When she was younger, she locked herself in her room to practice runs and riffs and sing harmonies to songs, and now she performs on stage where she feels at home. Calista Wu's life, better known as CaliStar, has changed a lot but her love for music remains intact. The pop artist, award-winning attorney, and entrepreneur has put all her energy into her musical project for more than two years, launching her Cali Star Entertainment and always reminding herself to keep going and enjoy the process. And she has just released her new EP, Glitterati.
Viewing this latest release as an important chapter in her life, a transformation and a comeback, Glitterati is a reflection of her journey of becoming CaliStar, taking the listener through the ups and downs of building a career from scratch. The six-track EP features collaborations with highly recognized producers and professionals, some of whom have previously worked with Dua Lipa or Lady Gaga, among others. This is a major step in her musical adventure.
Calista, welcome to METAL. How are you and where do you answer us from?
I’m doing great, thank you! I’m answering from Los Angeles, but I just got back from a recent trip to London.
I’d like to start by talking about your professional career. In addition to leading your own musical project, CaliStar, you're an award-winning attorney and entrepreneur. When and how did music come into your life?
I grew up playing the piano at a very early age, and I sang in church as a child. I always loved music, so I would lock myself in my room and practice runs and riffs and sing harmonies to songs. Any chance I had to learn a new instrument or perform musically, I took it. In college, I did competitive a cappella in a couple of groups. After college, I started working in the business of music when I became a singer-songwriter, wrote and sang for other artists, and released my first EP.
What did you dream about when you were a child? Were you clear about what you wanted to dedicate yourself to?
Ever since I was a little girl, I knew I wanted to be both a singer and a lawyer. I didn’t really understand that the two didn’t go together. Throughout my life, I’ve had periods where I’ve focused on one more than the other, but now, I finally get to do both. It definitely hasn’t been a straight path, but the singular vision has always been there.
You debuted as a pop artist in 2021, how do you remember that stage? Did you ever feel afraid of the reaction of the audience to your first releases?
Oh my gosh, I remember the stage at my Cali Star Entertainment launch party, where I debuted as CaliStar the pop artist in front of my friends and industry folks. It was the first time so many people had seen me sing before, and I remember many of them being shocked. There were others who had been at my first release party when I released my debut EP as Calista Wu, so it was definitely a full-circle moment in many ways. If I overthink before any performance or the audience’s reactions, I can be absolutely terrified, but once I’m on any stage, it usually feels like home, like I’m caught up in a dream.
Now, two years later, would you say that your vision of the music industry has changed?
I definitely think that being an independent artist has put my resolve to the test. I have so much respect for artists and creators who keep making music and developing their artistry because it’s not easy. There’s so much to being an artist and so many parts to running the business of music, and I have to remind myself to keep going and enjoy the process. I would say that I’m more determined and passionate than ever. I’m learning to give myself permission to be an artist and unpacking what that means every day.
You're now releasing your new EP, Glitterati. A 6-track project that takes us on a vibrant journey from Ethereal Lover to Don't Give Up, Can't Sleep or Better, what does this release mean to you?
When I first released my debut EP as Calista Wu, it was titled The Prologue because it was a promise that there would be more music in the future, even though I wasn’t sure what that would look like. Now, as the pop artist CaliStar, releasing my new EP, Glitterati, is a fulfilment of that promise. I view the Glitterati EP as marking an important chapter in my life, as a transformation and a comeback.
I created the six songs to represent different facets of what Glitterati means to me, and the EP is an invitation to explore deeper what it means to truly shine. It’s more than ok to not fit into one stereotype or one box, even if forces around you tell you otherwise. The songs unpack the layers of achieving your dreams and living a glittery life, even if it means overcoming darkness and disappointment. Since I crafted the songs and the EP, the songs are truly a reflection of my journey of becoming CaliStar.
What would you like the audience to feel when they listen to your Glitterati EP for the first time?
I truly hope that the audience has a lot of fun listening to the songs on the Glitterati EP. It’s designed to be like sonic candy with different flavours. There are always Easter eggs and deeper meanings in my songs and music videos, so I hope that once the listeners enjoy the tracks, they’ll discover more of the depth and dimensions of the songs and videos. Ultimately, with this EP, I hope that every listener will feel more empowered to overcome their inner battles and shine even brighter in the face of adversity and fear
“I want to say a special thank you to the amazing people who have been part of this project,” you shared on your social media a few weeks ago. Could you tell us about those people who have collaborated on this new EP?
This is a good reminder to me of how I’ve been blessed to work with so many talented people on this EP. Jae Chong produced and co-wrote Ethereal Lover, Glitterati, and Better. He’s a member of the original K-R&B group Solid, and he’s produced for some of the top artists in Asia like Coco Lee and Elva. Enik Lin produced and co-wrote Can’t Sleep, Don’t Give Up, and Do What We Wanna. He’s part of the pop rock group Fyke, and he’s produced for top artists like Amber Liu and James Lee from Royal Pirates.
All of the songs on the EP were mastered by Chris Gehringer, who’s worked on tracks for Dua Lipa, Lizzo, Rihanna, and Lady Gaga. In terms of the music video directors I’ve worked with so far, Brad Wong has directed music videos for Mario, Wiz Khalifa, Bazzi, and Pink Sweat$. Ron Yuan, who directed Don’t Give Up, is an actor (Mulan, Marco Polo, Paper Tigers) and director for major motion pictures (Blade of the 47 Ronin). The list goes on, and I’m constantly impressed by the talent I’m surrounded by.
In the single Glitterati, you collaborate with Kiyoné. How did this sum of forces come about and what can you tell us about the development process of this track?
Kiyoné is an absolute legend. We met when she was only 16 years old, and she was already working with my producer, Jae Chong, on some songs for his projects. He thought it would be a great idea to work together on a track, so the first song we co-wrote was Ethereal Lover. It was so much fun that we all came together to work on Glitterati. She can write, sing, rap, dance, and more. She’s the complete package, so keep an eye out for her!
You're the founder of Cali Star Entertainment, LLC, a multi-platform entertainment company created to inspire others to pursue possibilities. What do you enjoy the most about your job? And what do you like the least?
I love doing things I’m afraid of each day. It’s also the thing I like the least. There’s some part of me that likes being certain and knowing that I’m doing something stable and secure. But there’s also a part of me that knows that I love growing and doing things I’m passionate about, even if they seem hard to reach or scary in the face of the unknown.
I think that by walking out each day, building my career as a pop artist and an entertainment company founder, I’m walking out my mission statement. By me figuring out how to pursue possibilities, hopefully, I’m signalling to others that it’s going to be ok. You only have authority over what you’ve overcome, so by walking this out authentically, step by step I’ll be able to make a way for others.
Where and when can we see you performing live in the coming months?
I don’t have any set dates that can be announced yet, but please stay tuned!