Seventeen-year-old singer-songwriter Callista Clark has already put in several years of performing and rising through the country music ranks — at just 12 years old, she shared a stage with Jennifer Nettles, for example. Still, much of her country music career to date has taken place from quarantine, during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Her major-label debut EP, Real to Me, arrived in February 2021; just a few weeks later, her debut single, “It’s 'Cause I Am,” hit the country radio airwaves. Now that she’s beginning to be able to go back on the road, Clark says that her fan base has grown exponentially — and that goes for the fellow country music artists who’ve started to recognize her name, too.

“My first show back after quarantine was me opening for Jimmie Allen,” the singer-songwriter excitedly recounts to Taste of Country Nights. ”I was like, ‘What is happening right now?! I love Jimmie Allen.’ And he goes, ‘Oh, hey Callista,’ and starts singing some of ‘It’s 'Cause I Am.’ I’m like, ‘Are you kidding me right now?!'"

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”There’s lots of moments like that,” she goes on to say, explaining that she recently met another hero — actor Reese Witherspoon — in person, and was pleasantly surprised by what a warm welcome she received.

“She was at an event, and I was just playing… [I was the] entertainment, for the whole evening. I introduced myself to her, and she was so nice,” Clark details. “I talked to her for probably 15 minutes, just about my career, her career. She’s the sweetest human I’ve ever met in my life, honestly.”

Not only that, but Witherspoon and Clark have since stayed in touch. “[She gave me a piece of advice to] always have someone you can go to with any questions, and she said she definitely wants to help me out with anything like that,” the up-and-coming singer continues. “She’s so kind.”

Clark has plenty more country idols she’s hoping to meet one day — she names Dan + Shay as her dream duet partners, for example — and as the touring industry opens up for the first time since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the singer says she’s fired up to keep expanding her musical circle.

“I’m really grateful that we’re all getting to be able to be in front of each other again,” she relates. “And I’m able to start making these relationships, making these connections. I really love it.”

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