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Calysta Bevier On Releasing First Music Video, Being A Part Of the LGBTQIA+ Community, Surviving Cancer & More
Caly (pronounced like the shortened term for California) Bevier is cool, calm, and collected when we meet at the bustling NeueHouse shared workspace in Hollywood on a Wednesday evening. Entertainment industry professionals are holding meetings, drinking coffee, furiously typing away on their laptops or smartphones, but Bevier remains chill.
She arrives with her boyfriend, Sam, in tow, and is rocking the perfect shade of pink hair. At 19, the rising pop artist has just released her second single, “Hate U Sometimes”–the follow-up to 2018’s anthemic “Head Held High”–and has just released the coinciding music video for the single. She’s also currently finishing up songs for an EP expected later this year, working with a notorious roundtable of who’s who of songwriters – Bonnie McKee (Katy Perry, Britney Spears), Mike Green (5 Seconds of Summer, Gwen Stefani), and Joe Garrett (Zayn) to name some.
It all might sound like the culmination of years of hard work, but Bevier is not a typical 19-year-old pop star on the rise. She’s a stage three ovarian cancer survivor who was diagnosed at the age of 15 and found her shot at fame because of it.
“I really tried to stay as strong as I could,” says Bevier on receiving her diagnosis. “It definitely changed me as a person. I have this whole very positive outlook on life.”
After her touching cover of Rachel Platten’s “Fight Song” for a friend’s benefit event went viral, she got a call to appear on the “Ellen” show and then an invitation to audition for “America’s Got Talent.” Bevier wasn’t expecting all the opportunities she’s had since then.
“I never thought I would make it in the music business,” says Bevier, sitting comfortably and effortlessly stylish in jeans and a zip-up windbreaker. “Everything that you hear when you’re younger [about chasing your dreams] … people tell you not to go after those dreams.”
Bevier also never thought she’d win the compliments of Simon Cowell, one of the fiercest critics in reality television and one of the “America’s Got Talent” judges, or that she’d go on “Ellen” and perform with Platten. But she did.
And now, with the release of her first music video for “Hate U Sometimes,” Bevier is informing the world of who she is, what she believes in, and who she continues to fight for. The video features her boyfriend, Sam, who recently transitioned from female to male.
In an interview with the Recording Academy, Bevier chats about her new single, how her life was forever changed at 15, the meaning behind the “Hate U Sometimes” music video and more.
“Hate U Sometimes” is out now. How did this song come about?
So, I was actually pitched this song. Sarah Barrios and Jake Torrey [and Nicki Adamsson] wrote it originally. They sent it to me, and I was lucky enough to really connect with it. I think as people are listening to it, a lot of people are connecting with it. Then I went into a session and we finished the whole song. I helped write the bridge and we did some lyric tweaks. Originally, they used the word “boy” a lot and I wanted to keep the song kind of gender-less, so we switched that up.
What connected you with the song?
I was talking to one of my friends, and they were like, “Who would you relate this song to?” Sam and I were about a year and a few months [into our relationship at the time,] so obviously, we [had] our little tiffs here and there, [but] there’s not really moments where I would ever use the word “hate” for Sam. But, [I talk] to my mom on the phone, constantly. … I think picking the best person to relate this song to is my mom and me, honestly.
Your mom has played a significant role in your life and career.
Originally when I started coming out here, she was almost like my manager. Our relationship has gotten so much stronger since she took the mom role on fully instead of trying to do both.
Going back a little bit, your life totally changed at age 15. It was summertime, you were on vacation, you discovered this lump on your stomach that had been there for a while. You go to the doctor, and you learn it’s cancer. During this time, Rachel Platten’s “Fight Song” becomes your anthem. Do you remember hearing that song for the first time?
I couldn’t tell you the first time I actually heard that song. But the moment that it clicked for me was on my way to my first chemo treatment. “Fight Song” came on and I really took my time to listen to the lyrics while we were driving and I was like “OK, everything’s going to be fine. I got this.” So, I think hearing that song on my way to my first chemo was kind of like the reason I was able to be so strong the whole time.
What was it that made you think, “I’m not giving up?”
First of all, I didn’t inform myself [completely of what was going on with me.] I would go to my treatment, I would do everything that I could do on my part to try and get better. But I didn’t know all the numbers and percentages of my survival rate. I just wanted to live as much as I could. My dad told me, you can either be sick and be sad and negative about everything, or you can be sick and be happy and positive and live your life to the fullest. Either way, you’re going to be sick. So why make it worse with being negative and being down on yourself all the time? So, I think when my dad told me that, that’s also one of the reasons I got through everything with my head held high. Why be sad? I was sick, it wasn’t going to change.
So, from there, you record a cover of “Fight Song.” You perform it at a benefit. And then Ellen sees it, and you fly to L.A. to be on her show. Then “America’s Got Talent” comes calling. Can you summarize what the last three years have been like for you?
They’ve been everywhere. I’m very go-with-the-flow. That’s something I tell everyone. I’ll do these events. I travel. I’m just kind of living it. I don’t think about it too much. But there are moments when I’m sitting there waiting to perform. That’s when I have time to think about how lucky I am. I came from this small town in Ohio to now traveling all around and living this dream. It’s just been crazy. I don’t know what other word to put to it. It’s been a whirlwind.
So the music video for “Hate U Sometimes” is out today. It’s so beautiful. How did your boyfriend, Sam, get involved with your music video?
We were throwing a bunch of ideas around. We talked about him being in it before, but it was just a passing thought. And then my manager was like, the team at BMG thinks it could be a good idea for Sam to be in the video. And I was like OK well let me ask Sam. I’m down if that’s their idea and they’re happy with that, let’s do it. So, I asked him, and he was more than happy to.
Normally, Sam is taking photos and video. So, seeing him in front of the camera was cool. Him going through this whole transition was a big part of it. It was cool for me to be able to watch him be confident.
Do you think that this video is going to be one where you’re really kind of open about your relationship?
Oh yeah, for sure. I don’t think I’ve actually had an opportunity yet to really show a different side of me other than the inspirational cancer side. So, with this whole “Hate U Sometimes” video I get to show the love side of me. I get to show the part of me that’s in the LGBTQ community. I get to open up so many more doors for myself, and it’s so amazing. I’m really happy that I finally get to take a few different paths.
As a teenage cancer survivor, you’ve already inspired so many. But this story that you’re going to tell in this video opens up a whole other community.
By showing someone that’s transgender in the music video, I hope that a lot of other transgender people see it and think, “Oh, I can be in a music video on TV?” I don’t know how else to say it.
How do you think this relationship and this music video will speak for you specifically as an artist? How is it shaping you and the story you want to tell?
It obviously shows I’m part of the LGBTQ community, I’m pansexual. I am an ally for the trans community and for any other group in the LGBTQ community. I want people to know that. I want people to know that I’m here for them. I’m on their side. And then it also helps show who I am as an artist and my music. This song is really close to the lane that I do want to go down in the future.
Do you have a message for people celebrating Pride Month?
Be unapologetically yourself.
Switching gears, you released “Head Held High” last year. That sounds like your own personal fight song.
That’s pretty much why I wrote that song. So I could have my own personal “Fight Song.” It was the first song I ever wrote in a session in LA. We went in and were like, OK let’s write about your story because it’ll be a good song to release for your first single after everything you’ve been through. We wrote it from my perspective. The whole time I had my head held high; I was very positive. It’s crazy because someone DM’d me on Instagram the other day and they were like, “Did you know that when you were eliminated off [‘America’s Got Talent’] Simon said to you, ‘You can leave this competition with your head held high.’” And I was like, are you kidding me? I had no clue. I don’t believe in coincidences but obviously that all happened for a reason.
Your lyrics are all so relatable. What do you think makes you relatable to people?
We all have relatively the same experiences in one way or another. Someone might hear a song and take it one way. And someone might hear the same song and take it a totally different way. But I just think I’m relatable because I’m just another human on the planet like everyone else.
In January you just posted a song that you were playing on the piano, “Really Love”?
Oh yeah, I was just writing in my room. Sometimes I’ll just play random chords and then write to them.
When did you start playing the piano?
I just taught myself. Anything that has to do [with music] other than singing I just started two years ago when I moved here. Before I always just liked to sing … But after “Ellen” and [“America’s Got Talent”] what was more of a dream turned into reality, so I had to really start working for what I wanted.
You’ve mentioned “Ellen.” I’m curious what went through your mind when you got the call?
The first call happened, and I was at school, and they called my parents. My mom texted me and was like, “Oh my god, your dad’s on the phone with Ellen right now.” My heart kind of dropped, but I didn’t want to take it too seriously. So, I left class, went to the office and I was like what is going on? And they were like they saw your video and they want to put it up on
“ellentube.” So, I was like OK, awesome. I was super excited about that. I never thought I was going to be on the show.
Then I got the call and [the “Ellen” producer] was like, “Do you want to come to the show?” And I thought it was just to be in the audience. And then we flew out, and the day before the show she calls and was like, “Well I hope that you’re ready because you’re going to sing ‘Fight Song’ on the show.” And I’m like you’re kidding me. And at this time, I felt fine I was feeling healthy, and then I woke up the day of the show and I felt so sick. I couldn’t breathe. And I called and was like how am I going to sing? And she was like we’ll do anything we can. … They made me feel a little better, and I got to sing with Rachel Platten.
Did you know you were going to sing with Platten?
I had no clue.
What was it like when you saw her walk out onstage?
Everyone asks me what I felt like at that moment, and I don’t really know. It was just like [I was] floating like in a dream. I still think about it and it’s like did that happen for real? It was crazy.
Kind of like on “America’s Got Talent” when Simon immediately sent you to the live show.
Yeah, it’s the exact same thing. … I grew up watching “American Idol” and “Ellen.” Those two things starting my whole career pretty much is a dream, literally.
How do you think music has played a role in getting you through these difficult periods?
I think music is a form of therapy. If you’re sad, you’re going to have your sad music that you always want to turn on to make you happy. And if you’re happy you’re going to have your happy playlist that keeps you going. I just think that music is medicine.
How do you think you can use your music to inspire teenagers or people in general who are going through cancer treatments?
I think through the lyrics. If anyone can find any bit of inspiration through lyrics that’s great. I want to show people that there is life after your sickness.
What do you think the biggest lesson is that you’ve learned over the last three years?
Just finding positivity in everything that you can. I think it’s very important to always look on the bright side.
What’s been the most memorable moment of your career so far?
I will never forget recording the music video. Just looking out into the hills and everything around me and the beauty and I stopped and was like, “I’m recording a music video for my song. This is so crazy.” And then I just performed “Head Held High” at a halftime show for the Houston Dynamo. It was the first time I performed my own song in a stadium. I’m just so grateful for every little thing that I’m doing.
What do you think we’ll see from you in the next five years?
I think you’ll definitely see tons of music. I just want to be an artist that people know. And when they hear me on the radio [they’ll think], “That’s Caly.” That’s what I hope.