Bill Callahan (musician)
Bill Callahan (born June 3, 1966) is an American singer-songwriter and guitarist who has also recorded and performed under the band name Smog. Callahan began working in the lo-fi genre of underground rock, with home-made tape-albums recorded on four-track tape recorders. Later he began releasing albums with the label Drag City, to which he remains signed today.
|Birth name||William Rahr Callahan|
|Also known as||Smog (1990–2007)|
|Born||June 3, 1966|
Silver Spring, Maryland, United States
|Genres||Lo-fi, underground rock|
|Instruments||Vocals, guitar, piano, keyboards, percussion, banjo, harmonica|
|Labels||Drag City, Domino, Disaster|
Callahan started out as a highly experimental artist, using substandard instruments and recording equipment. His early songs often nearly lacked melodic structure and were clumsily played on poorly tuned guitars, resulting in the dissonant sounds on his self-released cassettes and debut album Sewn to the Sky. Much of his early output was instrumental, a stark contrast to the lyrical focus of his later work. His use of lo-fi techniques was not primarily an aesthetic preference, but stemmed from his lack of resources to make and record music. Once he signed a contract with Drag City, he started to use recording studios and a greater variety of instruments for his records.
From 1993 to 2000, Callahan's recordings grew more and more "professional" sounding, with more instruments, and a higher sound quality. In this period he recorded two albums with the influential producer Jim O'Rourke and Tortoise's John McEntire, and collaborated with Neil Hagerty. Callahan also worked closely with his then-girlfriend Cynthia Dall in his early career, and they contributed vocals to each other's albums. After 2000's Dongs of Sevotion, Callahan began moving back to a slightly simpler instrumentation and recording style, while retaining the more consistent songwriting style he had developed over the years. This shift is apparent in albums such as Rain on Lens, Supper, and A River Ain't Too Much to Love.
Smog's songs are often based on simple, repetitive structures, consisting of a simple chord progression repeated for the duration of the entire song. His singing is characterized by his baritone voice. Melodically and lyrically he tends to eschew the verse-chorus approach favoured by many contemporary songwriters, preferring instead a more free-form approach relying less on melodic and lyrical repetition. Themes in Callahan's lyrics include relationships, animals, relocation, nature, and more recently, politics. On the subject of voice in his albums, Callahan has said, "It's usually one character per record. So, the character appears in all or most of the songs on one record and then is gone. Though it makes me feel weird to talk about. Because I don't really think in clear terms of characters. My albums as a whole could be seen as one character with many voices." His generally dispassionate delivery of lyrics and dark irony often obfuscate complex emotional and lyrical twists and turns. Critics have generally characterized his music as depressing and intensely introverted, with one critic describing it as "a peep-show view into an insular world of alienation."
Cat Power (Chan Marshall) recorded Callahan's song "Bathysphere" on her 1996 album What Would the Community Think and also covered another Callahan song, "Red Apples", on her Covers Record, released in 2000.
In 2007, Callahan released Woke on a Whaleheart, his first solo album released under his own name. Sometimes I Wish We Were an Eagle followed in April 2009. Both recordings were released through Drag City, worldwide. In 2009, Callahan contributed cover songs on four separate tribute albums to Judee Sill, Kath Bloom, Chris Knox, and Merge Records. In 2010, he released his first live album Rough Travel for a Rare Thing, which was recorded in 2007 at The Toff in Melbourne, Australia. Apocalypse, was released in April 2011 to favorable reviews. Critic Sasha Frere-Jones called it "my favorite of Callahan's albums, not because it has better songs—those are scattered among at least five others – but because it does exactly what he wants it to do: it conveys an album’s coherence." A tour film chronicling Callahan's 2011 Apocalypse tour was released in 2012. His followup to Apocalypse, Dream River, was released in September 2013. In 2018, Callahan was featured in the Live at Third Man Records series. This was his second live album, and features songs from Callahan's previous three studio albums.
Callahan's most recent album, Shepherd in a Sheepskin Vest, was released on June 14, 2019. It received favourable reviews, with Pitchfork contributing editor Jayson Greene referring to it as a "highlight of his career".
His song "Drover" features prominently in the final episode of the documentary series Wild Wild Country, the title of which is drawn from the song's chorus. His song "America" also plays during the credits of Episode 1.
Though he was born in Maryland, Callahan's family spent a total of eight years living in Knaresborough in England's North Riding of Yorkshire, with a four-year return to Maryland from 1969 to 1973. His parents worked as language analysts for the National Security Agency.
Callahan previously dated other high-profile musicians Cynthia Dall, Cat Power, and Joanna Newsom. In 2013, he became engaged to photographer and filmmaker Hanly Banks; they were married the next year. Their son, Bass, was born in March 2015.
In July 2010 Drag City published Callahan's Letters to Emma Bowlcut, an epistolary novel.
A book of photographs of Callahan by Chris Taylor, titled The Life and Times of William Callahan, was released in January 2013.
In October 2014, a collection of ink drawings by Callahan and lyrics spanning his first album as Smog, to Dream River was released, titled I Drive a Valence.
- Sewn to the Sky (1990)
- Forgotten Foundation (1992)
- Julius Caesar (1993)
- Burning Kingdom (1994)
- Wild Love (1995)
- Kicking a Couple Around (1996)
- The Doctor Came at Dawn (1996)
- Red Apple Falls (1997)
- Knock Knock (1999)
- Dongs of Sevotion (2000)
- Rain on Lens (2001)
- Accumulation: None (2002)
- Supper (2003)
- A River Ain't Too Much to Love (2005)
As Bill CallahanEdit
|2012||Apocalypse: A Bill Callahan Tour Film||
|2013||I Used to Be Darker||Composer|
|2017||Animals||Narrator (voice)||Episode: "Worms Birds Possums"|
- USA People Search – William Rahr Callahan Age: 44 – Retrieved March 17, 2011
- Thompson, Ben (May 11, 1997). "Bill Callahan spares nobody in his songs – himself least of all". The Independent. p. 18.
- Ankeny, Jason. "Smog | Biography & History". AllMusic. Retrieved November 25, 2020.
- "Bill Callahan". DrownedInSound. Archived from the original on March 15, 2016. Retrieved November 25, 2020.
- "Bill Callahan | Drag City". www.dragcity.com. Retrieved November 25, 2020.
- LeMay, Matt (March 31, 2001). "Smog: Sewn to the Sky". Pitchfork. Pitchfork. Retrieved November 25, 2020.
- "Cynthia Dall - In the Mix - Music - Music - November 7, 2002". Newsreview.com. Retrieved September 5, 2020.
- Raymond, Jon. "Bill Callahan", BOMB Magazine, Summer, 2009. Retrieved August 1, 2011.
- Bill Callahan at AllMusic
- Sasha Frere-Jones. "Apocalypse review". Newyorker.com. Retrieved September 18, 2012.
- Bill Callahan Tour Chronicled in Documentary | News. Pitchfork (January 26, 2012). Retrieved on September 18, 2012.
- "Bill Callahan's Dream River". The New York Times. September 18, 2013. Retrieved September 19, 2013.
- Sodomsky, Sam. "Bill Callahan, WHY? Release New Live at Third Man Albums: Listen". Pitchfork.com. Retrieved September 5, 2020.
- "Stream Bill Callahan's New Album 'Shepard in a Sheepskin Vest'". Spin. June 14, 2019. Retrieved July 29, 2019.
- "Shepherd in a Sheepskin Vest by Bill Callahan". Metacritic.com. Retrieved July 29, 2019.
- "Bill Callahan: Shepherd In a Sheepskin Vest". Pitchfork.com. Retrieved July 29, 2019.
- Ratliff, Ben (April 8, 2011). "He Can Sing It, if Not Speak It". The New York Times.
- A Window That Isn't There: The Elusive Art of Bill Callahan. Pitchfork.com, Retrieved on April 23, 2014.
- "Lisa Suckdog ← People ← Cafe OTO". Cafeoto.co.uk. Retrieved September 5, 2020.
- Bevan, David. (September 17, 2013) Bill Callahan Rolls on Like a River | SPIN | Profiles. M.spin.com. Retrieved on April 23, 2014.
- Preview The Life and Times of William Callahan, a Photo Essay by Chris Taylor. The Fader (June 7, 2013). Retrieved on April 23, 2014.
- "Apocalypse: A Bill Callahan Tour Film". IMDb.com. Retrieved September 18, 2012.
- "Worms Birds Possums". IMDb.com. Retrieved September 4, 2019.