When Think Country’s Lesley Hastings met CAM
LH I think you have won many new UK fans after your first appearance here last night at the i-tunes festival,. judging from the comments i was hearing. Great reviews of your recent EP, too…..is this what you had in mind when you turned down a songwriting deal when you arrived in Nashville? That must have been a tough decision!
CAM Ha ha, it WAS actually, yeah, thanks for bringing that up! When you are first trying to do something, like music, it’s one in a million to make it work out, and i think as an artist it feels like a very scary thing to try and do….I thought songwriting would be the safe thing. It’s still really hard but I got that songwriting deal and thought well, this is the first step on a long road! But, the first deals you see are kind of like the first salaries you see for any job, they don’t look that great……and on top of it everybody wants a certain percentage of what you’re doing and I started to feel like, man, am I going to risk that much and STILL be poor….why don’t I risk it for the thing I really really want to do!
LH Well done, and it’s paying off it seems!
CAM I can’t tell you, I was SO terrified i was making the wrong decision, it was like, what if this is the only deal ever? But you must remember if it’s something you really want to do the first “No” is the hardest. Boys and recording deals!!
LH Do Do you feel at home in Nashville? You’ve led a pretty nomadic life up til now!
CAM Yeah, I’ve run around a lot and yeah, i like Nashville a lot, it’s very community orientated, that part’s really nice, you walk round and bump into people you know!
LH I gather you are hugely influenced by the traditional country artists you heard whilst growing up at your Grandparent’s ranch, but are there any contemporary artists ( country or otherwise) who inspire you?
CAM Well I don’t know how contemporary mean,, but I love Eric Church, what he and his producer Jay Joyce do is really amazing, and then there’s this other country artist who is not so mainstream, his name is Sturgill Simpson, I heard his album ” High top Mountain” and thought “Holy ***”, and they recorded it live, costing just four grand ( $4000) …that vibe is so cool! Also outside of country there’s this artist, she’s kind of wild in terms of sound, her name’s St Vincent…she’s kind of indie-rock, she plays crazy guitar stuff, she’s fantastically talented on guitar, and i remember watching her in 2009/10 when she started…she’s got curly hair too!…..there’s not a ton of role models for women, she’s so dedicated to her craft and she takes her musicianship so seriously and she’s obviously doing really well from it, to watch what she’s doing outside of country is really inspiring.
LH You have the knack of writing chirpy songs without them being cheesy! That’s a real talent, can you briefly explain your songwriting process or does each song evolve differently? Burning House, for example, came to be from a dream you had i gather?
CAM Thanks!! Yeah, well either myself or a co-writer will probably have a tag-line usually, and that’s kind of a good starting point, it’s sort of like your thesis and you build around it, sometimes a melody or sometimes we’ll build the full music first, then we come back and top-line it, but mostly it’s a lot or writing and editing, writing and editing. One of my co-writers, Anders and I ( who co-wrote Runaway Train)will just write paragraphs of prose , what we call “fertiliser” and we’ll keep coming back to it. I’m not one of the types that writes tons of stuff and picks my favourite, when I start on something, it’s like people in my life, I’m invested and can’t let go of it, I’ll continue with it til i get to the place when I really love it . I keep reshaping it, I’m definitely a “tweaker”!
LH Anyone you’d like to co-write with?
CAM At the moment i get to write with the two sisters from the Dixie Chicks. I’m so over the moon about that!
LH How did that come about?
CAM. I’ve no clue! It’s been such a crazy year, i can’t remember if we talked to them or they talked to us! There’s not a lot of time to write, this first year’s been a crazy run-around, but it’s important to make sure you’re doing that stuff but yeah, i think this will be my little fun time!
LH You use a lot of traditional country instrumentation on your recordings, and last night there was a banjo up on stage….is that important to you?
CAM You know, i think it’s just the tools to do the job! It’s like problem solving, figuring out out how to bring a song to life. Probably the instrument i’m most obsessed with that is completely country is pedal steel. It’s so emotional!
LH So, you’re working on your album now which I’m really looking forwards to hearing CAM…….it’s actually done!
LH Wow, great….the producers you worked with, they have worked with all sorts, from Beyonce to Jay-Z to Ed Sheeran…..was that a conscious decision, maybe to add a bit of a pop vibe, or do you just like the way they work?
CAM Mark Ronson, too…….I wish I was that smart! When I first started co-writing with Tyler Johnson ( we met out in LA, the guy i was dating worked with him), Tyler was the assistant for Jeff Bacher who is famous, famous ….we’d show our stuff to Jeff and he would comment on what could get better. We did a Kickstarter and made the foundation for this album and took it into Jeff, he was like ” this is a hit, this is a hit” and he said he wanted to champion the project and help it get somewhere so he helped me with the finishing touches, took it to the next level, and he also helped introduce me to Sony. It’s like at high school, when someone says “hey, she’s really cool” then others think “wow, she’s really cool”!!
LH Will you be coming back here to promote the album when it gets released?
CAM I hope so, i definitely want to be back here at some point really soon. Travelling is realyy important to me, I did a lot of when i was younger, it’s wonderful and important to be part of the global community. it’s definitely a priority so I’ll be back!
LH One song you performed last night, Mayday, isn’t on the EP…..can you tell me something about it?
CAM I love that song, it”s on the album and it’s actually one of the first we wrote and we showed it to Jeff early on before we showed him the full album. He was like yeah, it’s good but it’s not quite there and we were crushed! So we kept working on it and got it to where it is now, i’m so proud of it, so many people respond to that song. It kind of represents this work ethic part of it for anyone that’s been a musician or anything, it’s so important to work really hard…you think you have it, show it to someone you respect and they’ll tell you “work harder” ! For the same reason people say ” it’s good to fail” once in a while because otherwise you think oh. i’ve plateaued……the odds that you’re where you should be and reached your whole life’s potential at 20 something, it’s like no, you’re not there yet!
LH Last night, the guys on stage, were they your own band?
CAM Actually that was really special, this was a last minute deal, my whole band had already made plans ( we have very little time off!) but when I was in Scandinavia touring independently in the past I played with a group of Swedes who all said they would fly over for the gig which was so cool! They don’t play on the album but they’ve helped me iron out all the kinks when we’ve been on the road together in the past so it’s like they’re on the album in spirit!
LH Finally , a girlie question…..what is it with you always wearing something yellow? Are you superstitious or is it just a colour you like?
CAM I like it very much, it’s also like I’m wearing some of the Californian sun, i get to bring sunshine with me wherever I am. People are nicer to me when i wear yellow, I’m nicer in yellow!
LH Well, sadly my time with you is up, thanks for your time, i hope to get to interview you again one day! Safe travels back to the States….oh, and big congratulations on your recent engagement, happy wedding planning!