Singer/songwriter Cali Rodi discusses what inspired her music career, songwriting, and her latest release, ‘God Save the Queen’.
A mermaid’s siren call lures sailors into the sea, enchanted by the sweet singing. Cali Rodi’s music works in a similar fashion. She captivates listeners with hypnotic beats, high-energy instrumentals, and a voice that leaves audiences wanting more. The listener cannot help but dive into her expanding discography.
Her pop singles are sprinkled with the theme of women empowerment. In “Party Favor,” the upbeat music leads into the chorus which sets home the fact that girls are not party favors to leave with at the end of the night, reinforcing the statement that they don’t owe anyone anything. The song was in heavy rotation on Radio Disney for months following its release.
“It was a dream come true!!” Cali exclaims of this experience. “I have always been the biggest Disney freak, and grew up listening to Radio Disney religiously, so the fact that they started playing my songs is the biggest deal to me.” From there, the singer has been able to grow her relationship with the Radio Disney team. “I’ve been able to do a few in-studio interviews with hosts Candice and Morgan, and even hosted karaoke at the Radio Disney holiday party. They are truly family.”
In a funny twist of fate, Disney played a factor in why Cali originally picked up the guitar.
At the age of nine, the singer watched Disney’s 2003 remake of Freaky Friday – something she says she did too many times – which included an iconic scene where Lindsay Lohan steps on stage, acting like Jamie Lee Curtis’ character, and proceeds to absolutely shed on the electric guitar and steal the spotlight while performing with her band. She credits this as what was probably the reason she got into playing guitar.
“My parents took me to a local shop where they only had one left-handed guitar. It was a sky blue Fender Stratocaster and all of a sudden, rock-n-roll visions started filing up my head,” Cali recalls. “We took it home that day and I’ve been playing ever since.” She goes on to say, hinting to her future music, “In fact, I recorded with it earlier today.”
I’ve also had the chance to form my own opinions about the world – I suddenly have a lot to say.
Since that day, Cali’s music has been constantly evolving and changing. Part of that is due to the environments she was in. Growing up in Cave Creek, Arizona, the singer moved to Nashville, Tennessee after high school and was signed to a publishing deal with Keith Urban’s company before moving to Los Angeles, California.
Of her time in her hometown, the artist says, “I cut my teeth playing smoky cowboy bars in Cave Creek, AZ. To get people’s attention, you’ve gotta sing loud.” Cali recalls memorizing a catalog of what she dubbed ‘crowd pleaser cover songs’ while she dreamed of singing her own music. “When I moved to Nashville, I instantly felt at home because of the strong songwriting community. The shows I played were mostly ‘writer’s rounds,’ where four songwriters sit in a circle and take turns playing their original material.”
Cali says of these types of shows, “It’s more about the songs than who’s singing, and every audience is ‘all ears’; that’s just the culture there. Singing ‘loud’ couldn’t convince an audience to like you if your song was bad!” Not only was her time in Nashville a learning experience as a songwriter, but she also developed her personal and professional circles. “I’ve met some of my greatest friends and closest collaborators in that scene. And I learned how to tell a story through song.” However, country music wasn’t where Cali’s heart lied when she wanted to explore her talents further. “After a few years in Nashville, I had this desire to just go crazy on stage and really put on a show.” She refers to this ambition as, “Pop dreams.”
It was then that she knew she needed to go to LA. “LA is so different,” she begins to express about how it compared to where she used to live. “It’s all about how the song sounds rather than just what the song is saying lyrically. LA is a different world; ‘optics’ matter here.” The effect of the City of Angels extended past just making music. “It’s made me take social media more seriously.”
She goes on to say, “LA is a little more isolating than Nashville or Cave Creek, but I’ve found great friends here who are inspiring, supportive, and doing incredibly creative things. All in all, I feel like each place has taught me something about growing my career and I wouldn’t be where I am today without all three.”
In fact, Cali reveals, “I keep a rattlesnake rattle in my acoustic guitar to remind me of Arizona.” She adds, “Apparently it’s good luck.” When it comes to her music, she has been able to incorporate the different things she’s learned from the places she’s lived. Her experiences there have become intertwined in her music. “I feel like my music is sonically a product of my experiences in both Nashville and Los Angeles. Nashville gave me my love of lyrics and storytelling, and Los Angeles set the bar for pop production.”
The other reasoning behind Cali’s evolving music is the growth she’s undergone professionally and the number of experiences she’s gained – both good and bad – as she’s gotten older.
“When I was younger, I hadn’t really gone through many personal experiences, so I was drawing inspiration from movies and books, using my imagination,” she confesses. “Now that I’ve been through love and heartbreak, stayed out all night with my friends until the sun came up, and moved halfway across the country two times, I have so many stories I want to share.” More than that, she says, “I’ve also had the chance to form my own opinions about the world – I suddenly have a lot to say. Sonically, I’ve been through a country, rock, and a pop phase – and while I’ve landed more in the pop space, there are elements of all three in my music today.”
One experience that had a major impact on her music is when she signed a publishing deal with Keith Urban’s company. “Signing a publishing deal made all the difference,” she says of the effect it had. “It meant I got to be in songwriting sessions with hitmakers. It meant people suddenly thought I was a ‘real’ songwriter, not just another dime-a-dozen kid trying to be Taylor Swift,” says Cali of how it made her feel.
“More than anything, having one of your childhood idols believe in you enough to sign you is just the best confidence boost a young girl could ask for. Having a publishing deal also means I get to dive into writing music for other people. It’s been so fulfilling to watch songs I’ve written get released while I’ve been working on my artist project.”
Her most recent single, “God Save the Queen,” is just one of the many songs that she has written since Nashville, using what she’s learned there and applying it to her new ideas. The new song is described by the songwriter as an empowerment anthem.
“The song is about not being afraid to ask for help and finding strength in vulnerability.”
The music within song itself feels like it belongs to an upbeat pop bop which is enough to distract audiences upon first listen where nodding one’s head and embracing the musical vibes is all one’s concerned with. Upon replay, the lyrics are sure to resonate more and more as Cali calls out, “Can anybody hear me?” in the chorus.
Inspired by a traumatic event in her own life, Cali says of how the song came about (Trigger Warning: Physical Assault), “While putting money in a parking meter on my way into a songwriting session, I looked up and a strung-out, towering man was stumbling towards me. Living in a big city like Los Angeles, that’s a fairly normal thing, so I didn’t think much of it. Suddenly, he started running towards me and calling me a ‘Bitch’. A switch in my brain automatically flipped to panic mode and I started sprinting in the other direction. Before I knew it, he had me cornered.” She says of the terrifying encounter, “Even though I was screaming for help, I couldn’t get over the fact that in broad daylight on Ventura Boulevard, no one stopped to help me.”
“He pushed me; I felt I had no choice but to push him back with all my strength and ended up faking him out and running into a Subway where I hid behind the counter. My hands were shaking the entire day.”
The experience changed Cali’s daily life. “The next day, when I arrived at my session, I called my male co-workers to escort me from the parking garage – I was still terrified to walk around alone. I explained to them what happened,” she says, adding as an aside that she also showed off her new neon pink pepper spray that she’s attached to her keys since then. “And we decided we needed to write about it. That’s when ‘God Save the Queen’ was born. I wanted to create a song that gave me hope and strength because I felt powerless in the moment. A modern take on the iconic Sex Pistol’s classic,” she says, referencing the song of the same name. “It’s an understatement to say life is hard these days, but that doesn’t mean we can’t still have a little fun.”
As a young musician, seeing someone only a few years older than me ‘making it’ really inspired me.
However, writing about the experience didn’t come easy. She says that the main difficulty was that she didn’t want to come across as a victim. Grabbing her agency back, she says, “I wanted to have a message of courage. It’s way easier to write about love or breakups, but when it’s something traumatic like this, I had to make every word count.”
When discussing the lyrics of the song, TEENPLICITY points out the line, “Angels on our shoulders aren’t enough anymore.” A haunting tale of tough times and a reminder that we need to look out for each other, Cali says of the line, “I’m so glad that line sticks with you, it’s one of my favorites.” She continues, “I also love the line about walking home with your keys between your fingers – girls grow up learning they should be watching their back, but this song celebrates having each other’s back.”
With that thought in mind, she hopes listeners gain “Confidence, hope, and fearlessness,” from hearing ‘God Saves the Queen’.
“I felt like I needed some saving that day on the street, so this is my anthemic prayer.”
Like the many women she admires, Cali is showing to be unapologetically herself – authentic, kind, goofy, a feminist, and so much more that her fans are still discovering every day. One woman in particular that she looks up to is Audrey Hepburn.
Known for her incredible acting talents, the challenges she faced throughout her life, and her sheer force in trying to make the world a better place, Cali says of the icon, “Audrey is the epitome of Hollywood royalty. She truly left her mark and helped make the world a better place.”
Taking a note from Audrey’s book, the singer says, “I hope to do the same, but though music rather than movies. She also did a lot of charity work with multiple foundations, which I strive to do as well. I’ve been a musical ambassador for the TJ Martell Foundation for years now; they’re fighting to find a cure to cancer, and I will keep fighting with them until there is one.”
Another one of her inspirations is Taylor Swift, one of the women responsible for redefining what women are able to accomplish in the music industry, the impact they have, and forged her own, incredible path in the spotlight.
“I’ve been a fan of Taylor Swift since day one. She was always calling out the boys who broke her heart in interviews and talked about writing her own songs.” Cali says, “As a young musician, seeing someone only a few years older than me ‘making it’ really inspired me. She consistently puts out career defining music and relates to an entire generation in ways that no one else can. A living LEGEND.” She adds, poking fun at her subtlety, “Definitely a fan if you can’t tell.”
While Taylor’s legion of fans – Cali included – are enjoying the mega star’s quarantine project, an alternative album named folklore, Cali reflects on how quarantine has affected her own creativity. “Quarantine has been SO weird!” she admits.
“It’s a rollercoaster of emotions every day, but I’m trying to make the most of it. I learned to record my own vocals, which was a huge learning curve for me, but I’m proud of myself for doing it!” Part of this, she confesses, is that she is very technologically challenged. This time has also forced her to be more creative content-wise, according to the singer. “It’s totally new to release music during a global pandemic, but we’re learning as we go. I feel like I have creative spurts and I’ve been spending more time writing songs alone.”
She can’t forget to include that she, like many others, also tried her hand at some new culinary feats. “I’ve also mastered the art of banana bread.”
Another thing that she’s really picked up and worked on during the time spent home social distancing is TikTok. The extremely popular short video service has become a new ground for creatives to express themselves and expand their reach. Jason Derulo has used the platform to jumpstart his musical comeback, with many other musicians using it to spread word about their music in hopes of being discovered. It recently happened to one country singer who hoped countless TikToks of her burying copies of her single outside major music headquarters would help (the local radio station did end up playing her song).
“TikTok is so new to me, but I’m learning!” Cali says of the expanding platform. “It is amazing how creative people can be in 15 seconds.” She even confesses, “Sometimes it’s intimidating! …But I hope to collaborate with new and inspiring content creators.” Videos of her baking, telling breakup stories, and reacting to some pretty outrageous ideas are already on her page, in addition to her original music. Her single ‘Party Favor’ is currently available as a sound to use on TikTok with dozens of videos already using it and one dancer creating a shuffle dance to it. “Growing my audience so my songs can reach more ears is definitely the goal. Stay tuned!” she says with a smile.
With a little less than half the year left, it’s difficult to anticipate what exactly fans can expect in the remainder of 2020. “2020 is a curveball for all of us, so it’s hard to say for sure. BUT I have a music video for ‘God Save the Queen’ ready to go, so I’m excited to share that!” Cali teases. She gives another grin as she hints, “[I] also have a few other songs slated to come out this year.”
That is sure to send Cali’s fans in a fit of excitement. Her growing audience is comprised of enthusiastic, passionate, and sweet fans who cannot wait to see what she’ll accomplish next – you can count TEENPLICITY amongst them. Talking about their support, the singer says to her fans, “Thank you for being so patient with me while I spent the last two years hibernating to make this upcoming EP! I’m so grateful for each and every one of you who has been with me on this journey and I can’t wait for you to hear what’s coming.”
As a reminder, Cali adds, “Oh, and wear a mask!!”
Find out the many ways that you can listen to Cali Rodi’s new single, ‘God Save the Queen’ here!