Music. Spotlights. Deafening crowds. Cameras rolling.
To the fans that fill the auditorium, this life of entertaining in the music industry is one of pure mystery. But to Callie Phelps, daughter of gospel singer David Phelps, this life is normal.
“I know it’s not normal at all, but it’s normal to me because it’s just all I’ve known,” she explained.
Her father has been a musician since before she was born.
“I grew up on the road, took my naps in equipment boxes and behind the product table, and spent most birthdays at Chuck-E-Cheese in random towns for a really long time,” she said.
Callie Phelps is a Samford junior English major with a concentration in Creative Writing. Like the vast majority of her family—cousins included—her gifts are creatively and musically inclined.
She enjoys writing short stories and poetry, and has recently been nurturing a growing interest in interior design. To accompany these talents is her love for music, which she not only shares with the congregation some Sundays at Shades Mountain Baptist Church, but also with the world when she sings backup for her dad on his tours.
“It’s helped me become comfortable standing on stage without an instrument other than my voice.”
Phelps said she first began singing backup for her dad when her Aunt Sherri started losing her six-year battle with cancer in the fall of 2012.
In the two months preceding their aunt’s death, Phelps and her sister Maggie Beth Phelps, along with family friend Charlotte Richy, were prepped by David Phelps to stand in for his sister.
Sherri Proctor passed away in September of 2012, “and after that,” Phelps said, “we just kind of had to step up, and kept going. It’s a job,” she said.
Her father’s tours typically revolve around the seasons, the biggest ones taking place in winter and spring.
“The way he has it set up is really nice. He only tours on the weekends, and with some extension into the beginning or end of the week,” Phelps said, further relaying some variance when her father travels with the Gaither Vocal Band.
She described “a typical growing up and still typical week” for her and her siblings as one in which her dad would be home Monday through Thursday, and then gone for the weekend on tour.
“And so we homeschooled,” she said, “so we could hang out during the week and do school on the weekends when he was gone.”
As may be expected for a family of touring musicians, the Phelps family has grown especially close to each other.
Phelps considers each band member, regardless of biological relation, to be family. They often celebrate Thanksgiving together, and during Christmastime each year, host a Christmas concert on the family’s property—an old dairy farm converted into a musician’s dream studio and performance hall in Culleoka, Tennessee.
Now as autumn leaves begin to blanket the earth in preparation for the chilly days ahead, and semester finals ebb ever nearer, Phelps prepares once more for the busiest tour season.
“The world doesn’t change or stop just because you’re out on the road; if anything, it gets harder.”
Juggling academic demands with professional music responsibilities—including responsibilities toward fans, who are “constantly watching”, is not an easy task.
But as Phelps put it, “It’s a job.” And to her, it’s normal.