Interview: Cam

Alex Headlines, Interview, News

On her third visit to the UK as a touring musician, Cam performs an almost two-hour set at a venue the audience agreed they were just as new to as she was: The Tabernacle in Notting Hill, London. It has a small capacity, and was sold out in just over an hour of ticket sales. The listed building’s terrific acoustics and seated intimacy are exactly what UK country fans have shown they enjoy. Cam performed with a backdrop of ornate sunflowers, a touch that intentionally distinguished the show before she had even begun her first song.

“We brought those in a suitcase. Usually we’ll have a bubble machine going too! I am not super interested in doing the same thing as everybody, and I just want people to remember, oh, I’m at a show, someone spent years making this music, someone had to think about what goes on that stage, I’m here, I spent money on this! Think about where you are for a second and get a deeper connection, hopefully.”

The visit has been a resounding success for Cam. “The Swedes”, as she likes to refer to Simon Martinsen and Jokke Petersen, join her on stage, as part of their wholly impressive business idea.

“They’re entrepreneurs. They book all the shows, they take the risk of making money or not on the doors, and they learn all the songs. I’m guaranteed to make money, they’re not. I’m not paying them, they pay themselves. They set up rehearsal, press, songwriting clinics… It’s so fun! A backwards model, but they’re so smart that they make it work. They help me brand and launch this, and I have a great relationship with them. They understand their market, and have their own fans, who influence the type of artists they choose to work with.”

It’s a system that works for Cam in many ways. They are reliable band members for her in Europe, and their stripped down, tight arrangements and buttery, Simon & Garfunkel-esque harmonies follow her lead at every moment.

“Independently, I would go and tour with them in Scandinavia. I’ve done that for the past couple years now. Now when I come to the UK to tour, it’s so much fun because although I have a whole band in the US, it’s so easy to ask them to make the hour flight down here. It’s so fun to be able to play with them and they have such a fantastic dynamic. They’re so responsive. They were so intensely listening to where I was going in the show.”

As impressed as the audience were by Cam – wild applause, standing ovations, and warmly attentive at all times, she was mutually impressed by us. Previewing her cover of Lori McKenna’s ‘Old Men Young Women’, we were unpredictably knowledgeable about its acclaimed songwriter, who has only experienced very little chart success in her native US.

“Oh my God! I love her [McKenna]. She is one of the best writers and artists and I’m angry that she hasn’t gotten a bigger platform. Suddenly a Chris Stapleton comes out of nowhere and everyone goes ‘holy shit!’. Yeah, he’s been ‘holy shit!’ for the longest time! They have to finally bulldoze their way in. I think that’s what will happen to her. It’s very indicative of what UK fans are about: the lyrics, and believable vocals from a place like ‘I feel this, this is my story’. You guys really appreciate things that are stripped down too, because you can hear the vocals and lyrics so much more. I’ll play for Lori McKenna fans any day.”

Cam makes a fair point: too many brilliant musicians never make it. Is marketing laziness always the issue?

“There was a shift in the 2000s where country took a turn towards what everyone calls “bro country”. The industry changed too, the way people made money was different so everyone acted differently to be safe financially. It’s all white men at the top of the labels and radio, and they don’t understand how women’s careers work. They expect women to look a certain way, but then they also don’t want to pay for stylists and make up. It’s a catch-22. As the genre starts to spread out, people over here are obviously not hearing it through terrestrial radio like in the US, but through Spotify and other stuff. I think that’s what will open up the industry, and stop the people in decision making roles being able to get away with closed-mindedness, because you’re going to miss out on things like, Lori McKenna.”

“It’s a very diversified problem. We’re finally getting more female songwriters at the top, and so many of them were meant to be artists. For some of us, it is going right. I’m here, Maren is here, Kelsea gets to come here. The problem is, the main distribution is through terrestrial radio. They’re also decision makers, who like to say things like “women don’t listen to women”. They think playlists shouldn’t have women because it will slow it down. My promo team, who are meant to pitch things to radio, will say ‘It’s just hard to get females up the charts…’. No, you keep saying that like it’s normal. That’s not real, you’re telling me something that is fake and sexist. But it gets normalised, so everyone thinks that’s the way it is. I’m going to start saying this publicly: if I hear someone say that, I’m going to be recording everything. And if someone wants to say sexist shit to me, I’m going to release it. So, come up with another story. The rest of the world doesn’t think it’s normal. People should understand that this is a social media age. Sorry, no. You can’t get away with it. Everyone’s gonna know.”

Cam and Company are attempting to break ‘Burning House’ in the UK. Despite the restrictions the genre poses – let’s not forget, it’s uncommon even in the US for a country song to become a crossover hit –  it’s a conceivable goal, given how extraordinary the song is. One look at the YouTube comments on the song’s video show evidence of its uniqueness. Many of them feature phrases along the lines of “I normally don’t like country, but…” and “I haven’t heard a country song this good in a long time”. Cam mused about the reaction to the song, saying she’d heard people say “I’m going to give country music a chance!”, which certainly bodes well for the songs success in banjo-repellent UK mainstream.

While the platinum-certified ‘Burning House’ might be a new song to many listeners this side of the Atlantic, it’s two years old this month in America, and Cam needs to be thinking about her follow-up effort to her debut Untamed. Debuting a handful of new songs at The Tabernacle, Cam was a rare spectacle; new songs enjoyed just as much as fan favourites. In the style of ‘Country Ain’t Never Been Pretty’, Untamed’s most upbeat, fun song, were three clever drinking songs, including one rejected by the Sazerac Company as a possible promotion for their Fireball Cinnamon Whiskey product for “promoting irresponsible drinking” (‘Fireball Whiskey’), and the self-referencing ‘Go Get ‘Em Cam’ detailing her bathroom mirror pep talk to herself before heading out to talk to a stranger who catches her eye. I, for one, am desperate for the inclusion of studio versions of these songs on the next record. Drinking songs are certainly not new ground in themselves, but the songwriting here truly is.

“I’m debating how it goes. Those songs are all written with Anders [Mouridsen, Country Ain’t Never Been Pretty], so that’s why they sound similar. I want that sound on the album, but I’m not quite sure which ones will be on there.”

As the most refreshing new artist to hit the country music scene in recent times, Cam and her songs have the capacity to shine on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean for years to come, especially if she continues to approach her career this cleverly.


More Information

Birthday

19th November, 1984


Birthplace

Lafayette, CA



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About the Author

Alex

I'm Alex, 21 and from Greenwich, home of C2C! A lifetime lover and player of music, I got into Country during my early teens and I've been hooked ever since. I want to be part of the new and exciting UK Country movement, heighten exposure, and show people just how great the genre can be.