Published on January 23rd, 2019 | by Darren Paltrowitz0
Brian Calhoun On His New Book “Little Joe Chickapig,” Chickapig’s Growth, Dave Matthews & More
Via the Rockbridge Guitar Company, Brian Calhoun is a well-respected custom guitar maker, having made custom guitars for the likes of Dave Matthews, Keith Urban, Ray LaMontagne and Jason Mraz. Calhoun is also a game creator, having created the game Chickapig. As if those accomplishments were not enough, Calhoun recently released his first children’s book, Little Joe Chickapig.
Little Joe Chickapig is a notably story about hope, inspiration, and following your dreams. Its readers enter a world where a young Chickapig wants to leave his farm, but doesn’t know how. Imaginations will soar as you read one courageous tale after another. Little Joe Chickapig has a message every parent wants their child to hear: Follow your dreams, whatever they may be.
Meanwhile, the Chickapig board game had a 2018 with an ever larger 2019 anticipated for both the game and the overall brand. Chickapig is slated to launch at Target stores nationwide in March 2018, growing from a single game to books, a plush, and several more games this year. Chickapig will be appearing at the New York Toy Fair in February to showcase these new items.
Chickapig is notably associated with Dave Matthews. How did you and Dave first meet?
Brian Calhoun: I first met Dave in the early 2000’s when I was building a guitar for South African musician Vusi Mahlasela. Vusi was sitting in with Dave at a concert and introduced us before the show. Dave and I later became close friends through our mutual friendship with music producer John Alagia.
What is it that makes Charlottesville such a music-friendly city?
Brian Calhoun: We have lots of great musicians here, spanning almost every genre of music. Combine that with an abundance of cool music venues and a large audience of appreciative music listeners, and you have the makings of a music-friendly city.
What exactly led Chickapig from being a board game to a focal point of a book?
Brian Calhoun: I wanted a Chickapig product for kids who were too young to play the actual game. I kept noticing these younger brothers and sisters laughing at the Chickapigs even though they couldn’t really understand what a Chickapig was. I was thinking about a younger version of the game, toys, basically anything that would appeal to that younger crowd. About this time, one of my friends called me up and said, “Hey, you need to write a Chickapig book for kids.” That was all I needed to become obsessed with the idea of writing a book.
How long did it take you to write Little Joe Chickapig?
Brian Calhoun: I spent about a month brainstorming before I wrote anything down on paper. Then I spent a day or so making an outline and scratched out the first verse. The next day I wrote the entire book! After that, it was just several months of editing and shortening the story.
Had you and Pat Bradley worked together before starting the book?
Brian Calhoun: Yes, Pat illustrated the cover of our Chickapig game box. He also created the animated videos that supported our game. He was a pleasure to work with, and I thought he was an amazing illustrator. When I went to Pat with my book, I already had rough sketches for all the page layouts. He brought my sketches to life!
Is there a follow up book in the works?
Brian Calhoun: Yes! I’m in the brainstorming phase. I have all kinds of ideas but have not really honed in where I want the story to go.
What does 2019 look like for Chickapig?
Brian Calhoun: It’s a big year for us. This March, Chickapig is debuting in Target! Also, with the release of the book, a Chickapig plush — stuffed animal — and a new game, 2019 is the year Chickapig is really making the move from a single board game to a full-fledged brand!
Is there any overlap between your work with Chickapig and Rockbridge?
Brian Calhoun: I’ve seen some overlap when my guitar clients become Chickapig fans or help me promote the game. For instance, Jason Mraz ordered a custom Chickapig board for his family farm, and SOJA used a Chickapig clip in their music video, “Everything To Me.” I’ve also seen the game lead to guitar sales. It’s a great conversation starter, and several times giving away a game or chatting with a family that plays Chickapig led to a custom guitar order.
When not busy with work, how do you like to spend your free time?
Brian Calhoun: I like finding creative outlets that are not tied to work. Lately, I’ve taken up painting, which is sort of my version of meditation. I also like mountain biking, playing guitar, reading, and drinking beer or whiskey with my friends.
What was the last concert you attended for fun?
Brian Calhoun: A friend of mine has a pretty amazing band here in Charlottesville called Free Union. They were my most recent show.
Finally, Brian, any last words for the kids?
Brian Calhoun: I really believe in the message Little Joe Chickapig teaches, and I’ve certainly been inspired by many of my friends over the years. Seeing people work hard to follow their passions, whether it be professionally or just for fun, has always been motivating for me. I think kids shouldn’t be afraid to dream big and follow their hearts even if it’s not necessarily following the crowd.