Interview: Cal Stamp – “Hey Amy”

Cal Stamp

Your next music obsession has arrived, thanks to Cal Stamp. The singer/songwriter has been around the music scene for quite awhile with his previous projects called Spirit Animal and most recently, Record Heat. The latest version of Cal’s unique brand of breezy, 80’s guitar-driven pop rock might just be his best work yet. The song, called “Hey Amy,” builds casually over an 1975-esque type of guitar-toned rock and Cal Stamp’s vocals are smooth as silk as he makes a song worthy of any playlist. What Stamp does best on this song is making the listener feel connected to his vocals, while the guitars bring the track into the upper echelon of pop bliss. The song comes from the first of a trilogy of EPs, starting with Nylon, that hits the streets on May 6th.

I also caught up with Cal Stamp to discuss the new EPs as well as provide an in-depth peek at what went into this great new single.

Thanks for your time today, Cal. Tell me about the songwriting process that went into creating your new single called “Hey Amy.”

There’s a really fun Aretha Franklin track from 1986 called “Jimmy Lee.” It’s a near-perfect marriage of gospel and ’80s pop. I used to lay around my bedroom with my guitar and practice to that song. That’s how I came up with the riff to “Hey Amy.”On the face of it, “Hey Amy” is about a girl running away to California in an old Sunbeam convertible. Really, though, it’s about the enduring power of teenage feelings. We all get older, but a lot of those feelings — vitality, angst, yearning — linger long past adolescence.I got the idea from a Laurence Olivier quote I found in the New Yorker. It was in an essay on aging. Olivier said, “Inside, we are all 17, with red lips.”

I personally loved the direction you went for on the track that incorporates the best parts of 80’s power pop with a modern flair of great indie, guitar-driven rock. Is the new single a good indication of the direction you’ll be taking on the upcoming trilogy of EPs?

Yes, definitely. All three EPs are essentially my take on 1980s guitar pop. But within that there’s the more synth-driven yacht rock of NYLON, the sunny Southern California jangle of DENIM, and the straight ahead Rock n’ Roll of LEATHER.

You spent some time in previous projects Spirit Animal and most recently, Record Heat. What was different about the creation of the music under your own name?

I was a writing major in college. I would spend endless hours rewriting the same stuff again and again, obsessing over tiny details. My approach to songwriting isn’t much different. Writing is rewriting, as Papa would say.In a group context, though, it’s not really appropriate to bludgeon your bandmates with constant revisions. It’s a buzzkill and it’s discouraging. So as a solo artist, I get to be a little more relentless.

I understand the new trilogy of EPs will be called “Nylon,” “Denim,” and “Leather.” Is there any significance to the style you went for on each of those upcoming records?

Each EP represents a different strand of my own musical DNA. I mostly listen to pop, Americana, and classic rock, so the NYLON-DENIM-LEATHER concept came pretty naturally. I just had to open my closet.As we worked through the record, I was really happy with how cohesive it all felt. But I was also pleased with how easily the songs fell into three distinct buckets. It was almost as simple as synths vs. acoustics vs. distortion.

Do you have any plans to tour on this material, and if so, what modern acts do you think would complement the style you went for on these EPs?

Great question. I expect to be back on the road by summer, although COVID obviously complicates matters a bit. Still, I’m optimistic. A band like The Night Game would be a great fit — similar influences and reference points. Walk the Moon would be cool. The 1975 would be a dream support slot. Producer Ryan Petersen and I pulled up those guitar tones a bunch in the studio. John Mayer’s recent Sob Rock record also feels very much in line with what I’m doing. (In fact, as a joke I almost called my record Saab Rock.) The Killers are clearly pulling a lot from Springsteen and Petty, which I think is great. A month on the road with any of them would be a thrill.