who has remained a great mentor and friend) for jazz piano.
What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?
I guess the biggest challenge I’ve had to overcome is staying true to myself as an artist and not compromising to please a certain demographic or to fit into a ‘genre’. You’ve just got to go for it, no matter what people say. Don’t let the haters bring you down, and have fun!
Which performance/recordings are you most proud of?
I’m super proud of all the different music I’ve made over the years as it documents the story of my life. The latest EP I have coming out on the 13th October, ‘Project: Love Me’, is definitely what I’m most proud of though, as it’s the first record I’ve made with complete creative control. Having worked with various labels and managers who have pushed me this way and that way, this is the first project I’ve been able to work from the ground up and have been fully involved in every part of the process every step of the way. I collaborated with the incredible film composer Guy Dagul on the production and I love the result of the dramatic sweeping strings and the larger than life sonic soundcscape. I feel so blessed to have the most groovy team of creatives by my side: songwriter Elliott James Frisby, producers Nuno Fernandes and Dennis Weinrich, my awesome live band Fred Claridge and Sam Weston and filmmakers extraordinare Philip Reinking and Silent Tapes Films. Together we have created a body of work that I am SO super proud of and can not wait to unleash on to the world!
Which particular works do you think you play best?
My own! I don’t play as much classical repertoire now as I would like, but I used to be a mean hand at Rachmaninov! And my absolutely favourite composers to play at the piano are Chopin and Debussy (dreamy!).
How do you make your repertoire choices from season to season?
As I write my own material the repertoire flows with the changes in my life and inspiration. The sound of my current album is all about high drama and ownership, empowerment and humour. It is a testament to becoming a woman and shredding the insecurities from being a girl. It is being fearless and breaking free from the chains of society, two fingers up to all the people who have held me back in any way. However, I sadly lost my incredible Dad last year and have gradually begun writing the pain of this loss in to music, so the next album may have a completely different mood altogether.
Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in and why?
So there’s a beautiful little theatre called Holy Names in Spokane, Washington which is my Mum’s hometown. I feel a great fondness for this special little town in America where the people are kind and open and the weather stays true to the season. I first gave a concert here several years ago and since then I try to return every Summer I can to do a show. They always welcome me with humongous open arms and open hearts and there is always so much love in the room. Many of the audience members have travelled with me through my progression as an artist, have smiled and put up with me throughout my various explorations into the weird and wacky, have encouraged every step of the way and have become my friends over the years. As a musician you can’t ask for more really!
What is your most memorable concert experience?
I just came off a US Tour which I will definitely tell the grandkids about! Starting in LA and ending up in Spokane, my dear friend Chanel (of Chanel and the Circus) and I went on the wildest road trip of our lives! At every stop we joined forces with incredible local musicians to create new collaborations and art along the way. We saw old friends and made many new friends and I got to see much of my beautiful American family too! We laughed, we cried – it was totally intense and absolutely magical. The most memorable moment for me was the show we did from inside Seattle’s largest boxing ring which was organised by my awesome cousin Greg! I had Chanel on one side romancing her synth, her beautiful sister Grace (who was documenting the tour to be made in to a short film due for release this November) beautifully bashing the drum pad to my right and from behind us came the most phenomenal, lucid tones of Seattle’s finest Bradford Aaron King making love to his saxophone (not literally). As our friends and family stood around the ring and I played that piano and sang like there was no tomorrow, we all moved as one as we bounced along the springy boxing ring floor and I felt a total transcendent euphoria….. that was pretty special, man!
As a musician, what is your definition of success?
To be happy and love what you’re doing! To create art that you are absolutely proud of! Music is an incredibly powerful, universal language which can communicate, heal and even change your life. To know that I have helped or inspired anyone in any way is success to me.
What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?
Always be yourself and never give up! Establish who you are, where you want to be and then go for it all guns blazing honey! Make sure you love and believe in what you’re doing and don’t let the knock backs throw you off kilter, remember not everyone may love your music – clearly they just don’t get the fabulous ;). Collaborate and create with other awesome artists, enjoy listening to all the great music that you can and bathe in inspiration at any possible point. Work hard, play harder and always reach for the stars!
What is your most treasured possession?
My beautiful, sexy God-of-a-man husband Pierre (recently married!!!)
Where would you like to be in 10 years’ time?
A great wife, a great Mum, still sharing the love and touring the world! I am writing my first musical at the moment (how exciting!) so a hit musical on Broadway is definitely in the 10-year plan too!!
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Love, family, good health, great food, music and laughter.
What is your present state of mind?
Either completely zen or completely frantic, always!
Calista Kazuko I POISON
Born into a bohemian family where music was the staple diet, Calista is the daughter of the late renowned violinist Paul Robertson. After studying piano at London’s Royal Academy of Music, Calista has been performing and winning fans across the world with her dynamic voice and captivating song-writing.
Calista’s explosive new EP, ‘Project: Love Me’, is the result of her recent collaboration with award winning film composer Guy Dagul. This highly anticipated debut is an epic, cinematic collection of songs which takes you on a journey filled with passion, sophistication, man-eating and drama.