Eliza Callahan
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Eliza Callahan

New York City, New York, United States | SELF

New York City, New York, United States | SELF
Band Alternative





Eliza Callahan wasn’t planning on entering the 2011 John Lennon Songwriting Contest. In fact, she entered on a whim, on the advice of a person (whom she’s since forgotten) who brought the subject up in passing.
“It was really easy to enter the contest,” said the New York City native who spends her summers here in Sag Harbor with her parents. “I just clicked submit and, after a week… I kind of forgot I had submitted anything.”
Months later, when the teen was in her high school chemistry class, she got an intriguing note. While staring down at the screen of her cellphone, which she had been using as a calculator, she noticed she had an email alert: “Congratulations, you’re a grand prize winner!”
The announcement didn’t have its intended impact. “It sounded pretty spam-y,” Callahan recollected. But after class she read the email more thoroughly, she found out she had been selected from a total pool of thousands of applicants from around the world, chosen over the top winners in 12 categories — including Gospel, Children’s, Electronic, Hip-Hop and Pop (Callahan herself entered the Rock category) — as the sole winner of the 14th annual John Lennon Songwriting Contest. And she would get $20,000.
“I was so surprised,” she noted rather modestly in an interview last week.
And while it may be surprising — impressive to say the least — that this tiny 16-year-old with long black hair, living right here on Madison Street has received international acclaim for a song she started writing as sort of a lark while sitting on a friend’s couch in D.U.M.B.O. (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass), her musical career suggests otherwise.
Callahan began playing the Suzuki guitar (a strict classical style) at age three, when her instrument was the size of a ukulele and her plucking was all done by ear. She picked up jazz guitar at age eight — still her preferred mode of strumming — and gradually transitioned into rock shortly thereafter.
Callahan also began experimenting with songwriting by recording notes and lyrics on Garage Band — a computer program that allows professional, amateur, even non-musicians to record and overlay tracks — at a very early age. She credits the inspiration for her very first song, which she wrote at age seven, to a parrot named Lolita, whom she met on a family trip to Costa Rica. (Lolita was special, Callahan noted. She said “Hola” when you spoke to her.)
Though Callahan has only recently started performing her own songs, she has been a part of the Third Street Music School for about as long as she’s been playing jazz. With collections of other young musicians, the school organizes two performances each year, during which young ensembles play a range of music, often classic rock. Callahan herself has played Hendrix and The Beatles (her personal favorite), and remembers getting her on-stage start with The Kinks’ classic, “Lola.”
“I was an eight-year-old singing about a transvestite!” she laughed.
Now fully immersed in all facets of the process, Callahan speaks of her songwriting with professionalism and the insight of someone who’s been doing this for ages.
“Each song is its own beast, in a way. The hardest part is trying to really figure out what you’re trying to say through the song,” she began. “There are two ways to go: either you tell a story, or the song is [composed of] snippets of stories, but a message comes across, and emotion is portrayed.” Callahan always writes in the latter, more free-form style.
The song she entered into the John Lennon Songwriting Contest, “Bridge Song,” is what she refers to as a “Brooklyn anthem.” Though it was instigated by an afternoon spent mocking the wave of super-trendy hipsters that, in recent years, have spilled out of the East Village and into Brooklyn neighborhoods like Williamsburg and DUMBO (to name a few), Callahan said the song grew over two years to become what it is now: a soulful tribute to this young sub-sect of Manhattan’s satellite community.

"John Lennon Songwriting Contest - Eliza Callahan"

MYFOXNY.COM - Brian Rothschild is the executive director and co-founder of the John Lennon Songwriting Contest as well as the non-profit John Lennon Educational Tour Bus.

He comes to Good Day New York to talk about The John Lennon Songwriting Contest, an international songwriting contest that began in 1997.

Judges for the contest have included Black Eyed Peas, Fergie, Bootsy Collins, Natasha Bedingfield, Jesse Harris, Lamont Dozier, Matt Pinfield, Bob Weir, Ryan Shaw, the Bacon Brothers, and Ken Komisar, president of Justin Timberlake's Tennman Records.

The contest is open to amateur and professional songwriters who submit entries in any one of 12 categories: rock, country, jazz, pop, world, rhythm and blues, hip hop, gospel/inspirational, Latin, electronic, folk, and children's.

The writer(s) of the "Song of the Year," the highest honor bestowed in the contest, will receive a $20,000 check and other prizes.

Eliza Callahan, 16, of New York City, comes to Good Day New York to sing "Bridge Song," which won the Lennon Award for Best Rock Song. - FOX 5


A couple weeks ago Mark Ronson Yousendedit this lovely summer guitar jam to us with little to no information. After a bit of investigative journalism, we turned up the following facts: Almost Allison formed for a school project that just happened to turn out totally awesome. They have several songs and have played a few shows. The singer, Eliza Callahan, has a magic amount of control over her scratchy-sweet voice, particularly the little warble that turns up at the end of every phrase. She is also 14 years old and a movie actor with a real-life IMDB page, so if her music career doesn’t pan out, she’s already got a fallback plan. Smart moves! We have a feeling, though, she’s probably gonna be good on the band tip, based on the amount of times we’ve listened to “Tide Comes In” on repeat.

Read more: http://www.thefader.com/2009/10/21/premiere-almost-allison-tide-comes-in-mp3/#ixzz1QIOPc2TR - FADER MAGAZINE





Eliza Callahan was born and raised in New York City. At a young age she began taking guitar at a music school in the East Village. Eliza grew up listening to Rock and Roll, Punk, and Jazz, idolizing Patti Smith and John Lennon. Living above her father’s restaurant Indochine for the first seven years of her life, she was inspired by her surroundings and the people she met. By age 7 she excitedly picked up the electric guitar, which she felt better fit her “electric” personality, and began writing quirky songs and melodies that simple came out of her. Shortly thereafter, when her family moved to the West Village, she met a neighbor, Jim Hall, the legendary jazz guitarist in a chance encounter on the street. They became close friends, and he greatly influences and inspires her as a person and a musician.

Eliza is a senior in high school at a school in Brooklyn.

She couples her unique vocal style with song lyrics drawn from her poems, along with music rooted in a blend of Indie / Alternative Rock with Jazz and Folk influences.

In 2008 Eliza enlisted two friends from middle school to come into Axis Sound Studio with her guitar teacher/producer, Jeff Peretz to record some of her songs. This project led to the formation of the band Almost Allison. They proceeded to play gigs around NYC and Brooklyn and although the group was young and short-lived they almost immediately received attention from grammy award winning producer Mark Ronson. In October of 2009 Ronson sent Eliza’s song “Tide Comes In” to Fader Magazine, whose review described her vocal style as having “a magic amount of control over her scratchy-sweet voice, particularly the little warble that turns up at the end of every phrase.” Later that fall TopShop listed Almost Allison on their Playlist alongside Passion Pit, Julian Cassablancas, and Vampire Weekend and used “Tide Comes In” as the backtrack for their Spring Summer 2010 Behind the Scene Fashion Campaign Video and later featured Almost Allison in Topshop Magazine as one of their “new favorite artists.” In the summer of 2010 Almost Allison split up and Eliza returned to the studio to continue recording her songs.

Eliza, who is highly inspired by, and closely follows the Indie music scene in NYC and Brooklyn, attended The Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in April 2010, to see her favorite bands and to discover new music. While there, coaxed by her friends, she entered an open mic contest on a whim and after playing “Tide Comes In,” she was named one of the three winners of the Coachella Odwalla Open Mic Contest.

In spring 2011 her song “Bridge Song”, a Brooklyn anthem, was chosen as the Lennon Award Winner for Rock in the 2010 John Lennon Songwriting Contest.

On August 1st 2011 Eliza performed live on Good Day New York and was awarded the $ 20,000 as Grand Prize Winner for Song Of The Year in the John Lennon Songwriting winning the biggest prize awarded in the entire contest.

Eliza was named a semi finalist in the International Songwriting Contest for her song "If I Told You" in March of 2012.

She is now playing shows around N.Y.C. with Cailtin Grey (Bass) and former drummer for The Americans, Kyle Oleson (Drums). Eliza is currently recording an EP at Headgear Studios in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.