Saint Raymond first garnered serious critical acclaim with the release of his debut Escapade EP, showcasing his spirited style and a knack for crafting undeniably catchy tunes packed with palpable emotion. The release of his debut album Young Blood in 2015 and a coveted support slot with Ed Sheeran saw Callum Burrows (Saint Raymond) garner a legion of fans nationwide.
Known for his invigorating live sets and anthemic choruses, Saint Raymond has returned this year to treat fans with new music. First up was “Right Way Round,” which saw the talented Nottingham-bred musician enthrall with spirited production and infectiously catchy lyricism. His latest release “Love This Way” further evidenced the evolution of his alt-pop sound, incorporating a scintillating guitar solo and an extremely resonant lyrical sentiment.
We caught up with Saint Raymond to chat about his persisting with release plans in spite of the pandemic, crafting his live sets, his upcoming sophomore album, and more!
How’s lockdown been and how was it impacted your plans? For me personally, like everyone, I found it a bit weird at the start. But it’ll admit that I also quite enjoyed it at the start; I quite enjoy my own company. Like on a non-creative level I really don’t mind my own company at all. So, the first bit of it I was like this is great. I watched a bunch of stuff I’d not watched and but then I was like okay, this might be happening for a bit longer I guess.
Plan-wise– for us it kind of just screwed everything. We kind of had a bunch of stuff in the diary ready to like to build around the release in terms of live stuff. Obviously, all of that got canceled. It was a weird one because we were like do we push everything back? But I just thought there’s no point in putting everything on hold. So yeah, we kind of just went with it, I guess.
It was very disruptive but the one thing about it was that it’s the same for everyone, so it’s not just me that’s been affected. It’s just been weird.
Was it always the plan to push ahead with releasing? What was like the thought process behind it? Like it’s amazing that the new music has been so well received during lockdown. It was very last minute. So, we literally had a meeting on like March 10th in terms of like visuals and stuff like that. Obviously, we had this plan, but then obviously we couldn’t shoot anything. But it just felt natural to just go ahead of it because obviously we didn’t know how long we could wait for this to blow over so we didn’t want to push it back and then wait endlessly to release music.
We had to change a lot of plans. For example, with the visuals, we had a mood board of stuff we liked, and we had to dig deep and find something that has already been shot. So that was a bit weird because we kind of had dates in the diary to shoot visuals, so it was very disruptive, but, like everyone else, we just had to get on with it.
“Love This Way” is an absolutely massive tune, how did that track come to be? I wrote the song quite a while ago in a session with a couple of guys I’d never worked with it before. For a lot of this upcoming record, I was working with the same group of people that I love working with. But I just had this session and we wrote this song in maybe one or two days. It came super quick and at the core of the demo was a Saint Raymond song but it just didn’t feel right.
So the guy who produced the record, Joe Page, just jumped on and did some additional production on it. It came together really easily. The day we wrote it the guitar solo was like a bit of a joke but it ended up staying in along with the weird Bruno Mars “Huh” thing. I guess it’s wasn’t really a joke, we were more just like “why not?”
Both of the songs you released this year have been super received, how is it to have had that sort of reaction from those songs? It’s really weird because normally I gauge how well a song is doing by the reaction when I’m playing it live. Normally you’d release a song and then you go on tour, you do some shows and that’s normally the gauge. So obviously, this has been a bit different. It’s really weird at the minute because the only reactions I’m seeing are like online through my phone.
I was having a conversation with someone the other day about it and I guess you don’t really know. You can just read a bunch of comments and that’s how you see it. For me, it’s not a weight off my shoulders because that sounds like a negative thing, but I’ve just really wanted to get these tunes out so it’s nice to finally release them.
I’ve seen you like 5 or 6 times, what’s the process of like crafting a setlist and how’s that changed over time with new songs coming out? So, my drummer, John has been my drummer since the first day. The rest of the band kind of switched around a bit. But John’s been my drummer since day one and we’ve both got the live show to where we want it to be. The records will always have more production and a more slick element to them but we always the live show to like acknowledge that these are pop songs, but we didn’t want them to feel slick production-wise.
We always kind of built it on that and making sure that it felt like a bit more a bit bigger than that and a bit rawer than that. In terms of like setlist, there are definitely songs that we’ve just kept in the set from the past few years because of how well they do live. Set wise think it’s all about building it and you’ve got an hour and 20 minutes to keep people engaged. So you don’t want to throw everything in at the start and I’m just constantly learning still.
There are certain songs that we wouldn’t place at the start because it feels like that’s not the right moment to do it. For us, “Fall At Your Feet” has always worked as a big ender for us and I’m sure it won’t now because times have changed. For me personally, when I go see a band, I hate it when they just released a load of new music and that’s all they play. So, I’m very conscious of it, but it’s hard. Now that I’ve done touring and stuff, I get why bands do that. Like you’ve been playing these songs for like every night for four years. I think the challenge is just finding a good balance. It’s important for us to evolve the live show and the reality of a setlist is that you’re never going to please everyone.
Before and around the first album, you played some massive London shows, headlined Rock City, and obviously had the Ed Sheeran support slot. How is it to now reflect back on all of that now? Headlining Koko came just after the Ed Sheeran tour and that was a real moment for me. But I think a lot of shows blur into one and you don’t appreciate it. I think this whole situation we’re in now is going to make me really appreciate every single show a lot more.
I’ve been on long tours before and you’re working long hours so I’ve said on stage a different city to where I am. You’re just on the road, playing shows, and they all blur into one. I’ve done some reflecting now and we had some really big moments and did some crazy shows. I think it’s just learning to really appreciate every single gig again, you know, whether you’re playing in front of 20 people or 20,000 people.
The uncertainty is the hardest thing now; we don’t even know when we can put on shows again. I know a lot of people are penciling stuff in with the hope they’ll go ahead, but the whole situation has been a bit grim.
Speaking of like live moments, literally one of my favorite live moments ever was when you played “Movie On My Mind” live. It was an unreleased song at the time and by the end, everyone was singing along. It’s still a staple of your set and people seem to still love it. Did you ever think that song would be as popular as it has been? Not at all. I think I’d written it around the time of that show. The whole record was done and signed off when I wrote it. We literally wrote that song in about 4 hours and we never thought that it’d be a moment live. Even now it spins me out, even though it’s been out for ages. I think those moments live are when you step back and just become really grateful. I do remember that moment at Koko and even with the last tour, it was still such a moment in the set.
There’s always songs you picture live, in terms of what bits a crowd might sing along to but I don’t think you actually imagine it to happen how it was. That song still blows my mind. At that moment, the song wasn’t even going to be on the album so I think it was probably that chain of events that lead it going on the record.
You released “A Light That Blinds” after your debut album, how was the process of going back and crafting that smaller body of work? Also, after the album, you could put out tracks without them being tied to an album campaign. I always said I never wanted to be that guy who took ages to release music again but I kind of was. From when I started to when the album came out, how music is listened to just completely changed. When we started that whole campaign in like 2013 and we were slowly building it up and everyone kind of got their music from the radio. Whereas, now streaming is king all of a sudden. The campaign was sort of like radio-led then streaming came in and the whole thing changed.
I kind of just took a step back from it and kind of slowly started writing music again. I think I was just a bit burnt out like in terms of writing music just because I’ve done it for so long non-stop to get that record out. It was quite nice after the album to know you can just release a song and it’s out and people will go listen to it. Like now you don’t have to now do a massive album campaign. You can just release a song and drip feed songs and people will go and listen to it. It’s definitely a different way and it is really interesting. It was hard to figure out, but I guess it was kind of cool.
Obviously, the album should hopefully be coming out next year. How’s it feel being on the cusp of that? Also, how do you feel about releasing an album when the importance of the album itself isn’t as high as it used to be? Like people might just shuffle it on Spotify or just see a song on New Pop UK or something like that. With a lot of the songs that came out after the album, it was obviously nice to have those out but it was a bit frustrating knowing that there was nothing next. Obviously, with the songs at the minute, there’s a whole body of work to come out after. So it’s really exciting to know that, from my point of view, I’m not gonna be twiddling my thumbs waiting for the next moment.
But like you say, it’s a weird one because I think the purist in me and as a fan I want an artist to do an album campaign. I want to hear like two songs off it and then I want to sit down or listen to the album. I think the way it works now is getting multiple songs out and hope people will find them on certain streaming playlists. Long gone are the days where you necessarily like sit and listen to an album one to 12 or whatever, it’s kind of people will pick their favourite songs put on a playlist with their other favourite songs. It’s a completely different thing but it’s kind of nice still. It’s cool from my perspective as well knowing that people are still listening to the tunes from the first album and before.
Do you feel like services like Spotify have allowed you to release an album with less pressure? I guess so. When we released “Right Way Round,” it was like 18 months since we last released music so we were kind of stepping into the unknown. So seeing that there are still people that want the music and people that are excited for it really helps. Because then you just like, let’s keep going and not kind of put brakes on it or take a step back. Knowing that people are still just excited about new music as they were ages ago has been a massive, massive help.
Like we talked about earlier, a load of your songs always prompt massive sing-alongs when you play them live. Does that ever factor into your writing process or is it something you ever think about when you’re deciding what to release? It’s a weird one because when I’m in the moment writing it’s just purely music-led. I tend to let the music lead and then build on it from that. Someone said to me ages ago that every song feels like a sing-along one and I kind of like that. I like there’s no real low moment. Maybe there is a subconscious thing going on in the back of my mind because I just love playing live. So I guess there is something within me whenever I’m writing this saying, will this work live or whatever? But I wouldn’t say it’s a definite thing that like ever changes a song but I just know deep down that I’m going to be playing it live so that probably makes it a big factor without me really thinking about it.
When something emotionally impactful happens, do you feel the urge to write about it instantly or do you just sort of take a while to process? I think it varies. A lot of the time, I tend to take a moment on it and I wouldn’t dive straight in. But then I think sometimes it is really helpful if you’ve got some time to just dive straight in on it. But to be fair, a lot of ideas for like lyrics or melody tend to come in the most awkward places when you’re like in public or on public transport. I think I have like 2000 voice memos and I haven’t labelled any.
I always get inspiration at the most awkward times and you have to like pretend you’re coughing or something while you’re trying to record. Although you probably don’t want to pretend you’re coughing these days.
Next year should see the arrival of your second album, after 5 years. What do you think are the major differences within yourself and the creation of the album? I guess the big difference for me is like when I was writing those songs for the first record, I was like 16 or 17. I was so young and I was just open to everything in terms of like, who I was working with, and I was just wanting to do everything. I’m still like that, to an extent, but I had stepped straight out of school and I got really fortunate with getting sessions. I was just up for anything. I did like five years of solid writing. Now I guess the big differences is like I’ve written these last songs from being like 23 to 25, maybe even younger. So I guess it’s just like I’ve grown up, literally.
I say not my musical approach hasn’t really changed. Like, I still love working with the same people that I worked with when I was 17. I guess it’s just a maturity thing. It’s very common, like cliche thing to say when people are like this a more mature record. Maybe there’ll be moments on this record that aren’t more mature on this record but I think just literally I’ve matured as a person and my life has changed, I guess. I couldn’t even have a drink in a bar when I started writing my first record.
I guess with like any job you’re learning on the job too. You start taking away things you don’t like and you know what works for you. That’s why I think on the majority of this record, it’s a team of people that I like working with because I just know that I can be with these people and make the best music for Saint Raymond.
Obviously it’s a really weird time at the moment but what are you most looking forward to? I think the main thing is getting the second record out just because it has been five years. The moment that that’s released will an amazing moment for me personally, just because it’s very easy for people to think like what are they actually up to, like musicians when they’re not when an album has been out and then nothing’s really happening. So it’ll just be nice to be like, this is what I’ve been doing. I think that coming out is a big one and then just getting back to playing live shows. I’d love to be here in a year’s time having played Nottingham or wherever really. For me, it’s nice to know there’s a record coming; it’s such an important thing for me.