October 20, 2021

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Makin’ Tracks: Callista Clark’s ‘It’s ‘Cause I Am’

That’s exemplified in a preternatural rendition of Creedence Clearwater Revival‘s “Have You Ever Seen the Rain,” posted to Facebook on April 18, 2017, when Clark was just 13. She approaches the song’s adult outlook with Gretchen Wilson-like vocal strength and believability. Clark’s video — seen by 28 million people thus far, including SB Projects founder Scooter Braun, who signed her to a management deal soon after the original post — sets her up as a young woman already engrossed emotionally in a different decade of her life.

Clark’s debut single — “‘It’s ‘Cause I Am,” released to AM/FM radio on March 1 via PlayMPE — supports that notion, mining the clash between others’ perception of her outward teen appearance and her inner reality. She created the song on Dec. 16, 2019, traveling to Nashville from her Georgia home for a last-minute appointment to write with Laura Veltz (“Speechless,” “The Bones”) and songwriter-producer Cameron Jaymes (Rachel Platten, Matt Wertz) at his East Nashville backyard studio, The Garden Shed.

Before her arrival, Clark stopped at a Starbucks. She decided against leaving her Gibson J-200 guitar exposed to the sun in her car and lugged it into the store, where she had a few awkward moments balancing the instrument case and her coffee. A male stranger cracked, “Good luck,” and it rubbed her the wrong way. She brought her frustration into the writing session.

“I was so aggravated by that or just anyone who had doubted me before they knew who I was or what I was capable of,” recalls Clark. “I came in kind of ranting to them about that feeling that I was having, feeling like I couldn’t do something. And so Laura, she’s such a great writer because she starts to make these little mental notes about whatever I’m saying. She’s like, ‘OK, that would be cool with the hook.’ ‘That would be cool with the verse.’ I just kept talking, and she just kept placing things, and we kind of wrote it around that.”

As the rant turned into art, they started with the opening lines: “You wish I was simple/But I’ll never be that.” That progressed to a series of couplets addressed to a boy, emphasizing how different the singer is from the girl he wants her to be.

“As a parent and as a songwriter, I want to write something about a girl who’s going to stand up for who she is,” says Veltz. “And with Callista, it just makes it so much easier because she’s already there.”

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