Caleb Engstrom
Gig Seeker Pro

Caleb Engstrom


Band Alternative Folk


This band has not uploaded any videos
This band has not uploaded any videos


The best kept secret in music


"Building Day One"

On his Web site, Caleb Engstrom says: "I guess with all of this I'm trying to do something honest." His shimmering debut adds heft to those words--if honesty and Midwestern values ever were to have their own indie-folk troubadour, this flaxen-haired 21-year-old would be it. He's found religion (according to the bio on his site, church "played heavily" in his life); he knows hard work (he has a temp job in a factory in the dead of night); and he seems like a Nice Guy. Regardless of whether these things actually inform his songs, they certainly add to the Engstrom myth: Here's an earnest singer-songwriter with his feet firmly grounded (don't expect Ryan Adams-like behavior from this one--yet), his slightly wounded voice finding solace in gentle strumming, soft strings and loving piano, though he's never so precious that he doesn't venture into less melodic territory ("Family"). "Six" is as sweet as a lullaby, but the best song here is the melancholy "OK," a lovely tune whose power lies in its modesty. A worthy disciple of the Nick Drake/Elliott Smith school. - Harp

"Building Day One"

Caleb Engstrom finds himself in an elite group of singer/songwriters. The alt/folk-rock seasonings of his 11 song Building Day One full-length charts a large amount of musical territory, but Engstrom never bites off more than he can chew. On "Six", Engstrom reminds me (both musically and vocally) of a mellowed out Chris Crisci of The Appleseed Cast. The rigid and somber ballad "Oh My God" is reminiscent of The Prayers & Tears Of Arthur Digby Sellers. The menacing and mournful "Three Four" followed by the acoustic driven "OK" sound like outtakes from Pedro The Lion's masterwork How To Find A Friend. The similiarities are almost errie. And the songs themselves are gorgeously arranged and performed. This is the kind of singer/songwriter record you can warm up to by the fire as you read, or just stare into blank space and let the songs carry you away. The underproduced "Available Driver" has the wonderful childlike quality that you hear from an artist like Luke Temple. Songs like "03.09.05" and "Katie's Song" pull you into Engstroms visual world with the skill of Denison Witmer, and his pleasant musicianship makes you want to return there. The latter of the two songs is lead by a beautiful piano rhythm, and has brushes of melancholy horns and strings to complete it's longing orchestral effect. The one misstep on Building Day One would be the overly ambitious and experimental "Family". Too many chopped up horns and sound bits leave you more confused than transfixed. Thankfully, the album doesn't close on that note. Instead, Engstrom comes back with the haunting and painful "Now". When he sings "everything has been done before / I can't find why I'm searching lies", he's all too believable. And that's why this record works. Building Day One is a human piece of art. This album succeeds in its genre and beyond. I'll have this in my regular rotation for a while. - The Black and White Magazine

"Building Day One"

"A perplexingly assured work for such a young artist. 'Want,' the opening song, with its childlike xylophone (or is it a toy piano?), finger-picked acoustic guitar, and gentle cymbal crescendos, is a song so infused with knowing and painful backward glances that you can't help but marvel at his tender age of 21. This brilliantly simple, yet often vague and unnerving, first-person narrative reveals a plain-spoken, downbeat sincerity that captures the disillusionment of those confusing years between adolescence and maturity with a painter's eye for broad strokes that, upon closer inspection, mask a deeper texture and countless intricate details. Most startling is how he manages to create such deep emotional landscapes with only a few well-chosen words. Many of the strongest songs - including the gorgeous, cello-driven 'Six,' whose chorus contains the lyrics that provide the album's title, and the tranquil ballad 'OK,' with its warm wash of accordion - consist of only a handful of words, written with the directness and familiarity of a love note left on a refrigerator door. Like many young troubadours, his low-key, but always intense, heart-on-sleeve delivery infuses simple, well-worn lyrics like "You're the one thing that stays the same/No, I mean you're the one thing that is forever changing" with a profound, tender weariness, giving the words weight they might not otherwise have, and making the simple sound sublime" - STL Playback - STL Playback

"Critics' Picks"

Caleb Engstrom is no stranger to St. Louis; as a Greenville (Illinois) College student, he interned at SCOSAG in Tower Grove Park. But after deciding to pursue music full-time, the singer-songwriter dropped out of school and moved to Iowa City (where he's since enrolled in college again). This upheaval likely explains the slow-brooding turmoil present on Engstrom's Building Day One, an album that wouldn't sound out of place among the Magnolia Electric Co. catalog. "Now" is the type of haunted dirge that band's frontman, Jason Molina, specializes in crafting, all tortured-ghost vocals and somber piano, while tea-time-refined strings create a mournful atmosphere on the fragile "Six." In an age when most indie rock is either overhyped or overly self-conscious, Engstrom's simplicity is incredibly rewarding. - Riverfront Times

"Caleb Engstrom"

Caleb Engstrom, the 21-year-old sometime University of Iowa student with a serious amount of live performance under his belt, and a lot of indie musician friends, self-produced Building Day One with the help of Berry's lead singer and producer, Joey Lemon, who engineered for Engstrom. The result is an impressive one-man-band show with the help of a couple of Berry members and brief vocal and percussion appearances by others. Engstrom, who has an affiliation with Andrew Bird and has toured with the likes of Pedro the Lion, demonstrates those influences on many of his tracks, but there is room for innovation; Engstrom, after all, is all on his own, and his ability to conduct and command an airy, multi-tonal sound is impressive.

Pretty guitar melodies on tracks like "Three Four" and "03.09.05" recall Okkervil River, but in the first, the young Engstrom introduces a female accompaniment to stretch out the melody of the chorus, giving the track a lazy, summer feel. "03.09.05" also features a female voice and a balancing piano countermelody. Engstrom has an admiration of Elliott Smith and Nick Drake, two underrated deceased icons with more than a good ear for sweet guitar ditties, and such admiration is evident on the album.

On "OK," Caleb simply refrains, "You're the one thing that stays the same, no I mean / you're the one thing that is forever changing." This is essentially the only lyrical component of the song, and such brevity is common. On "Now," the lyrics are also sparse. Engstrom cheerfully rants, "Everything has been done before / I can't find why I'm searching lies...tracing what I have heard before / I will run way outside the lines."

"Family," is a beautiful, inventive track with a simple vocal melody transformed by the shimmering piano melody appearing only in the verses. As on Berry's album Marriage, a capella sections where all percussion is dropped momentarily are common, but Engstrom's lyrical content and delivery is more forceful; such episodes of quiet serve to expose the voice's message: "I wanted to feel / you couldn't forget that."

Engstrom's youth is evident on the album, but he presents himself with just the right amount of dignity and self-awareness. He knows he's young, he knows he has a lot to learn, but he also knows he has the right--and more importantly, the talent--to share his insights with others. Building Day One is tender and delicate musically, but lyrically inquisitive and forceful. It will be interesting to see how these two approaches react to one another as Engstrom matures. – -


2005 - Building Day One (Right Place Records)
2005 - Building Day One (self-release)
2004 - Fall EP


Feeling a bit camera shy


Dropped into college. Dropped out of college. Dropped a self-produced and previously self-released album with Right Place Records. Dropped some mouths while performing over 150 shows in the past year on 3 independently booked tours, playing with many bands and performers, more notable ones like Pedro the Lion, Andrew Bird, The Appleseed Cast, Catfish Haven, Dennison Witmer, and Owen.

Hailing currently from Iowa City, IA (having dropped back in this spring to the University of Iowa), Caleb doesn't have great expectations for overnight success, but he is more than willing to pay his dues. With a break from school this summer, a new-found faith that his car won't break down, and most recently as an addition to The Nicodemus Agency's booking roster (Headlights - Polyvinyl, Liz Janes - Asthmatic Kitty) Caleb will be out on the road playing 60 some shows consecutively, traveling everywhere from NYC to LA.

"I guess with all of this," he says, "I'm just trying to do something honest."