Bill Callahan is one of music’s most mythical, mysterious and treasured characters.

The 48 year-old singer-songwriter has produced records since the beginning of the 1990s, originally under the moniker of Smog – a revered band that floated between the sonic grounds of lo-fi and folk, releasing over ten albums including the critically acclaimed Knock Knock and Dongs of Sevotion, not to mention having collaborated (and in some cases, also dated) Cynthia Dall, Chan Marshall and Joanna Newsom.

The deep, rich baritone singer refuses to be pinned down to one single sound, Callahan then stepping-out into the light as a solo artist, wading in the depths of alternative folk and country, but with an experimental twist. Since then, he has watched his dedicated fanbase continually balloon as he creates boundary-pushing, innovative and exciting pieces of unique output that has consistently impressed the musical world.

In highlighting such accolades, it should come as no surprise that we here at Tone Deaf are very big fans of Callahan, and despite possessing a powerful army of cult followers, there are still so many who are not attuned to this prolific legend.

With Callahan hitting Australia’s shores in May to perform at Sydney’s incredible Vivid Live 2015 experience, not to mention a one-off show in Melbourne, we thought it high time we share the love and genius that is Bill Callahan, and explain why he is an unsung hero of music of the past 25 years.

His Live Show Is One Of The Best In The World

We’ll get straight to the point with this one – and it seems pretty logic considering that he’ll be here next month: Bill Callahan has been regarded as one of the best live performers in music, and there’s recorded proof to support this argument.

Recorded in (believe it or not) Melbourne’s very own intimate CBD venue, The Toff In Town, Callahan’s Rough Travel For A Rare Thing saw Callahan’s live show in 2007 be laid to wax, and once it hit shelves, fans and critics collectively nodded their heads in agreement: this was, without doubt, one of the finest live shows they’d ever heard.

Callahan’s bittersweet baritone, his dark, introverted lyrics and simple instrumentation translated seamlessly to his Melbourne audience, forever capturing the significant moment in time and cementing him as one of the most celebrated live performers in music right now.

Bill Callahan Doesn’t Have A Shit Record

It may be blunt and almost vulgar to use a cuss word in association with such an artist, but let’s be totally honest – there’s nothing Callahan has released that isn’t brilliant. 

For the uninitiated, Callahan departed the popular grounds of Smog and moved into the spotlight as Bill Callahan in 2007, and in that time he’s released five full-length records that have all been received extremely well by both fans and critics, making it almost impossible to select an all-time favourite solo Callahan album.

He Is The Definition Of Prolific

If we’re going to talk about Callahan as an unsung hero, we need to mention just how damn prolific he is.

Since 1990 as Smog, he’s released an incredible 17 albums. That’s one every 1.5 years, for 25 years, and he’s showing zero signs of slowing down.

In addition to that, he’s boosted the profile of other artists, including Neil Hagerty, Cynthia Dall, Chan Marshall, aka Cat Power, as well as lending his talent for covers on four separate tribute albums to Judee Sill, Kath Bloom, Chris Knox, and Merge Records.

This quiet achiever exudes artistic creativity.

Age Is No Limitation

Akin to contemporaries Mark Kozelek of Sun Kil Moon/Red House Painters, The National and even his more senior Nick Cave and Tom Waits, the quality of Callahan’s work has not wavered over time, in fact, many would argue his albums have steadily improved.

Sure, he is only 48 years-old, however, there aren’t many artists out there who after 25 years of working in the recording industry can release an album that will still be as equally appreciated, praised and intrigue existing fans whilst simultaneously generating a legion of fresh obsessors.

Dream River, released in 2013, is just as beautiful and challenging as Smog’s 1999 pinnacle, Knock Knock, hear for yourself:

Callahan’s Influential Sphere Is Massive

We may have dubbed him an unsung hero, however, there are of course plenty of artists that sing the praises of the clever artist.

Strangely enough, from Hot Chip’s Alexis Taylor to the indie folk sounds of Phosphorescent, as well as female acts such as collaborating partners Cynthia Dall and Cat Power – Callahan’s unique focus on constructing simple yet brutally powerful music is appreciated from a myriad of musical worlds.

Folk extraordinaire, Laura Marling, quoted of her Callahan adoration to The Globe and Mail, writing of his record Sometimes I Wish We Were An Eagle,“I think it is as close to a work of genius as I’ve seen of the living. I listen to it at least once a month, and have for the last three years. And I listen to it start to finish. It’s a proper album. It has a beginning, a middle and an end.”

Bill Callahan Australia 2015 Tour Dates

Tuesday 26 May 2015
Hamer Hall, Melbourne
Tickets available here

Thursday 28th May 2015
Sydney Opera House for Vivid Live
Tickets available here

Friday 29th May 2015
Sydney Opera House for Vivid Live
Tickets available here