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Digital Subscriptions > Guitar Magazine > Jan 2019 > SECRET VALENTINE

SECRET VALENTINE

As a sideman, versatile guitarist Val McCallum has the dream gig – he tours the world playing the Jackson Browne songbook. As a sessioneer, he’s laid down tracks for a roll call of A-list stars, and as a solo artist, he’s written critically acclaimed love songs. But as Bob Hewitt finds out, being raised by stars of the screen could’ve led him on a very different path…

As the son of TV and film stars David ‘Man From U.N.C.L.E.’ McCallum and actress Jill Ireland, you might be forgiven for thinking Valentine McCallum would follow in their acting and movie-making footsteps. This would seem an even more likely destiny for Val when you consider his parents divorced when he was only two years old and he was raised by his mother and stepdad – who just happened to be The Magnificent Seven and Death Wish film star Charles Bronson.

However, both Jill and Charlie (as Val refers to him) were huge music fans, so Val grew up listening to an eclectic selection. He recalls driving around Hollywood with his mother in her ‘67 Corvette Stingray convertible, both of them singing in harmony to the hits of the day by Elton John, Harry Nilsson and The Rolling Stones. Charlie had more conservative taste, so McCallum junior didn’t really appreciate Mr Bronson’s Frank Sinatra record collection until much later on.

There may have been many career options ahead of him, but thanks to his family’s love of music, McCallum set of on a trajectory that would culminate in being the guitarist of choice for one of the world’s finest singersongwriters – Jackson Browne. He’s currently working on a new solo album, his second, as well as Jackson’s forthcoming record, and has produced the well-received American Story for Nashville-based singer-songwriter Brooks Hubbard.

From his childhood beginnings with a Giannini nylon-string guitar, to co-writing the critically acclaimed Tokyo Girl (a beautiful love song inspired by Val’s wife, Shelli) with Dillon O’Brien, the Telecaster-wielding McCallum has also graced the stage and studio with the likes of Sheryl Crow, Willie Nelson, Shelby Lynne, Harry Nilsson, Vonda Shepard, Lucinda Williams, Randy Newman – and the late Johnny Hallyday.

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