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Listening to Calley Bliss is like putting jazz, rock, pop, funk, and folk in a VITAMIX and coming out with a velvety smooth decadent drink flavor you can't put your finger on or stop from sipping. She can draw anyone into her web with that beautiful voice. And what a lovely, cozy web it is. With the release of her 2010 debut solo album entitled Pigeonholed, it is easy to see the influences of her scattered past - a product of listening to the 80's and 90's pop divas, educated to be a jazz songstress, used more often than not for her electric stage presence and power belting voice in pop, blues, and funk projects. After growing up in the southern 'burbs of Minneapolis, Calley studied jazz voice at the University of North Texas, lived and grew up in New York City, and learned the art of giving back as a teacher and department chair at Fresco Arts Academy in Idaho. In the fall of 2013, she made a return to the place of her upbringing (Minneapolis / St. Paul), with plans for a winter 2014 tour and material for a new album in the works.
"I grew up in the burbs of Minneapolis. From a very young age I took an immediate interest in music—my mother tells a story of me as an infant in my crib rocking myself to sleep in time with the music in the tape player. (Remember those?!) At the age of three, I was often caught practicing my smile and posing in front of the mirror. This is how mom said she knew she was raising a future performer; “ham” is the endearing term my older sister still prefers to call me.
I was fortunate to not have the typical theater mother and father to shove me into talent agencies and headshots, and cart me around the city for auditions. They felt childhood was too important to miss out on, and told me if I really wanted to be a singer, I would have to find out how to do it on my own. Being the slightly “concentration-challenged” and social child that I was, there were too many other things in the moment to focus on like boys, and sports, and dances. So I did all the classic school-related music activities-- I was active in school choirs, band, and musicals all through junior high and high school. I gave up dance after fourth grade to join a Minneapolis girl’s choir called Bel Canto Voices. Took up the alto sax in sixth grade, after being denied the right to study drums, due to my lack of prior piano study. (Okay, I’m still a tad bitter about this, but one day I WILL conquer the drum set!) In high school I was one of three drum majors to a 330-piece show style marching band, a member of the concert chorale, and also auditioned into an extra jazz choir class that met every morning at 6:55AM (good grief) to rehearse for 50 minutes before the normal school day commenced. I also took music theory as a senior, by which time I was both determined and scared to death to go to college as a music major.
At the urging of my high school band director, Nathan Earp, I applied to the University of North Texas Jazz Department. I had no interest in becoming an opera singer, though I did want my college degree. Jazz, I knew, would kick my booty into shape. I was ready to COMMIT to music, and figure out what I needed to do to create a career out of it. I no longer wanted to be a pop-idol. I wanted to really learn music and acquire the knowledge to be a RESPECTED MUSICIAN! RAWWRR!! Ahem, pardon me.
My parents, I later found out, were nervously waiting for the day when I would call home, proclaiming I’d given up on college and was going to try to make it “on my own.” I can’t blame them, but I’m proud to say I didn’t drop out. Over the next five years I would come to learn more than I ever anticipated about music, about other instruments, about writing, about musicians and their lifestyles and quirks, but mostly, about myself.
I worked whenever and wherever I possibly could. Cover band gigs, my own gigs, duo gigs with a piano player, a guitar player, eventually some studio work, pop gigs, jazz gigs, show tunes, lead vocals, back-up vocals, studio vocals where I covered all parts, etc. I did it all and loved it all. I was fortunate enough to always have a steady gig, and then freelance as a supplement. There were quite a few styles to be covered, and I really had fun trying to manipulate my voice to imitate each of the original singers as closely as I could.
As a resident of the New York music scene, I cultivated a deep love and respect for the role of music in my life. As with all things, the challenge of being a musician is primarily a mind game. I had a period of time where I put music in a closet, way up on the highest shelf, and let it sit far away from my day to day. It seemed too big a dream, too daunting to be any sort of real life. But I came back to it with a good dose of humility and perspective: I still have a deep love for performance and love to be on stage, but I’ve also really grown to love writing music, finding out how tonalities and instruments and the emotions of life can affect one another, and have found a real passion for lyrics. Writing for me has become a whole other beast, to which I feel I am merely a channel. I have realized how much I did not chose music as much as it chose me.
As my musical life progresses, I’ve found myself to be more grateful for small accomplishments, yet realize there will always be greater levels to which I can push myself. I find I have more awareness to my miniscule existence on this planet, but also the incredible ripple effect a single person can have.
If you actually read this whole thing, thank-you. You’re either a fast reader, have a long attention span, are killing time at the day job, or you’re my mom. ?
Take a listen to my music, the work I’ve done in the past, etc. And if you like, shoot me an email, or better yet, come out and see me perform sometime. May the forces of music and love be with you always.