On Stepping Outside Your Comfort Zone: Front-woman and Songwriter Carrie Fussell of Calliope Musicals

As we prepare for BABES FEST 2019, we’re sharing interviews with some of the creatives on our lineup. Today, we’re featuring words from Calliope Musicals’ front-woman Carrie Fussell. You can catch Carrie performing with Calliope Musicals on Day Two of the fest during our music showcase at The North Door.

who: Calliope Musicals

Calliope Musicals is a cheerful psychedelic party folk band from Austin, Texas. Their high-energy live performance focuses on involving the crowd. A squad of musicians fill in their folksy roots with a mix of vibraphone, tribal drums, bass, lead guitar and explosive vocals. The band exudes feel-good vibes that aim to swallow listeners and spit them out as happier versions of their former selves.

This interview was conducted with Calliope Musicals’ lead singer, Carrie Fussell.

When did you start creating music? Early age or Later in life?

As a kid I was *always* singing. I grew up on a small family farm, so when I was raking hay, push mowing the yard, picking bugs off the squash, or burning trash in the ditch behind our house. I was never without my walkman, (later discman, later iPod) singing at the top of my lungs. I would write poems and songs and when I was 16 my dad bought me a guitar. I took a couple of lessons from my friend's mom, who was a bad ass blue grass musician, then I fell off the lessons but at home was always writing and playing. When I was 18, my parents bought me a Mac book for graduation, and I started recording demos on Garageband, which was the coolest, most exciting thing ever. Performance has been a true love and joy of my life ever since I was a teeny child singing "Friends in Low Places" in the Henderson Wal-Mart, so I frequented school talent shows and later all-state choir competitions.

What inspires you and your band mate's look/aesthetics? What inspires your sound?

We like to keep a sense of adventure in our music and shows, creating a space where people can apply fearlessness to their own self expression. I am aware that music has the power to shift your way of thinking; listening to Rabbit Fur Coat by Jenny Lewis was the first time I ever questioned the set of beliefs with which I'd been raised, and I remember having my mind totally blown by that. So raising questions and juxtaposing the various facets of humanity in a way that makes people curious is important to me. Visually, Jerry, our production buddy, brings so much color and magic, and I feel like that helps remove people from their day-to-day and immerse them in a new environment, even if they're in a place where they hangout all the time. 

How does it feel to be on tour and see so many different people, places, and things?

It feels amazing. I think the more of the earth and humanity that we see, the more empathy and understanding we can have for the people around us. I met someone last year who had never been to the ocean or seen a mountain, and that really messed me up and also made me check my privilege. We had very different ways of thinking when it came to human rights and the planet, and at first I got super frustrated, but as I thought more, I wondered how can we expect people to believe in and fight for a planet they don't even know and people that they aren't even sure exist? Not that it is that simple, and not that people don't have to work at growing, and not that every person who has never been outside of their bubble has a confused conscience, but it made me realize how lucky I am to have developed a relationship with world and people in it outside of myself. This planet is so magical and is just hanging in outer space growing trees, making oxygen, giving us a structure of time while it kind of dances around the sun. DAMN it is so easy to take all that for granted, but it really is so special. I mean, there are also times when I am wigging out because I have slept on the floor for three nights in a row, or eaten fast food multiple meals in a row, or played a show to an annoyed venue staff and almost no one else, so I'd be telling stories if I pretended that every moment was drenched in gratitude and romance. 


Who helps design your clothes?

EEEEEEK—OMG, my friend Sloane Lenz (aka This is Sloane) designs lots of the clothes I wear on and off stage. And if I'm wearing panties, they were most certainly made by my friend Sarah Harris at Wonder Wears the Gold. They have also both made custom pieces for our merch booth that feature some of our lyrics. I am so blown away by the magical creators I know. I'm also an avid thrifter and vintage junkie—Blue Velvet has been my goto ever since college when they used to be on the drag. 

What are you most excited for when it comes to BABES FEST 2019?

I am ridiculously honored to perform and speak at BABES FEST. I went to the first #BBATX meet up at Friends and Neighbors in 2015, and I was super nervous. I don't smoke cigarettes, but a friend had given me these fancy herbal cigarettes with roses and all sorts of cool stuff in them. So when my social anxiety kicked in and I didn't know what to do with my hands, I lit it up and tried to casually smoke with all the smokers. Then somehow, I burned the hell out of my lip and lost it and left. So I guess I'm hoping to contribute to the all-are-welcome vibe and inspire folks to confidently pop out of their comfort zone and explore. 

BABES FEST is an ~ annual convening of minds ~ in Austin, Texas, celebrating and amplifying women and nonbinary artists. As a weekend-long exhibition, our performances, panels, pop-up markets, film screenings and networking hours span music, film, art, creative education and comedy. Our daily schedule, 3-day passes and one-day passes for BABES FEST 2019 are available now.

~ everybody’s welcome. ~

Jane Claire Hervey