BY CHRISTINA FUOCO-KARASINSKI
Callie Young has a presence about her. The thin, blonde “American Idol” alum from Peoria is confident and ambitious.
Her producer, Halen Bouhadana of Electric Sound Music in Arcadia, saw that in Young and agreed to work with her.
“She’s fantastic,” says Bouhadana, who also serves as her guitarist. “She’s just very cute, young, small girl with such a big voice and a tremendous talent. She’s not like a ‘pop star.’ She’s someone who’s very diverse in taste and the direction of her music. She’s awesome to collaborate with.”
Bouhadana and the ASU student are preparing to release singles and videos, the first of which is “Therapy” this summer. It is the follow-up to “Back-up Plan” and “Ruin My Life,” which are streaming on Apple Music and Spotify. She called her music “a youthful, alternative, lyrically driven twist on modern radio-friendly pop music.”
“I want to get bigger and better opening slots,” Young says. “I’d love to open for Yungblud. He’s doing a lot for rock/pop/alternative music. That would be awesome. Carly Rae Jepsen is about to put out an album that’s going to be awesome. Overall, if I could open for one person, it would be Shawn Mendes. I love everything about Shawn Mendes. He’s leading the way for a lot of other pop musicians.”
Young is slated to sing the national anthem at the All-American Festival at the Peoria Sports Complex July 4 just before the fireworks.
“I think songwriting has become a really big part of who I am as a musician,” Young says. “Songwriting keeps me moving forward.”
Raised in Peoria by a single mother, Young has been singing since she was a little girl who looked up to Taylor Swift, Demi Lovato and Katy Perry, the latter of whom she met on “Idol.”
“I was really inspired by their confidence and love for music,” she says.
Young says her mom teases her about her musical talents. After all, her mom frequented concerts when she was pregnant.
“She loves music more than anything,” Young says. “My grandma helped a lot with raising me. When I was younger, she would play ’50s music.
“My mom used to be into country. We listened to a lot of country and I think that’s why I appreciate songwriting so much. It’s so huge in country. I was listening to Taylor Swift, the Dixie Chicks, Miranda Lambert, all the females in country. As I got a little older, and my mom listened to more pop-rock, I really turned to classic rock like Fleetwood Mac and Led Zeppelin. Stevie Nicks paved the way for a lot of women in pop.”
Young made her public debut when she sang the national anthem for the Diamondbacks when she was 10.
“I did it for fun,” Young says with a laugh. “It’s what made me fall in love with performing—even though that performance was bad. I’m so embarrassed when people see it on YouTube.”
Young attended Centennial High School in Peoria until her junior year, when she left to study with Primavera Online, from which she graduated in December. Traveling with “American Idol,” online schooling was easier.
She competed on “The Voice” and “American Idol” with fellow Arizonan Wade Cota, who made it to the final five on this year’s show. Young enjoyed her time on “Idol,” and counts fellow competitor Laci Kaye Booth among her friends.
“She is one of the sweetest humans ever,” she says. “Shelton Taylor, he was great. I’ve known Wade since I was 12 or 13. We did singing competitions together all around the Valley. I’m super proud of him.”
She was thrilled to meet Perry as well.
“Katy Perry has a special place in my heart,” Young says. “I love female musicians. She’s super sweet, hilarious and gorgeous in person. She definitely owns a room.”
The 18-year-old was cut during Hollywood Week on “Idol.” Out of 150 contestants, she was one of 33 minors. Young says she had it easier than others because she traveled and roomed with her mother, Stacy.
“She helped me with contracts,” she says. “It was nice because it was someone I knew. I didn’t have to room with other contestants. All the minors stuck together and formed friendships.”
Young is pleased with the final three—Laine Hardy, Madison VanDenberg and Alejandro Aranda. (But really wishes Cota was there.)
“Laine is awesome,” she says. “He’s adorable and a really good performer. Madison has really good performance etiquette. She’s only 17. Alejandro is just an artist. ‘American Idol’ doesn’t have too many artists.”
Young has made her way around the Valley. Besides the July 4 event, she has performed the national anthem for Spring Training and Coyotes games. She counts Clayton Keller among her favorite hockey players.
“I always sing the national anthem for the Coyotes,” she says. “It’s such a great organization.”
She has been working with Bouhadana for a few months, but already they’ve inspired each other. He writes tracks for her, but sometimes she writes songs on an acoustic guitar.
“The songs that are closer to my heart are the ones I write myself,” she says. “I write a lot about love. I have a song called ‘Hit List’ about being a female in the music industry. I want men to know what we go through as musicians.
“I want my music to be empowering, while I’m staying true to myself. I’m brutally honest in all of my songs. I love to inspire people. Performing is like storytelling. If you’re not 100% honest and yourself, it’s a gimmick. It is scary to go out there and tell everything you feel. That’s what makes musicians.”