Carré Callaway's tough-as-nails attitude is mixes oddly with her esoteric innocence. You wouldn't expect the 27-year-old, cat-toting, freckled-face singer to lead a 'visceral rock' band named Queen Kwong. Well, unless you caught a glimpse of her vintage-remake Suicide band tee and combat boots, or saw her growl into a mic on stage.
Callaway grew up in a hotel next to a goth/punk nightclub her father owned in Denver. She graduated high school early and, at 17, found herself exploring the music scene of New Orleans, which led to a chance meeting with Trent Reznor. He invited a then-cocky, teenage Callaway and friend back to his nearby studio after Callaway proclaimed she made music too but didn't have a demo tape.
Callaway performed for him a song called "Lo," and Reznor helped her record an acoustic three-track demo in his studio that night. Reznor told Callaway he was moving to L.A. and that she should do the same.
He later enlisted her as the opening act for Nine Inch Nails' With Teeth tour; at the time, her biggest audience had been 20 people in a coffee shop in Denver. Unfortunately the shows were a "disaster," she says, and she went into hiding and took a hiatus from music. Now she's back with a new EP titled Bad Lieutenant, a solid live act and a new perspective on the music industry. We spoke with her about all of this stuff.
How did you prepare yourself to open for such a large act?
Not very well [laughs]. I was not well-prepared and I really didn't know what I was getting into. I didn't have my own guitar, so I had to borrow one from Trent. I had a lot of songs, but I had never played electric guitar and I didn't really have a good understanding of who I was as a performer. I just went out there and did it.
Do you think you were a type of muse to Reznor?
Well we had a really special connection that was pretty immediate. He is a really caring, generous person. I think in some ways my drive or ambition reminded himself of how he was, or still is. We just really hit it off in a way where it felt like we were related, like a familial bond. I still don't know how to explain our relationship at first and why everything happened and for what reason. I'm not sure I'll ever know. We're still dear friends and he's always going to be someone in my heart. He definitely took me under his wing, like a brother, and I hadn't really had that before. I think he saw [talent] in me that maybe other people didn't see at the time because it was really underdeveloped. I just had the drive and visceral material, but I wasn't a developed artist by any means.