Rising Star Tanya O’ Callaghan: “We need to all wake up more, we need to stop floating through life completely unaware of where everything comes from”
We need to all wake up more, we need to stop floating through life completely unaware of where everything comes from just because we can simply click a button and order what we want. It has become such a fast paced, disconnected materialistic world. We don’t stop and think, where did my food come from, where did my clothes come from, my products.. etc..etc.. We are unknowingly participating in industries we would absolutely not support if we saw the dark underbelly of these industries that are cleverly disguised with genius marketing. If we could all start shifting back towards a sustainable, fair trade, cruelty free economy, we would make a huge positive impact on our planet, our fellow humans and animals welfare. There is a mass inertia happening that we need to awake from, we don’t even realize the power we have as consumers, every time we make a purchase we are voting with our money. Now that’s powerful, think about that. Be aware of that, you can influence everything from fair trade, workers conditions, animal testing, animal abuse, child labour, fair wages, the use of toxic chemicals in our food chain, the list is endless, and that power to be the change is in our wallets. Without you, the consumer, they have no business, so by sending a message with how and what you purchase, this sends huge feedback to the top to do things just and fairly.
As part of my series about “companies and organizations making an important social impact, I had the pleasure of interviewing Tanya O’ Callaghan. Tanya is an Irish born, Los Angeles based international touring musician who has collaborated with a diverse and formidable roster of artists worldwide. Comfortable in a wide variety of musical styles, Tanya has made a mark for herself on stages and in studios worldwide, touring and recording with some of the biggest names in music. She is also a keynote speaker in the leadership realm, and a lifelong advocate and activist for animal, human and environmental issues.
Thank you so much for doing this with us Tanya! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Well firstly let me take you back to my roots. I grew up in a small town in Ireland called Mullingar. Humble beginnings, hard working amazing parents, who had their hands full with me from the get go. Being the last born and youngest of 3, I was definitely the “black sheep”, I was an overactive child, who as soon as speech began, was a critical little thinker with many strong opinions from a young age. I questioned everything, I’m sure I drove teachers and family crazy. By age 4 or so I had declared I would never eat animals, that was not taken lightly in the land of meat and potatoes (laughs) Growing up in a small town close to extended family is something I’m very grateful for the foundation of now living the far side of the world in major fast paced cities.
As soon as I could crawl I was trying to rescue animals and spent my early years developing this innate instinct I had for animals and their welfare. At age 8, I started a volunteer job in an animal rescue shelter and remained there for almost 10 years. That was a huge part of my foundation of becoming a hard worker, it thought me a lot about responsibilities and hands on hard work, and boy was it hard work, looking after up to 40 plus animals at a time with all levels of injuries and abusive back stories. As an empath I took this volunteering job very seriously and got heavily involved in not only the care of the animals, but actively working on many cases to prosecute animal abusers and working a lot in front line protests, it thought me not only hard work but massive responsibilities from a very young age. It wasn’t until my late teens that I picked up a bass guitar and fell madly in love with the world of low end frequencies. Up until that point everyone thought I would grow up to be a veterinarian.
I ended up being pretty darn good at this new path I discovered at age 17/18,. So I joined and played in endless amounts of bands from the very beginning, I juggled up to 7 bands at a time in my late teens/early 20’s. I was obsessed with the dream of becoming a professional musician and performing. My path became clearer and clearer, I wanted to be a professional musician and performer who could use my platform as an activist. Two passions began to mould into one, and the rest is history as they say.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
Well, my company is myself as a freelance artist, so I could tell you endless interesting, funny, shocking, trial and tribulation stories that have happened to me as soon as I made the leap of faith to leave my hometown and go out into the world to follow this dream. But one that stands out is a time of great emotional polarity.
The first time I came to L.A in search of “the big gigs”, I didn’t know a single soul out there, it was a giant leap of faith and I had no idea how expensive L.A was going to be and fast realized I was running out of money. I had managed to get passes to a music big convention, and after speaking to absolutely everyone at this convention got an invite to play a jam night in Hollywood. I was nervous and excited as I knew there was going to be a lot of big name players at this show watching me, and as a total newbie in town I wanted to get up there and kill it and show them I was for real! So after many technical issues with instruments to start with, the bass I had rented was broken, and the next option of a bass that a very famous bassist kindly offered me to use was not adjustable to my height (his straps were locked in place and he was about 2 feet taller than me) I finally had another bassist loan me their bass a few moments before I was due on stage. All that commotion had my nerves fried right before I was due to perform, but the show must go on. So after all the stress I walked out on stage with a line up of musicians who were all very well known, and I kicked ass! I knew the songs better than the entire band and I came off stage buzzing and had now made a few new musician friends in this town where I know nobody, and I also found out after that a lot of very prominent players had been in the audience watching and sent back lots of positive feedback. So let’s just say that was my Hollywood debut on stage, I was on such a high after the show chatting to a lot of my idols and feeling like wow, this is it, here we go Tanya, you made it to Hollywood, let’s go! But after all the famous players left the building and drove away in their flashy cars and the venue emptied, I realized I had to go back to my hostel and curl up in a bunk bed with my bass in a room full of strangers. I was also starving and my Irish bank card had stopped working, I was basically out of funds that I had saved for this trip. But then I remembered I had a free voucher for a burrito at cheap fast food chain, and so I went from being on a huge emotional high on stage with some of my heroes, to sitting in a dive of a fast food joint eating a bean burrito on my own at 2am in the morning that I had to use a free voucher to even get. I was on the verge of tears thinking what the hell am I doing, but that feeling I had from earlier in the night performing pushed me through not spiraling into a blubbering mess. The highs and lows are very real, and that was just the beginning of my trans Atlantic adventures!
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I think as humans the art of learning not to react on our initial emotions is a big one overall. I have some funny memories of reacting “in the heat of the moment” in band scenarios that would happen between members. Fighting over immaterial things and letting our emotions reign instead of stepping back and looking at the bigger picture.
I remember some very silly fights between multiple band members over disagreements on band wardrobe/style, or who would take the first solo, or who’s name would be credited first in order on CD inlays. I even know some old band members that continue to hold grudges to this day over childish fights way back in the day. Young silly emotionally charged moments where we should have thought before we spoke. I have many funny stories, but we’d be here all day if I started. Let’s just say learning to not be afraid of “dead air” (not always speaking just because) has been a great lesson in life overall.
Can you describe how you or your organization is making a significant social impact?
As a freelance artist and performer, my whole mission in life is to use my platform as an activist. What use is “fame” on any level if you don’t use your ability to reach a larger audience for some good eh! As a musician and an animal welfare advocate first and foremost, I try to just lead by a positive and healthy example. As someone who travels a lot I use my social media to show people how I stay healthy on the road on a plant based diet. I get a lot of messages from people all over the world asking for tips on staying healthy. Also as a big advocate for self education and critical thinking, I try to encourage people from diametrically opposing worlds and opinions to engage and to find a middle ground and open healthy conversations instead of just fighting over issues, be it political, religious, diet choices, music taste, whatever.. and find more things they have in common as opposed to the one thing they do not have in common.
Can you tell me a story about a particular individual who was impacted this cause?
I don’t think I can zone in on one particular but I get a lot of messages and emails from people all over the world telling me stories of how I have inspired them in different ways, which I am always greatly humbled by. Sometimes it’s young female musicians who tell me they have been inspired to become a professional musician after worrying for years that it’s a male dominated industry, but then realizing gender does not matter if you’re focused and talented get out there and do your thing like I did. Other times it’s from people who have suffered bad health from years of bad dietary choices, who switched to a plant based diet from following my story and are having great success. It varies, I once had a little girl in Eastern Europe message me that she was working hard on her reading skills at home, she had been following me on instagram and I share my love of books and reading regularly, apparently that inspired her to help herself as she had not had much schooling coming from a complicated poor background. I also had a hard core “proteinaholic” anti vegan body builder who used to post negative comments on my social media, contact me after years of juxtaposed opinions on the mass animal agricultural business (factory farming), and say he had gone flexitarian and was now eating mostly plant based after stepping back and reading up on some of the content I had posted about health and whole foods, plant based diets. I love all those messages and the beautiful variety of peoples journeys 🙂
Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?
Number 1: We need to all wake up more, we need to stop floating through life completely unaware of where everything comes from just because we can simply click a button and order what we want. It has become such a fast paced, disconnected materialistic world. We don’t stop and think, where did my food come from, where did my clothes come from, my products.. etc..etc.. We are unknowingly participating in industries we would absolutely not support if we saw the dark underbelly of these industries that are cleverly disguised with genius marketing. If we could all start shifting back towards a sustainable, fair trade, cruelty free economy, we would make a huge positive impact on our planet, our fellow humans and animals welfare.
There is a mass inertia happening that we need to awake from, we don’t even realize the power we have as consumers, every time we make a purchase we are voting with our money. Now that’s powerful, think about that. Be aware of that, you can influence everything from fair trade, workers conditions, animal testing, animal abuse, child labour, fair wages, the use of toxic chemicals in our food chain, the list is endless, and that power to be the change is in our wallets. Without you, the consumer, they have no business, so by sending a message with how and what you purchase, this sends huge feedback to the top to do things just and fairly.
Number 2: Listen, we need to listen more and stop shouting at one another just because we don’t all believe the same things. A lot could be achieved in this world if we had more healthy debates as opposed to sparking wars, literally and hypothetically. Especially in this digital age where we can all be “keyboard warriors” and attack one another online from behind a screen with no human interaction. Where in nature as humans face to face we would usually see and react to body language, energy and our surroundings, we now take to social media as individual experts on topics just because the news (true or false) said something that suits us and our beliefs, and the people closest to us believe the same, social proof or “herd mentality” is terrifyingly common. If it doesn’t require us to change or grow, it’s easier. So, we get stuck in our stubborn ways.
We have more in common as humans, than we do not. Sure there are “bad eggs” in the world, I’m not suggesting we all live in a fairytale bubble thinking there is no evil, of course there is and always will be. But, most people are inherently kind and want the same basic things in life. Love, happiness, safety, the obvious food, water and shelter, and to have a purpose.
Can you imagine if we united on our common grounds and goals as opposed to the individual things we disagree on.
Number 3: Be kind to every kind, it is as simple as it sounds. Too “airy fairy” sounding from this rocker, otherwise put, don’t be an asshole! Remove your ego from situations where you find yourself judging others, you have no idea what that person has been through or is going through. Always use kindness in your approach to life. That does not mean be a walk over, you can be a total badass and an empath. Can you imagine if this was a personality requirement for anyone stepping into politics, what a different world we would live in!
How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?
Well this is something very close to a new project I am working on. I have just started a fun new venture with a business partner Wayne Strikland who has literally written books on leadership in the corporate world. We have a new keynote presentation called “Leadership Rhapsody, what business can learn from rock n roll”. Wayne was a student at a music camp I was teaching at, and after some interesting conversations between this very unlikely pair we started developing this presentation. Wayne has been in the corporate world longer than I’ve been alive, and has lead global teams in mega business ventures. Interestingly he saw huge leadership qualities in me when he saw how I operated at this music camp in bringing the bands together in a very short time frame, and most of whom have little music performance experience, and some with no inter personal/social skills either (laughs)
Leadership to me is about staying on the same level with your team, troops, band, employees, whatever the scenario, and working together as a team for the greater purpose of the goal.
So as an example in music, in a band and as professional musician, you play for the song, not for yourself. The purpose is to make the artist and performance the best it can be not to shine a spotlight on yourself.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
1: Save more before moving across the world.
2: Don’t worry about what other say or think about you.
3: Be prepared for many highs and lows they are inevitable.
4: Visas are really f#**ing expensive. 5
: Don’t worry so much! 🙂
I’ll tie all 5 points up into this, I didn’t do enough research on cost of living in Ireland V’s L.A when I first moved and learnt a hard lessons fast financially and I used to get hurt by comments made about me, pre judgments before people every spoke to me or saw me play. Don’t read online comments, those keyboard warriors always wanna hate, or quite commonly as a female player in the industry they just wanna comment like Neanderthals about you aesthetically 🙂
I used to get really down after coming off a tour and not knowing what was next, now I always have multiple projects going that excite me, you learn to never rely on one thing or gig in this game. Visas are expensive, explains itself, I’ve learnt to put aside funds for the inevitable bills like my visa renewals and not be crippled by a big bill each time. And hey, don’t worry so much, make amazing memories and just take this journey called life one step at a time, and do so with a smile on your face.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
The obvious one from me is the plant based movement, adapting a more plant based lifestyle can have a huge positive effect on many aspects of our own lives health wise, the health of the planet, and others affected by this out of control mass agricultural industry.
Like I spoke about earlier, we don’t realize what’s going on behind closed doors in the food industry. This is not a simple “hey everybody go vegan and we’ll all live happily every after on salad farms” (laughing). This is a behemoth, people are getting sick and dying because they have to live beside these huge industrial factory farms all over the US and the world, because they are from poorer areas where these farms are hidden out of site. They are breathing in chemicals and feces from these farms where hundreds of thousands of animals are raised in barbaric confinement for food we simply do not need, but old habits die hard eh! The human workers in these factory farms and slaughterhouse are suffering horrible illness and sometime fatal accidents due to the nature of these dangerous and toxic workplaces. The farmers are getting screwed over financially after all their hard work. Government subsides basically support doing things the fastest and wrong way that hurts the people and the animals beyond belief. Get the most product and profit in the shortest time, this mean genetically manipulating how often and how fast animals are born and fattened to slaughter size. Up to 80 percent of all antibiotics sold in the US go into the factory farmed animals in our food system, that means you’re getting all that pharmaceutical crap in your food. This is a pro farmer movement, I come from a huge farming culture in Ireland. I have nothing but respect for hard working farmers, the product line just needs to change, we absolutely have to fix our broken food system. There is also a disgraceful amount of waste and millions of dollars being spent on storing surplus foods, while people starve on our own cities streets and all over the world. How tragic is that!
We must get back to understanding food and where it comes from, regenerating our soils from decades of pesticide abuse, and simply get back in touch with how and where we spend our hard earned money. Every consumeristic move you make is a vote, don’t underestimate how powerful you are as an individual to positively impact, and image that mindset multiplied by entire populations.
Waste is a great place to start, stop wasting, don’t over buy produce, make sure your fridge is empty before you stock up again. Get into cooking more and move towards a whole foods, plant based diet. If you simple cannot detach from animal product, reduce your consumption as much as possible. This is a human rights, an animal rights, and an environmental issue. Start somewhere, there’s nothing to loose and everything to gain.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Perseverance is the bridge by which difficulty is overcome”. This quote was framed in my house growing up, my parents have had it on the wall my entire life, as far back as I can remember those words were on the wall in the kitchen. I don’t know if it just sunk in but it for sure turned out to be a trait I have, persistence! I think it’s relevant to my life and journey because if I had of given up after any of the insane amount of knocks trying to follow my dreams, I wouldn’t be here doing what I do. Failure cannot cope with persistence!
Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
Oh my gosh, my fantasy breakfast would have a lot of guests. I can’t pick one but I’ll narrow it down to a few.
- Sam Harris, one of my favorite writers and minds, a great philosopher neuroscientist and lecturer, his application of logical thinking could teach the world so much if everyone opened their ears more.
- Dave Grohl, one of my favorite examples of a musician who continues to joyfully love what he does, and has been a member of not one, but two of the biggest bands of all times, Nirvana and The Foo Fighters! If you’re reading this Dave, I’ve always wanted to be your bass player!! 🙂
- Sir Paul McCartney, obvious Beatle-mania musical reasons aside, he is a great man and example of empathy at work. An amazing musician, songwriter, bassist and life long animal rights advocate, he truly uses his platform for good.
- Ruth Bader Ginsberg (Justice Ginsberg) A true defender of human rights, male and female, and an all round astounding intellect. She has been doing critical foundational work for the rights of men and women in the US long before she was on the supreme court. Everybody should learn more about this very special human and her backstory.
- Ok just one more, Sir David Attenborough, because without him the world would know so little about nature and all is beauty. He has single handedly educated entire countries of people through his work. A true defender of the planet and ongoing activist to saving our planet and oceans.
- Don’t even start me on people from the past, if I could invite from beyond the grave this interview would be days long! (Harriet Tubman, Einstein, Nikola Tesla, Nelson Mandela, Pythagoras, Rosa Parks, Racheal Carson, James Joyce… ok, ok, I’ll stop indulging in this fantasy breakfast daydream)
- PS: Any philanthropists who want to develop projects that can truly impact the world, you’re welcome to this breakfast also as I’m working on a few projects that need your help (laughing)
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Facebook : Tanya O Callaghan