Introducing CaliStar, here to bless the world with her smooth and sultry voice. Daughter to Taiwanese immigrants, the singer-songwriter has one goal: break down the barriers for aspiring Asian America artists all around the world, while promoting substantial issues such as anti-bullying and mental health. Now, CaliStar unveils the official music video to her new single “Can’t Sleep,” a song that speaks volumes to all those suffering from insomnia. Through her visual, she combines her love for anima and empowering pop, reminiscent of Katy Perry’s “Teenage Dream.”
Read our exclusive interview below!
For those who don’t know, who is CaliStar?
Hello new friends! I’m CaliStar, also known as Calista Wu, and I’m an American recording artist, singer-songwriter based out of Los Angeles, CA. I founded Cali Star Entertainment, LLC, a multi-platform entertainment company created to inspire others to pursue possibility, and together with some of my creative friends, I’ve launched new pop music under the new entertainment company. So far, I’ve released two singles as CaliStar, the first one being “Ethereal Lover” and the latest one being “Can’t Sleep,” which was just released in December 2021! I have a background as an attorney and an activist, and everything that I do, including this new music project, is designed to create positive change and/or break barriers.
How’d you get your name?
I came up with the name for the entertainment company before my artist name. My parents named me “Calista” at birth, and when I was growing up, whenever people could not pronounce my name. My dad would say, “It’s California Star, without the ‘r,'” and it would click for people right away after that. The name Cali Star Entertainment is a subtle tribute to my parents as my way of honoring them. The artist name CaliStar came later as an extension of the company name when my friends and I were brainstorming ideas for a pop artist pseudonym. I’ve released music previously under Calista Wu, and I thought it would be important to separate this new music project with a new artist name. I also love the idea of stars being a source of light. The star in the logo for CaliStar is comprised of a diamond with a tear, which represents the idea that there is beauty that can be birthed through undergoing trials and being refined under pressure, and that sometimes the tears you endure can be turned into a source of hope for others.
When did you fall in love with music?
Music was everything to me growing up, and I’ve been in love with music for as long as I can remember. It filled my childhood, starting from singing in church choir as a toddler and then learning piano at a very early age. My fondest memories of my childhood involve singing Disney songs in different Disney princess voices, teaching myself how to sing by learning Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston songs, and practicing various covers with my home karaoke machine that my parents bought me. I spent a lot of time alone as a child, entertaining myself, and music made me feel less alone. I always felt like I could experience different worlds with music, and that sense of wonder and belonging made me fall in love with it.
Growing up, I was a huge fan of big female voices, and I’ve always loved songs that showcase incredible vocal power and agility. In recent years, the artists who have influenced me the most are the artists who have also impacted culture and are very clear about what they are passionate about, including Justin Bieber, Beyoncé, and Kanye. The artists who can move differently, constantly evolve, and showcase their artistry fearlessly are the ones who inspire me the most now. It doesn’t hurt when they have created dope apparel lines and have built epic empires.
How would you describe your sound?
My most recent project as the artist CaliStar is a blend of Dua Lipa and Katy Perry pop, with a touch of H.E.R. based on my love for R&B. I designed the project to be very aesthetic and imaginative, and those artists do a great job of crafting unique experiences with their songs. “Ethereal Lover” is more dance pop and that “Can’t Sleep” is more pop rock. Both songs were designed to tell a story with deeper layers, with larger-than-life pop sounds to represent other creative worlds, like a unicorn-inspired space disco or a butterfly-filled monster land.
What inspired your new song, “Can’t Sleep”?
“Can’t Sleep” was written by me, my producer Enik Lin, and our friend Nasir Akmal during the middle of the pandemic. At the time, I was having a lot of trouble sleeping due to my traumatic brain injuries and post-concussion syndrome that I had sustained as a result of being rear-ended in car accidents. It was a difficult and emotional time for me because I had also lost the ability to do things that I had always been able to do, and I struggled with basic things like reading, walking up the stairs, maintaining balance, processing information, and dealing with emotions. The song is about mental health awareness and the private internal battles that we sometimes face, which can feel overwhelming.
What was the creative vision with the music video?
The music video, directed by Brad Wong, is based on my love of anime/cartoons. Brad is extremely talented and is able to work with mixed media, so creating this video together was a super exciting process of word building. For me, it was important that there was a deeper storyline, and so the video explores what it means to have a monster that keeps us up at night. When we dig deeper, we find out the reasons why the monster exists and behaves a certain way. The video explores the importance of digging deeper to pursue inner healing so that we can confront the monsters in our lives and overcome past traumas to find peace. It’s all set against a backdrop of fantastic creatures, pink clouds, purple skies, and dreamy butterflies, like a candy-coated capsule of fun.
One thing you want fans to take from the song?
My first hope is that people would enjoy the world that we created with the song and the video, and that the music and visuals would bring joy to everyone who experiences them. My second hope is that for those who can relate to the underlying message of inner battles and mental health struggles, they would feel seen and find a sense of peace in knowing that they are not alone. Life can sometimes be filled with so much sorrow, but at the same time, if we can push through, maybe there can be beauty that’s birthed in the process.
What’re you most excited for next?
I feel like I’m just getting started, and these two songs only scratch the surface of what is to come. I’m excited to keep creating and to express my life and who I am with my artistry. I can’t wait to keep writing, recording, and collaborating. Honestly, there was a time when I wasn’t able to create music, and I’m so happy to be back doing what I love and having the freedom to keep learning and growing as an artist. I’m grateful for any and all of these opportunities. Working with my friends on projects is a bonus, and being able to encourage others to pursue their dreams is the cherry on top.