Interview – Saint Raymond talks Rock City, his new album and his love for Helsinki
19 year-old Callum Burrows, more commonly known as Saint Raymond, played his absolute heart out to a sold out home crowd on Wednesday … and boy was it an overwhelming, mesmerising, heartstring-pulling showstopper of a gig! We at The Mic caught up with him just hours before he hit the stage to get the lowdown on what it means to be Nottingham’s musical gem.
It seems you’re a bit of a household name; everyone I’ve met seems to know you in some way. You said on Twitter this has been a dream for the last 5 years. Has it dawned on you that you’re about to play to a home crowd in Rock City and what are your emotions right now?
I am like a kid at Christmas. It hasn’t quite … I don’t think it will hit me you know, for a while, it’s one of them things, especially like on the Ed tour we did some amazing shows and they didn’t quite sink in ’til Christmas time and I was like ‘woah man!’ … so yeah I’m buzzing!
You seem like a genuine down to Earth guy who loves music and loves his fans. I met you after the Ed Sheeran gig along with the endless stream of other people and if the time had allowed it, you could’ve chatted to everyone for hours. What do your fans, both new and old, mean to you?
Well, the simple thing is that if it wasn’t for them then none of it happens. I don’t care what age, size, who they are, I think when I see those people out there tonight I’ll be very excited.
Have you got a lot of friends and family coming?
Yeah man, all the friends and fam are coming down so that’s exciting!
So you’ve got over a million views on your YouTube videos combined, you’re pushing 50,000 Twitter followers. Does today feel like you’ve made it? At what point can you sit down and say to yourself ‘This is how I dreamed it would be’?
It’s kind of weird, I always dreamed of doing this and if it all ended tomorrow, I did what I wanted to do at Rock City. I dunno, it’s kind of hard to define when you say the phrase ‘made it’ just because I don’t want this to stop so I don’t know at what point you can go … think of the big artists of the world, like i don’t know how they’d define themselves as they’ve made it as they’ll want to repeat their successes.
Would you say this is something you’d look back on as a defining moment?
You’re two days older than me, playing to a sold out crowd, touring all over the world and you’re a global artist, whereas my achievement today is I’ve learnt how to work the toastie machine at home. How much hard work has it taken to get where you are? Was it a struggle at first?
Ha, yeah man I was gigging since I was 13, 14 and I was playing The Maze twice a week to no one. I remember I did my first ever ‘headline’ show there and there was two people who came. It’s just been a big learning curve and it’s nice to see that the hard work pays off.
I noticed your Twitter’s been active since 2010, a few demo’s popped up around 2012 but your first breakthrough was your debut EP ‘Escapade’. What were the first few years like? Was it a struggle with the ever-changing music scene?
I think so, that’s the hard thing about it, you never want to become someone because that’s what’s cool, but at the same time you know how the music industry works, certain things are perceived cool at certain times. The last 18 months before this were all about electronic dance music what with Swedish House Mafia. It does go in almost fashion cycles, so yeah it’s hard but if you’re persistent with your sound I think people appreciate that instead of becoming something that you’re not.
Your music is literally everywhere. ‘Fall at your Feet’ featured in the opening scene of ‘This is Where I Leave You’, ‘I Want You’ kept popping up on Made in Chelsea and ITV trailers. How did these opportunities come about and what’s it like playing Fifa and hearing your voice when picking a team?
‘This is Where I Leave You’ came around literally, I think it was the director out in Hollywood, he’s really into new music and discovering new artists, giving them a break kind of thing. So yeah that came really early, I had to wait like 18 months for that to finally happen and then, those things like the ITV Player thing I knew about but the odd occasional TV plays you never really find out about. Fifa was like a bucket list for me; I said to myself ‘Sell out Rock City, get a track on Fifa’ so yeah that was exciting!
Is it weird?
It’s really strange, it’s actually become normal in a weird way, like, oh hear he goes again, ‘shut up Callum’.
Do you have to wait for the song to finish or are you like ‘quick, pick your team, let’s get on with it’?
Haha, yeah let’s go, get it out the way!
I have to ask: Did you actually get to roll down the sand bank in ‘I Want You’?
Yes! So we literally went to the middle of the desert, it was like 50 degrees heat and we all had to wear balaclavas and stuff and riding round on quad bikes and I rolled down the hill and then I had to back to the UK that day to play T In The Park that next afternoon. So I rolled down the hill, at the bottom of it was a car waiting for me, got in the car, got stuck in traffic, missed the flight time but then the flight was delayed and we made it. I flew straight to Heathrow then straight to Edinburgh, got to T In The Park and literally, as I was playing sand was still coming off me as I hadn’t had chance to get changed.
That’s funny! Was it you with the go-pro?
No, I was first jump but then they filmed someone else with the go-pro.
Do you have a ritual before you go on stage?
I am like a chill-out guy so nothing really, I wouldn’t call it superstitious but there is one thing; I have to walk on stage with a bottle of water and then hand it to the guitar player, even if I don’t drink it. I picked it up on the Ed tour and it’s kind of annoying but, it’s so weird.
You went out to Ibiza for a bit. Any crazy stories of your time over there? I got bleach thrown in my eyes in Magaluf so I imagine Ibiza must’ve been mental?
I went to Ibiza and the first night we did kind of live it up a bit. It was 8 in the morning and we jumped in the sea and landed on a rock, so like sea urchins were on my feet and I hobbled back. Ibiza is just a crazy place, that’s probably normal there to be honest!
I read that you broke your phone on your last tour and one of your tour guys had an unfortunate tattoo … should we be expecting you to come out in a wheelchair for tonight’s gig or have things become tamer?
Mate, stairs to Rock City stage are like, a death waiting to happen. I actually broke my phone twice on that tour and I’m now on my 3rd iPhone 6 and even that’s broke so I need to get a new one; I’m just a clumsy person.
So I hear there’s an album in the works. Has every track been decided yet?
It’s all been recorded, Ed was the person who told me ‘don’t stop writing until the album’s out’, I think he wrote ‘Thinking Out Loud’ the day before the album was about to go to press and stuff so. You just never know, I recorded most of it last Summer out in LA which was cool!
What’s it like working with Jacknife Lee?
He is a super cool intelligent guy and we were up in the mountains in LA and he’s really good, really fun. It’s weird to think he’s behind all those amazing records from U2, Kasabian and others.
Have you thought on a name yet?
I keep getting into trouble from the label as they’re like ‘we need a name, we need a name’, and I’m like ‘no!’. I’m so indecisive, like literally I can’t choose. You only ever release your first album once and it’s got to define everything you want it to be.
It seems each of your tracks intertwine and tell quite a detailed story; perhaps the loss of a girl or that time in a man’s life when his heads all over the place chasing ‘the one’. Would you agree and will the album tell a story itself?
They’re a bit of everything really, growing up we all have that ‘we think we’ve found the one at 15/16’ and yeah, it’s a bit about that, a bit about other people’s relationships and yeah, just everything and general story telling.
Does one song help to write the next?
It can do, sometimes you’ll have an idea that might not necessarily work for that song so you can use it on the next, but yeah definitely!
Forest or County?
They’re not doing too badly are they, mid-table at the moment? Did you used to go as a kid?
I think I got taken when I was a baby so yeah, 19 years now, a few of the Notts County players are coming down tonight. They’re good lads!
I’ve only lived here for two years, what’s the rivalry like between the two clubs, have you ever hurled abuse at the Forest fans?
We, Notts County, allegedly hate Forest but Forest just don’t care about us cause we’re like the little annoying brother, but we played them once or twice and it’s a bit feisty but they’ve got Derby who they’re really rivals with. We haven’t really got a rival which is our problem. If we were in the same league though definitely, I think it’d be horrible!
Where’s best to go out in Nottingham? Have you had much time since turning 18 to effectively go out and ‘be a teenager’?
I think Nottingham’s really cool, it’s got Rescue Rooms, Filthy’s, I go there quite a lot. It’s really cool, it’s got a bar downstairs and a club upstairs so it’s like, the best of both worlds. I love Nottingham in general though, I’d go anywhere.
If we were to steal your iPod now, what 3 artists would we find on your top-played – if you haven’t broken it?
Haha yeah that’s true! You will find Catfish & The Bottlemen, Peace’s new album, bit of James Bay, erm, Model Aeroplanes, they’re a Scottish Indie band and they’re really cool!
Do you draw influences from them?
Yeah, I think so. I think it’s natural that you hear things and get your own ideas from them, I think that’s how it all works really.
It’s fair to say you’re a global star now; recording in America, touring Europe. But where is the one city in the world you’d most like to play?
I reckon, I’m a really big fan of Scandinavia but also like, Finland. Obviously you wanna be big in the New York’s of the world, but maybe Helsinki! I’ll go with that, it’s different so why not!
I noticed that you played the BBC Introducing stage at R&L in 2013. Did this help you in making a breakthrough and what advice can you give to other up-and-coming musicians?
Massively! So many artists have come from BBC Introducing, if it wasn’t for them then a lot of artists would be screwed. Best thing to do is get on social media, be active, put stuff out that you’re happy with. Only upload stuff that you’re happy with. Dean Jackson on BBC Radio Nottingham is a well connected guy and he’ll put your stuff out there, he’s an absolute hero and he’s well respected so from him you get like, your Zane Lowe plays and that.
What can we expect from you in the near and distant future? Have you any plans for collaborations?
Yeah, my plan’s just to get the album out, do a Summer of festivals. I’d love to do some colab’s, it’s something personally I haven’t come across but yeah, I’d love to do it!
Have you been to many festival’s as an audience member?
Yeah, I went to Glastonbury this year as a punter, but ended up playing ’cause someone dropped out. I did an acoustic set which was funny. Latitude is actually one of my favourite festival’s, I’ve never played it, but I’ve been and it’s amazing!
You’ve done Splendour for the last 3 years, can you actually top it having played the main stage this year?
I know, that festival’s really cool and it helped massively with progression. The only stage I haven’t done is the comedy stage, which is, you know, the stage to be on!
What would you be doing now if you never went down the music path? What other hobbies & passions do you have?
I’d be lost I reckon. I kind of left college and didn’t know what to do, I talked about becoming a barber, I didn’t know what to do. I was always into literature and English and music as well so maybe it would’ve still been something musical.
Congratulations on how far you’ve got, best of luck tonight and for the future! Thank you for your time.