Stratford's Callie McCullough nominated for two country music awards

Stratford's Callie McCullough has been nominated for two Country Music Association of Ontario Awards this year -- songwriter of the year and rising star of the year.

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Though the COVID-19 pandemic scuttled her plans to celebrate the release of her first solo album, After Midnight, with a live concert, Stratford’s Callie McCullough is getting some well-deserved recognition via two two award nominations from the Country Music Association of Ontario.

Speaking with the Beacon Herald just weeks after returning to Nashville, Tenn., from her parents’ Southwestern Ontario farm, where she spent much of the past year, McCullough said the nominations for Songwriter of the Year for her album’s title track and Rising Star of the Year came as a thrill after the months of live shows and other promotional events planned around her album release were cancelled.

“I’ve been back in Nashville for three weeks, but I had spent the better part of the last year actually in Canada just riding out the pandemic, so it feels closer to home,” McCullough said of the nominations. “I’d been at home in Stratford and also up around Collingwood on the family farm, so that’s been really fun. But from this record, (After Midnight) was the one song written in Canada, and specifically in Stratford.”

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McCullough wrote After Midnight with another local musician and performer, Milverton’s Scotty Kipfer. The song came about at the end of 2016 after McCullough’s lack of snow tires, combined with a sudden winter storm, prevented the performer from returning to Nashville after Christmas.

McCullough ended up staying in Stratford an extra week, so she and Kipfer decided to spend a few days songwriting in her dad’s studio with a bucket of chicken wings.

“It’s really cool. This is actually Scotty’s first nomination as well,” McCullough said. “These are my first nominations as a solo artist, but I actually was nominated as a roots artist with my mom back in the day.”

Kipfer said he was “immensely proud” of their collaboration.

“We’ve written a lot of songs together, and while we collaborate on every aspect of the material we’ve created, she usually takes the lead on the melodies and I take the lead on the lyrics. …. It was a joy to paint pictures of candlelight flickering on the bedroom wall and dancing with a lost loved one along a cobblestone road. The Parisian feel (of the song) gave Callie’s gorgeous melody a beautiful contented lilt, and the extraordinary band we assembled for the recording brought it to life in a really wonderful way,” he said.

McCullough said she is humbled, not only to be nominated as a songwriter of the year alongside Kipfer but also to be considered a rising star among other emerging country artists in Ontario like Buck Twenty, Elyse Saunders, Robyn Ottolini and Sacha.

In addition to her two nominations, McCullough’s producer on the album, Toronto’s Dustin Olyan, was also nominated for record producer of the year for his work on After Midnight and recent albums by Twin Kennedy and Mallory Johnson.

After the past year’s forced pause, McCullough said she’s excited to begin performing live again as vaccines are distributed and concert venues start to open up in the U.S. McCullough has also spent much of the past year writing new music, so expects to release at least a few new singles in 2022.

McCullough said she is still working with Revival House owner Rob Wigan on planning a date for her much-delayed homecoming concert and recently released a music video for her song, No Good Way, on her YouTube, Instagram and Facebook channels that was shot inside the well-known Stratford restaurant.

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After Midnight is available in hard copy at Treasures in downtown Stratford, as well as online at www.calliemccullough.com. Follow @calliemcmusic on Facebook and Instagram to keep up to date with new music, videos and live shows.

The winners of this year’s Country Music Association of Ontario Awards will be announced during a drive-in ceremony at the Ancaster Fairgrounds in Hamilton on May 30.

gsimmons@postmedia.com

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