Introducing....Cali Rodi

Nineteen year old Cali Rodi is currently in her first year at Belmont University in Nashville. She currently has one single released digitally - entitled Dodging Bullets - and seven free songs available on her website

Dodging Bullets showcases a strong story and a gritty vocal from Cali that works well with the lyrics and the overall production. Lyrics such as "fighting for your country's just a part of the war, fighting for love takes a whole lot more" build up a strong story that showcases Cali's skill as a writer. The opening two verses of the track is in my opinion the strongest part. With it's stripped back instrumentalisation and soft pace both verses work really well and the slow introduction of the drums in the second verse also adds another dynamic and builds up the song for the chorus with it's heavier production. I do however feel as though the free tracks on Cali's website are better, her voice works well with an acoustic instrumentalisation.

The tracks that make up the seven free songs from Cali's website are Nobody Town, Burning Rubber And Breaking Hearts, String Of Lights, Friends Like Us, First Kiss Consequence, Boys In Trucks and 30 Candles.

Each of the seven tracks are acoustic and showcase both Cali's song writing skills and her strong, rock edged vocal. 30 Candles is one of my favourites of these tracks. The production is perfect with just a soft acoustic guitar accompaniment to Cali's vocals and lyrics such as "but you say that we're too young to even fight, for the right love at the wrong time"  and "would you change your mind if I was blowing thirty candles out tonight" tell a really touching tale.

Friends Like Us has one of my favourite stories. Written for Cali's best friend for their graduation, lines such as "keep the faith, remember my name and call when you can" and "thought we'd always be Peter Pan" work well with the acoustic instrumentalisation and draw listeners in to the message behind the track.

Boys In Trucks and Burning Rubber And Breaking Hearts are the two more upbeat tracks of the seven. Burning Rubber And Breaking Hearts has a deep pacey guitar line that gives the track a slight bluesy feel and Boys In Trucks has a light, punchy guitar accompaniment that makes the listener think of summer and works well against the lyrics. The use of different guitar accompaniments in these seven tracks is a clever choice as it keeps listeners interested even though the instrumentalisation is effectively the same throughout.

I was recently able to catch up with Cali and ask her some questions....

When did you first realise you wanted to be a country music singer?
I've actually known pretty much my whole life. I had this book that my mum kept track of things I've said from when I was a baby to when I was like five years old and one of the things was 'what do you want to be when you grow up' and I said country music singer [laughs] literally that! So I guess it's also kind of just been in my blood and I've known that I wanted to do it but I took it seriously when I was twelve which was when I had my first gig and I started playing out and doing the whole country music scene at home in Arizona.
You're at Belmont University at the moment, how are you finding that?
Yes! I'm at Belmont University in Nashville right now and it's nice because it is a music school primarily. I've actually just finished my freshman year, this is the last week - finals week! I'm actually taking a year off next year to see what I can accomplish without having to worry about a science test the next day! So yeah, I'm just finishing up the first year and ready to move forward.
Who are your main influences?
Oh gosh I have a lot! When I was growing up I was all about Britney Spears and Hillary Duff and that kind of changed as I got older. I really got into country when I was in the pre-teen years. I'd said by biggest influences are Keith Urban, Little Big Town, Miranda Lambert, Lori McKenna and I also love rock music. Led Zeppelin, Black Stone Cherry even like Ashley Simpson - I love that kind of stuff too, kind of all cross the board.
You mentioned Little Big Town, you've been involved with their Ride For A Cure event for a few years, how did that come about originally?
In 2009 I got asked to do the pre-show for the Ride For A Cure because my dad's friend was the auctioneer so it kind of started off as a favour and I guess they liked me because Little Big Town is who actually picks the acts every year so they kept asking me back. In 2012 is when I started to really get to know them and got to sing with them on stage and got to write with Phillip (Sweet) so that was really cool, a cool connection. They're just the nicest people to even care about me! [laughs]  
You mentioned as well performing with them, how was that? Were you really nervous?
That was amazing! I was so nervous! I remember I was playing the pre-show again because the Ride For A Cure is there's a small stage with unsigned acts who play at the beginning and then it's all these motorcycle riders and they ride to Cool Springs could be Cool Springs or Columbia I think, they change every year, I don't know, I don't know then the big acts would play on the main stage and they're usually not really around the small stage because they're doing interviews and stuff. I remember it was raining so they were in the shaded spot and I was playing inside and they were outside but all the windows were open so they could hear. I played "Good As Gone" in my set and they heard it and they were like 'who is singing our song?' during the interview, like 'what is going on' [laughs] They realised it was me so they asked me to sing it with them and I remember getting in the car to drive - obviously I didn't ride a motorcycle! [laughs] - and my family and I just looked at each other and were like ahhhh [laughs] screaming, we were so excited. We had two minutes to rehearse, not even, we just kind of did it. 

How about generally, do you get nervous before every performance? How do you deal with any nerves?
I tend to not get nervous, I just get really excited. The only time I really get nervous is singing the National Anthem because I feel like I don't want to mess up, the words get so confusing in my head but it's more of excitement rather than nervous, like butterflies.
When was the first time you sung the Anthem?
 This is a stupid story! The first time I ever sung the National Anthem was at Wrigley Field in Chicago for a Cubs game, in front of thousands of people at one of the most famous baseball stadiums in the world and I think that was in 2012 as well so that was a big year. That was my first time ever singing it, but I didn't mess up so that's good! [laughs]
You're written quite a few songs, do you find it easy or hard to write?
It kind of depends, I definitely consider myself more of a co-writer, I don't really like writing by myself because I love talking to people and I love bouncing ideas off other people. Sometimes you get in a room with somebody and there's no connection and it's very hard to write with somebody, it's like pulling teeth, trying to get ideas out of people and they're not liking what you're putting out but then sometimes you have a magical write, just instantly you connect with somebody and you come up with something great. Yeah, I love writing with other people. I've written a couple, I have a song called "Nobody Town" that I wrote by myself which I'm really proud of. I wouldn't say writing is easy but I wouldn't say it's hard either, it's just kind of something that comes out of you [laughs]
What was your favourite co-write?
I would have to say writing with Lori McKenna who is my favourite songwriter. The whole way it went about happening was just amazing. I was actually at dinner with Little Big Town and I was telling them about how I wanted to write with Lori so bad and I knew they had written with her so I was like maybe they'll hook me up! [laughs] They were like 'oh my gosh we love Lori' and I was like 'me too' and me and Karen (Fairchild) started talking about her and how much we loved all of her songs and then Karen's like 'that's it'. I had my flip video camera and they cleared the tables and they make this video to Lori McKenna with me in it and they were like 'you need to write with Cali', it's still on YouTube, it's crazy! Lori ended up seeing it. I spend summers in Cape Cod Massachusetts with my family and Lori lives in Massachusetts, about twenty minutes away from where I was so I got to go to her house, my favourite writer's house and write with her which was like the most amazing thing. This is another stupid story, I was on the way and I was eating this egg burrito thing and I was so excited, my mum was driving me and I was just so excited to write with my favourite writer that the entire thing spilled all over me so I'm walking in to my write, like dream co-write and I look like a mess but I think it ended up pretty well. The song, it's called "First Kiss Consequence", it's one of the seven free songs on my website, it's one of my favourite songs to sing, people still love it. It was such as cool day to be able to write with my favourite writer.

What do you think was the hardest song for you to write?
The hardest song I feel that was hard to write is a song that's also one of my seven free songs, it's called "Friends Like Us". I wrote it for my best friend, for our graduation present. We had been friends from first grade all the way to today but she had been begging me to write her a song for ever and it's really kind of impossible because you don't want it to be cheesy, you don't want it to sound contrived or like I wrote a song to write a song. I wrote the chorus to the song and I was just kind of stuck so I brought it to one of my best friends Taylor Edwards who is also a songwriter round my age here in this town, in Nashville, we completely just, I feel like knocked it out of the park. My best friend ended up going to school in Canada for university and I ended up here and we're both chasing our own version of our dreams and that's the song that kind of bonds us together. I think a lot of people are latching on it to as well and connecting with it but I'd say yeah that was definitely the hardest one to write because I didn't want it to sound cheesy.
Which song do you wish you had written and why?
Oh my gosh that's so hard! [pauses] Probably any song by Paramore which sounds really weird because I'm a country artist but I'm trying to write songs that allow me to have more range and I just think they do such a good job of getting dynamics within songs. Another song would be, it's a song by Maggie Chapman, she has a song called "It Should Have Been You" and I think the whole thing is just brilliantly written, it's so beautiful. I haven't met her or anything but I really think that song is just spot on.
If you could swap places with anyone in country music who would you pick and why?
Probably Taylor Swift just because I think she's so cool! Who wouldn't want to be Taylor Swift for a day! She has so much going for her, I think it'd be cool to see what's going on inside her head because I feel like to meet all those guys, all those songs, it's got to just be magic flowing out of her head.
What is your favourite part about being a musician?
Probably hearing people's reactions to the songs I write because I'm a big believer that music heals and helps people get through things and it's just the coolest thing that people can make memories to the songs that I write, it gives me chills just thinking about the fact that my job is to basically create music for the masses and have them relate to it. 
What's your least favourite part?
I love it all! [laughs] I would say, being told no kind of sucks but at the same time it fuels you to want to do better and prove people wrong.
What would you like to achieve in your career?
 That's always a hard question because to me success is when you reach your goals and I set goals for myself every day, right now my goal is to get a publishing deal but obviously I'd want to put out at least one record that I'm totally proud of, have success, I'd love to tour, do the whole deal of being a successful artist and meet as many people as I can along the way.
What advice would you give to anyone wanting to be a musician?
My advice would be to not let the word no shake you and to be different. I've been told that I'm too rock, I've been told that I'm too singer-songwriter but at the end of the day you just have to be you and be confident in that that's going to work out. The best thing I would advise young writers to do is to go to open mics. I know some towns don't always have them but if they don't have one then start one at like a coffee shop or restaurant or something and just play out because that's how I met literally everyone that I know. I'm from a place called Cave Creek Arizona and it's a pretty small town but there were enough bars in the downtown area, if you want to call it that, that they would have a lot of open mics and a lot of opportunities to meet other musicians and meet guitar teachers and other singers. It's a great way to network so I'd definitely say open mics.
Equally, what's the best piece of advice you've ever received?
Humm....I feel like people are just telling you stuff everyday....probably to learn the business side of things because I feel like the smarter you are the more ass you can kick! I have books all around, I have one right here a 'Live Music Method' book just about how to perform better live. I think the best piece of advice is what I got through Belmont which is just to always keep learning, you're never as good as you think you are! [laughs] There's always going to be somebody better so just learn as much as you can and use it to your advantage.
What do you prefer, songwriting or performing?
Oh gosh, that's so hard! See, I love writing because you get to tell your stories and other people's stories around you, I'd say that's my favourite part of the process, writing, because you get to tell people's stories and know that it could get cut, it could be on the radio some day but I do love microphones [laughs] I could just sing all day in a microphone if nobody ever listened to me and I love performing but if I had to choose I'd say writing just because I know I'll have it for the rest of my life, that it's never going to go away.
When you write do you think of a melody or lyrics first?
I played guitar before I could ever sing, I started playing guitar when I was nine so I usually come up with a little melody first but I always have to have a hook before I even go in to a session, I have to have a general idea or a title that I base the song around or I'm just lost. I can't just start writing a verse, it never works like that with me. So yeah, I definitely have a hook but I'd say that a little guitar part or melody of some sort would come along with that. 
Any plans to play the UK?
I hope so! I really hope so! Someday soon, I'll get there. For sure. 

To be able to have seven free songs from an artist is great and in my opinion a great introduction to an artist. I am very impressed by the tracks that are available and I am sure Cali will draw many people in to her music. She is already a talented songwriter and I will definitely be keeping an eye on Cali's career as she develops as an artist.