Exploring “What If’s” with Callie Reiff

From musical prodigy to industry trendsetter, 21-year-old Callie Reiff is unlike any other. As an accomplished producer, DJ, and all-around performer, she made history as the youngest DJ to perform at Webster Hall — since then, Callie has opened for world-renowned acts including Ed Sheeran and Skrillex and has performed at festivals like Creamfields, EDC Las Vegas, Tomorrowland, and Ultra. Since debuting in 2015, Callie’s bubbling fearless energy, unrivaled character and infectious musicality have captured the attention of tastemakers like Teen Vogue, The Cut, BBC Radio 1’s Annie Nightingale, Rinse FM’s Marcus Nasty, and Diplo. 

Now, 21-year-old Callie is introducing a new era of her career that sees her aligning herself at the intersection of indie-pop and electronica with a sound she’s coined ‘indie-club.’ So far this year she has released a collaboration with Irish singer-songwriter Lenii titled “The Kids Are All Rebels 2.0” and “Crash Into Me (ft. Madison Daniel), both of which have quickly gained support from Spotify and key outlets like Hollywood Life and Pulse Spikes. 

O: When did you begin producing music? 

Callie Reiff: I first started out DJing and learning to mix vinyl when I was 12. Once I started playing shows – I was around 15 years old – I realized how cool it would be to test out my own original production while I was opening for some epic acts. I started working in Ableton back then but I would say that over the last two years I have really dove into improving my production and making it a priority.

O: Is there an artist that you look up to, whether it be someone who motivated you to begin creating music or someone whose work inspires you today? 

C: I say this all the time but Skrillex, 100%. He is out there still working on music while also keeping an open mind when it comes to collaborating with any sort of artist. It’s a great mindset to have and I am always motivated by him.

O: If you had to describe your work in three words, what would they be and why? 

Energetic. Melodic. Feeling.

C: I try to find a balance in my sound with telling the story with the writing, giving each song a certain feeling, and having space for the vocals to take center stage. In the end, my goal is always to have a continued energy throughout the song.

O: What is your favorite part of the creative process? 

C: One of my favorite parts is when an idea just starts to come together fast. I love working with different artists and trying out new ideas. I also love when a random sound I try ends up working out to be in the final version. Or I spark a new song idea out of the current song I’m working on.

O: How has the pandemic changed your workflow? 

C: The pandemic made me focus and put my all into my production skills — I didn’t have any shows to perform or anything else to do! Before the pandemic I would usually start my songs in my room before heading to a studio to listen to them and finish them, but since that wasn’t an option, I made my bedroom into my main workspace. I did a lot of Zoom sessions which ended up being cool because everyone was based in different time zones and it’s possible we would have never worked together otherwise. I made it a goal over this past year to use my music as my way of coping and expanding my ideas.

O: What do you most look forward to in collaborations?

C: There’s sooo much to look forward to with collaborations because you really don’t know what will come out of it each time. I love learning from different artists and I love when we both are able to help elevate a song into something we couldn’t do alone. I also feel like becoming friends with your collaborators and really sharing with them is one of the best parts because it allows the song to be super genuine and real.

O: You’ve coined the term “indie-club.” Could you talk a little bit about where it comes from?

C: I found my ‘indie-club’ sound over the past 2 years. I like to call it ‘indie-club’ because it has that singer-songwriter sound with the vocals, lyrics, and collaborating with different vocalists, but surrounding it is the signature NYC club energy that I grew up around.

O: What does it mean to you to be the youngest DJ to perform at Webster Hall? How old were you then? 

C: I was fifteen. At the time, I didn’t really consider the age thing. I was just determined to play Webster Hall as my first show ever since I’d gone to see Madeon play. I Facebook messaged the Webster Hall promoter and told him I wanted to DJ there. I had to be very careful since I was underage, but once we went B2B and he heard my mixing, he booked me to open for Mija during an Electric Zoo after party. The Webster Hall crew really believed in me from the start and I am forever grateful for that. I was so excited at that first show and I still get super smiley whenever I look back at that time.

O: Could you tell us about your favorite memory from performing at Tomorrowland?

C: Oh wow, Tomorrowland is one of my favorite festivals ever! It is such an experience to just be there and see it all in person — you feel like you are entering a whole new world. My favorite memory of playing Tomorrowland was being able to bring my mom and brother with me. I was pretty young when I played there and opened the stage for the day, but I remember people starting to come over and watch and being so supportive. I hope to play there again and play my new music!

O: What’s the story behind “What Ifs (ft. Louella)”?

C: Isabella [Louella] sent me a vocal idea and I instantly loved it. “What Ifs” is about relationships and the ups and downs that come with each decision we make. I wanted the production to have a certain ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ feeling melodic as the lyrics are pretty dark. As I was producing the song, I also realized how it related to the pandemic and how everyone was just surviving on ‘what ifs.’ None of us were really sure how life would pan out. It was crazy to think about but it also motivated me to get the song out there as soon as we could for people to hear.

O: What do you look for in music that you produce? 

C: It depends but in general I look for a solid melody and energy in the drums. I try to switch up the grooves to keep it from being repetitive. I used to add a ton of extra sounds into my production thinking that’s what fills up a song, but really all you need is a few strong sounds and a set arrangement and you are good to go! 

O: Among all the songs you’ve produced, which one remains close to your heart and why?

C: I have another single with Isabella [Louella] coming out and it’s super, super special to me. Out of the songs that I have released, “The Kids Are All Rebels 2.0” that I did with Lenii remains very close to my heart. It was the first release that introduced the new sound that I’ve been working on for the past 2 years. The moment it came out, everything started to feel like it was really happening.

O: If you could give new artists some advice from what you’ve learned, what would it be?

C: Comparing yourself to your favorite artists will get you nowhere. Use your favorite artists as motivation and inspiration instead. Always save your ideas, remember longevity comes with time, and never forget that there’s something new to learn. Also, have fun!

O: Do you have any upcoming projects that we should look out for? 

C: I have a few more singles coming out and then an EP, which I can’t wait for!

Thank you to Callie for sitting down and answering our most pressing questions! We are so excited for everything that she has up her sleeve–and if you are too, make sure to keep up with Callie on her Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. Her music (including “What If’s”) can be found on Spotify!