'Widow's Waltz': New McCallion Band record explores grief, self-indulgence & aging

The McCallion Band explores getting older and the worries that come with being a parent in their new EP, “Widow’s Waltz.”

An Americana singer-songwriter and former member of the Mollys, Nancy McCallion fronts the group, which features guitarist Danny Krieger, Les Merrihew on drums and Neil McCallion on bass. The vocalist said they completed the recording “rather quickly.”

“We spent about three weeks in the studio and then we spent a lot of time mixing it. You know, you listen and you tweak it and send it back. Then you tweak it again and listen — then you consider the various bandmates’ contributions and whether they’re happy,” McCallion said.

The EP opens with “I Don’t Wanna Be An Old Man,” setting a tone of bittersweet texture, humor and honesty for the EP.

“We were doing a concert at an independent living (facility) and this man, while we were playing, he was dancing and he almost fell. But the woman who was dancing with him — who I think was his daughter — caught him and he didn’t get hurt and everything was OK,” McCallion told the Sentinel in a recent interview. 

“But at the end of the show, we were packing up our equipment, and this little group of men are talking and they’re sort of comparing their various ills and the various medications they take,” she said. “And one of them, all of the sudden says, ‘I don’t want to be an old man.’ And it just hit me. And when I started working on the song, I wanted it to be a little funny, but also wanted to capture that feeling of, you know, not being able to do everything you used to do and how it affects people. I think some people handle it better than others.”

The second song is “Widow’s Waltz,” which was the first tune McCallion wrote for the record.

“It was inspired by a friend who had lost her fiancé and they had been together for a while,” McCallion said. “More and more people my age are losing people and I think it’s not always a topic that’s addressed in songs. And I just felt like as my life is changing, and sort of focusing more on the things that are happening to people in my generation – and one of those things is losing people.”

McCallion said she tries to capture life with her songwriting.

“I really try to capture experiences that people are having and I try to avoid cliches and I spend a lot of time editing,” McCallion said.

The fourth song, “Call Me,” is also inspired by the real world around McCallion.

“It’s about a parent whose adult child is missing,” McCallion said. “Took me quite a while to get one of the verses and just thinking of how to do it. It is a process and sometimes you have to put it down and come back to it. I do that a lot.”

The record also includes the songs “Spent Too Much At The Liquor Store,” “Don’t Text Your Ex,” and “I’m Not As Willing.” 

The first two were both written by McCallion’s brother, Neil, “whose self-deprecating lyrics about the dangers of self-indulgence add dark humor to the compilation,” Nancy said in an email about the record.

McCallion’s career as a musician has been fruitful. Just like the changes she addresses in her music, her career has changed over the years.

“I had a pretty good career in the ’90s where I was in a touring band,” McCallion said. “I needed to put an album out every year and really push myself and I’d get stressed out. But now that I’m mostly playing locally, I don’t feel the same sort of pressure. I really only write like this. I only write maybe two songs a year. I’m trying to kind of just write things that feel authentic and if it means just a couple of songs a year, then I’m okay with that.”

“A lot of my fans are older too. So, I feel like it kind of seems that I’m writing in such a youth-oriented society – a 20-year-old kid is probably not going to be that into being an old man – but I’m really trying to play for people that are kind of my fan base and yeah, I think it’s working.”

“Widow’s Waltz” is available in McCallion’s website and iTunes and it can also be streamed on Apple Music, Spotify and Deezer.