We had the good fortune of connecting with Becoming Young (Brandon Calano) and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Becoming Young, why did you pursue a creative career?
I’ve always loved the process of creating things that don’t exist, and songwriting/recording allows me to do just that. It’s a chance to sit down, focus my thoughts, and synthesize something that draws from every moment of my life so far. Music is the ultimate connector—good songs allow people to see their own life stories through the writer’s narrative. And music helps us understand the reality others face, at a level that’s rarely matched by other forms of communication.
My journey with music began when I started playing guitar as a kid. I was in love with Green Day in my teens, and all of their music was heavily guitar-driven. So I started messing around and trying to imitate Billy Joe Armstrong.
I loved learning songs and began writing at age 11. I’ve always enjoyed telling stories and have put my unfiltered emotions into song since I was young. I played in a rock band in high school called The Pandamen. I was initially the rhythm guitarist but started singing lead vocals toward the end of our run.
My passion for music continued through college. I was studying economics, but interned in recording studios and worked in the local clubs around CU Boulder. When I was a stagehand at the Fox Theater and Boulder Theater, I had the chance to meet and watch many high-profile national acts playing shows at these venues.
After graduating, I was hired to work at one of Colorado’s top commercial recording facilities: Coupe Studios. I ran their music/band-recording department, produced artists during nights and weekends, and had a hand in many commercial/voice-over projects during the weekdays.
After a few years, I realized I was losing my love for music being in commercial studios all the time. So I wanted to shake things up. This was a tough dose of reality because Coupe was my family. But I knew I could push myself to do something more creatively energizing.
I left Coupe Studios in 2018 but continued to freelance as an audio engineer, taking on clients from local artists to organizations like the Boulder Investment Group. This freed up my schedule and energy to focus on music.
In early 2019, I moved to Nashville to pursue music seriously and build the Becoming Young brand. Since moving there, I’ve released over 20 songs and generated ten-plus million global streams. And I’m not stopping any time soon—I’ve got ambitious plans for 2022.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
The first thing most people notice about my music is my artist alias—Becoming Young. It’s an unusual juxtaposition of words that somehow makes sense immediately. The name Becoming Young is all about letting go of everything we are not so that we can become who we were meant to be all along. My artistry and songs are about the journey to squeeze the juice of life and do the things that remind us we’re alive—whether that’s sharing a first kiss with someone, or telling your father you love him for the first time.
My journey to the present began when I was in college, creating music under my own name, Brandon Calano. I released an EP in late 2013 and was frustrated because it wasn’t getting much streaming action. I was also frustrated with Spotify. Back in 2013, many musicians held the belief that Spotify was ruining the music industry because no one would buy digital music anymore.
That year I was taking a computer programming class in school, and one day I thought, screw Spotify! I subsequently wrote a script that streamed my songs on repeat—in every browser on a computer. The script/application would skip my songs at random intervals and try to act human. After building this out on my laptop, I spread the script to a few friends’ computers and was suddenly racking up crazy stream counts.
I got a million streams in one week on an EP that was, honestly, pretty bad (very early work). But I was stoked! That ploy was totally delinquent and stupid of me, but I was only 19. And in my mind, I was sticking it to The Man.
I quickly got a stern letter from Spotify saying something to the effect of, “Yeah, you are not getting a million legit streams a week from CU-Boulder students.” Spotify stated that I had violated their terms of service, and they would remove my EP from Spotify. Furthermore, I was banned from releasing music under the name Brandon Calano on Spotify for life.
That news was crushing. No warning and zero negotiation. Spotify was making an example out of me. FYI, this was right around the time Vulfpek took a lot of heat for their album of silence.
After the Spotify incident, I actually stopped pursuing music (as an artist) for a few years. I had lost my identity as Brandon Calano and was barred from releasing under my name. I didn’t know what to do. So I put music on the back burner for a bit and focused instead on developing my engineering/production skills.
Almost four years passed. I had graduated college (Economics major, Technology, Arts and Media minor) and was working in a commercial studio. I decided to finish a record that I started recording in 2014. But when I decided to release that album, I had to find a new name and put it out stealthily.
Most of the band names/artist aliases I came up with were already taken. But Becoming Young came to me one night in a strange, eureka moment. I was shocked to discover that the name was available. With a new moniker and identity, I had the motivation to move forward with the project.
At that time, I was also feeling trapped and my life was not what I wanted it to be. I was working crazy hours, had a poor work/life balance, and was totally drained of creative energy. I was also in a long-term relationship that wasn’t right for me.
I wanted to get back to my youth and squeeze the juice of life. Becoming Young was symbolic of the journey I was about to go on. I eventually left my relationship, shifted careers, moved, and started chasing a dream in a city I love as much as Boulder.
Since arriving in Tennessee, I’ve dedicated countless hours to studying digital marketing, writing/recording, and learning what makes things spread. I met amazing collaborators while playing shows in local clubs and started networking to build a team around my project. After self-releasing 24 songs in Nashville, I now have millions of (legit!) streams on Spotify, and I’m building a life that I’m proud of.
I have since made amends with Spotify, and they have been very supportive of Becoming Young. I’m now a huge fan of Spotify because they create so many opportunities in the music industry. The folks I’ve recently interacted with are all outstanding humans.
This career path has not been easy, and I still have a long way to go. I have serious aspirations for how far I can take Becoming Young. Some days, it feels like pushing a giant boulder up a hill. But the thrill of creation always keeps me coming back for more. Also, I keep growing as a person, and with each chapter of life, I learn new lessons I want to share in new songs with my listeners.
If there was one thing I’d want the world to know about me, it’s that I’m still trying to peel back the layers of my identity and get to the core of who I am—through music. I love this career path because it allows me to connect with other humans who want to join in the process of “Becoming Young” together and live each moment like that’s all there is.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
A trip to Colorado would not be complete without a walk around Union Station in Denver. I love all the restaurants and bars around there—everything feels so alive. Similarly, a stroll on the Pearl Street Mall in Boulder is a must. I enjoy wandering around Wonderland Lake in North Boulder… I’ve written countless songs at the base of the Foothills. Flagstaff Mountain is a great spot to sit and reflect on life.
My favorite part of Colorado is its ski resorts. Vail is my go-to—it’s fresh powder is second-to-none and I’m always up for first tracks. Actually, any time of year in Vail is absolutely beautiful because the air is always so crisp. And of course, my #1 spot to see a concert is Red Rocks… I hope to headline there one day!
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
My parents, Jimmy Calano and Deborah Knorr, have been incredibly supportive. Since I was a kid, they’ve let me make a racket in their respective basements. Drums, wailing guitars, loud amps, band practice… you name it. They had a lot of patience! No one starts out great. “Getting good” takes a lot of practice, and my parents were uber encouraging from the beginning. As I’ve grown older, they have continued to advise me as I navigate a challenging industry. My father is a marketing guru and has played a huge role behind the scenes of my career. I wouldn’t be where I am today without him.
I’d also love to give a shoutout to my main mentor, John McVey, of Cinder Sound in Longmont. John taught me so much about the art of recording and working with other creatives. He is a mastermind of a musician and producer, and I’m so grateful that he took me under his wing when I was younger.
Credits for photos in file names.