After the success of his debut album back in 2015, Callum Burrows, best known on stage as Saint Raymond, is back ready with the anticipated album, We Forgot We Were Dreaming (2021). His indie-pop sound has carried him through many headlining tours, as well as the opportunity to support acts such as Ed Sheeran and Haim. Following the release of the latest single ‘Alright’, I was able to chat with Callum about the early start of his career and the process of the upcoming album during the challenges of lockdown.
How have you found lockdown has impacted your motivation/creation?
I guess I’m trying to be creative where I can, but I think it’s just a weird time to try and be creative. I’ve always just enjoyed working and being creative with other people, so not having that has been hard. I’ve been trying to just stay as busy as possible, but there are days when you literally end up doing nothing, It’s like your motivation is a bit stripped when it feels like nothing is gonna happen soon, but then on the flip side, my motivation for live stuff is probably higher than ever. So I guess it’s kind of best of both worlds.
The record was pretty much done going into the first lockdown, so that lockdown for me was quite nice, in the sense of it was a time to not do anything, but I’m kind of bored of that now!
How has it been trying to assess the reaction of recently released songs without being able to play them live?
It’s impossible really. There are a lot of songs that I’ve been unsure about but have then played them live and seen they’ve had a real reaction, so without seeing people’s faces and hearing people sing songs back to you, it’s pretty much impossible I’d say. It’s so hard trying to maintain things in social media worlds, and not an actual real-life gigging environment, so that’s been really strange for me.
Do you find yourself reminiscing on old live shows now?
Yeah! There’s probably a lot of shows that I took for granted at the time that they happened, but now with everyone being in this position, you do find yourself reminiscing and thinking about those moments more, so definitely.
Can you remember them quite clearly?
I wish I could. There are obviously moments and stand out things, but there are a lot of things that I have no recollection of, like certain shows that I’ll see a picture of, and won’t remember anything about it. I think it’s just because you’re in such an adrenaline bubble during the show. There are moments you can pick out, but yeah a lot of it feels like a blur, which can be a bit frustrating.
So you’ve supported acts like Haim and Ed Sheeran, did you prefer playing to the larger crowds on those tours, or more smaller venues on your headlining tours?
It’s a weird one really, the Ed Sheeran tour was the best thing I’ve done, and the experience and learning curve that I went on during that tour was incredible; so for me, in terms of what I learnt, and the fanbase side of it, it was incredible. But I think in terms of playing the show, having real intimacy with the crowd is always better. For example, playing an arena show means you’re probably playing to 20,000 people, but you’ve got no idea because you just can’t see anything, which is strange. Even talking to Ed on that tour, he was in a similar boat. I remember playing in Milan or somewhere, and I think there was a 1500 capacity, and he played for an extra hour because he just loved that smaller, more intimate vibe.
Did you find that you gathered a larger fanbase as the tours went on?
Yeah definitely. I think that as streaming hadn’t kicked off as much as it has now, it was hard to look at numbers on that side of things, but I could just see Instagram and Twitter followers gather a bit of pace. On tours like the Ed tour, you start to see familiar faces that come to more than one show, so I was always going out to chat with people before and after the show.
You mentioned Milan; are there any other venues that have stood out to you?
I think getting the opportunity to play the O2 arena was pretty incredible, so I’d say that. And then we did two nights at the Nottingham arena, so the hometown, which was pretty cool, so those two really stand out. I could go on, cause then there’s Europe, but I think Nottingham and the O2 really stand out from that tour.
How is playing Nottingham, your hometown, in comparison?
I love it. It’s always the best place to play for me, just because it is home. On the tour, I remember we took Ed out afterwards which was good fun. Especially after being on tour for a long time, getting to come home and play is always really nice, and important I think.
Just quickly back to basics, where does the name ‘Saint Raymond’ originate from?
So the ‘Saint’ part stems from an area that I grew up in, and then Raymond was my Grandad’s name. I guess I knew that the music I wanted to make was bigger sounding than the acoustic singer-songwriter thing, so I felt that putting a name in front of it made it feel a bit more like a band sound.
Was that the name from the beginning, or did you have that awkward phase of having a new name each week?
Fortunately, apart from going under my own name when first playing gigs, when I sat down and decided a name, that was the very first one. There was a period where it was discussed about whether it was the right name, but I just stuck with it, so I never had to make any awkward decisions.
How did music come about for you? Did you start writing at a young age?
I played the guitar from a really early age, stopped for a bit, and then picked it up again in my early teens. That’s when I started doing a couple of gigs and really fell in love with it. I had no idea what I wanted to do next. I enjoyed school, in terms of doing well, but all my mates went to college and university, whereas I ended up only going to college for literally an hour. I just got really fortunate where someone online saw a YouTube video I’d done and recommended me to someone, and it kind of all spiralled from there really. So from the age of 16, I was just going down to London and sleeping at a mate of mine’s, and did the stereotypical, living on the sofa bit for a good three years. But yeah, I was just really fortunate that I got a break early. The song on the first record, Bonfires, which is still really popular at large shows, was the first song I ever wrote for Saint Raymond as the project when I was first gigging. So that was the first-ever song I played, and we now pretty much play it at every show.
Do you think your songwriting process has changed?
Yeah and no. In terms of how I write a song, it’s probably quite similar, and I’m very particular in terms of who I work with because I have really good relationships with those with who I’ve written music over the last few years. There are examples on this new record where there are new people I haven’t worked with before, and I’ve tried new stuff and it has really worked, but I am quite particular in how I work. I think that’s more of a comfort thing than anything else.
So with this new album, do you feel it’s like a collection of individual projects or more of a connected set of songs?
I’d say there’s definitely a link to it. It’s very cliché to say, but I do feel there’s a kind of journey to it. I wrote these songs of the back-end of album one, all the way up until as we are today, and I think that does portray through the storytelling, in terms of how a lot has happened in the last five years. So yeah, I have tried to make it one project, but at the same time, I’ve just written songs that I really wanted to write. I didn’t begin with wanting it to sound the same, but I think that just came about naturally from using the same producer and stuff like that.
Did you find that you had a large set of songs that you had to cut down from?
Yeah, there’s quite a lot that didn’t make the album. It is always quite difficult when choosing for an album or EP, especially because you’ve probably spent a few days writing the song, and then getting the sound right, so to then have it not be used at all is a bit frustrating. I’d probably have the album at 17 tracks if it were my way, but I managed to whittle it down in the end.
Obviously, we’re now in very different times, but how has the build-up for this album been different for you?
I guess it’s hard to avoid the obvious, but for me it’s always been about going out and playing live music. For this album, we actually had it pending to come out a lot earlier, and had a bunch of live shows that we were gonna play, so it was gonna be built around that. I guess it is just difficult because everything is online now, and that’s something I properly struggle with. I think some people are just geniuses with social media, and I really envy that. So having to see everything online has been a bit weird and the biggest difference for me; not being able to go out and play shows, and even just doing general press. Normally I’d go and spend the week in London and talk to some actual faces! So having that stripped away is a bit difficult actually.
So the album is coming out in April, are you more excited or nervous?
I’m a lot more relaxed than I was for the first record; I was a lot younger then and I put a lot of expectation on it, and there were a lot of hands in the pie, so to speak. Whereas with this one, I’ve made the album I wanted to make and will promote it to the high heavens. But at the end of the day, whoever wants to listen to it can, and I don’t feel the same kind of pressure, so yeah, I’m just pretty chilled about it really.
Listen to the newest single ‘Alright’ below.