Back in March, London saw the return of C2C and with that, it brought the face of country artist Cam. Having played not only C2C in the main arena but just days later her own show at Bush Hall in London it seems it wasn’t quite enough for this Californian cowgirl because on Friday night she returned to the city to play an unplugged gig at the Tabernacle.
The stage was set with 3 stools on a backdrop of homemade sunflower props that had been brought over by Cam and her team. The room was buzzing with the excitement of the upcoming set. She was on at 8.30 with no support act so it was clear this lady meant business!
Applause broke out as her band mates, Simon and Jokke, walked onto the stage, poised to begin. Cam followed and took her place centre stage, before addressing the audience. She shared how excited she was to be back here for this show and how tonight was going to be about the songs. This was her chance to really give us some insight into her music.
The evening was all about the songs and the stories behind them so that will be what I will focus on most in this review however to begin I would like to write a short overview of her overall performance. The staging was simple, the set up was simple. It worked perfectly. Cam is one of those artists who can captivate an audience just by sitting on the stage. Her smile is infectious and when she started singing every word of every song seemed to resonate like I too had lived that story. My friend I was at the show with turned to me at one point and said “she reminds me of Dolly”, it was spot on. Not only from the tone of her vocals but the heartfelt honesty in her performance, it felt like Cam was in her element on that stage. With that all being said I am going to dig into the songs a little bit now as that is what it was all about!
“You’re gonna get your heart smashed every now and then… You are gonna do the walk of shame”, she uttered as she headed into her first song of the night My Mistake. As the night was so relaxed and low key the audience was silent, though I’m sure many were bursting to just sing along, the first performance really set the tone for the whole evening. Her vocals were flawless and the rapport with her band made the gig feel even more intimate than the 270 seater venue. When she came to the end of the song the audience couldn’t contain their excitement and the place erupted with applause.
I have a million songs, I won’t be offended if you clap shorter next time!
Every performance of the night was spot on and instead of repeating myself on that I am going to focus on what the evening was really about and that was the stories behind the music.
Mayday was the next on the list, a song about that relationship that just isn’t right. When your friends and family can see it’s not going to work and you are just reaching that realization knowing you have to leave, calling mayday.
Most of us have had those arguments with a partner where we wish there are things we had never said in the heat of the moment. The next song, as Cam explained, is all about that next morning when you know you are going to resolve things but nonetheless, those things you said won’t just go away. They are there and they still need to be dealt with and it’s almost like being Hungover On Heartache.
The next story we were told about a writing session that had been set up. Cam walked into the room and one of the other writers had the idea of the line ‘a Half Broke Heart is still broke’. For Cam, writing this track was thinking about those relationships that you know won’t lead anywhere but when it ends abruptly you can’t help but still be hurt from it. That scenario your friends say ‘oh well you didn’t like him anyway…’ and you respond with the nervous, awkward, ‘hmmm yeh I mean, I guess not’! Just because it wasn’t going to be forever it doesn’t mean you don’t end up with a Half Broke Heart. As she neared the end of the song she encourages the audience to clap along and it was an easy task and we were all willing to get the chance to join in.
The next story was about her journey to music. Cam is from the bay area of California and, walking the line, she went to college to study psychology, though it wasn’t what she wanted to do. One day she got asked, what would you rather miss out on? Music or Psychology? When she realized the answer was music she went full steam ahead with it. A short while in she got offered a publishing deal from Nashville but there was a catch, they wanted the rights to everything, from the day she signed and for the next 5 years. She was chasing a crazy dream and she wasn’t about to give all that away. Then she said something that rung so very true with me. Something I echo all the time!
Believe in yourself. No one else will!
That lead into I Want It All.
When it comes to songwriters there are many incredible talents, when it comes to Nashville songwriters there is one lady that is at the top of many people’s lists. Lori McKenna. It seems Cam’s opinion is no exception and so she introduced us to a fun track of Lori’s called Old Men, Young Women.
Back in the states, Cam’s touring band consisted of Anders Mouridsen, a guitarist originally from Denmark. She spoke about a night they went out to the Bluebird Café with his family as they had come to visit. They requested a song from one of the writers as a special treat for them being there. The writer, Tom Kimmel, came back with “I can do you one better than that!”, he had a song he had written a while back with a Danish writer. The track was called No One Gets To Heaven If Anyone Gets Left Behind, Cam fell in love with the track and after hearing it, it was easy to see why.
The next song actually precedes Untamed and is about the same relationship that Burning House speaks about. It spoke of her guilt about breaking up with an ex via email, she was young and it wasn’t something she was proud of. She didn’t mean for it to go down like that but no matter what she tried she was still the bad guy. The track was called Stuck In The Middle.
Down That Road followed about being able to travel back home during college and the feeling of comfort when you travel back.
The next track was something that before it was written was intended to be for Ex’s and Oh’s singer Elle King; something edgy, with a technology reference. Well the original lyrics included:
Hit you like a drone strike from the clear blue sky.
On receiving a response that those choice of words were not so appropriate, Cam and her co-writers went back to the drawing board and reworked the track. Elle Kind never did record the track, which I am grateful for, because it is one of my favourite tracks on the album; Runaway Train.
During the set, Cam included a few songs that were not on the album and this next one was just that. It was a song written by her bandmates Anders Mouridsen and Tyler Johnson. A few years back there was a jailbreak in the North West of America and that pretty much summed up the next song which was Man Hunt.
The next song is all about how even when you are chasing your dreams, it can be possible to feel Cold In California.
This was followed by Go Get ‘Em Cam and Better Tough Love Than No Love At All.
Next up was another favourite of mine, Village, a song written for a school friend of hers who’s brother passed away tragically in an avalanche whilst skiing. As her friend Claire struggled to deal with his loss Cam wanted to help in the only way she knew how. She thought about how everyone’s heart has been built by the people that surround us and even when they are gone there is always a piece of them that stays with us. The emotion in this performance just seemed to spread around the room. The venue was silent with each word feeling even truer than the last. It was a beautiful moment.
Following that, Cam lightened up the mood with a song in which she mocks herself and other Country stars for those red carpet appearances. Many of the stars you see today, they are country because they grew up on farms, they experience that way of life, they didn’t get all dolled up to go clean out the horses at 5 am. Why? Because Country Ain’t Never Been Pretty.
Now you may notice when you see a band play, sometimes, they will have a cooler of beer on stage with a big brand label across (in America, usually something light!). Well, Cam decided it would be cool to get sponsored by something a little more hardcore… Something like… Fireball Whiskey! She sat down with her co-writers and they knocked out what she felt was a great track they could send to the company, it could become their theme song and ultimately they could get an unlimited supply of the stuff! They submitted it…. A few days later she received an email back saying “Dear Miss Cam, we appreciated your submission, however, we feel that this song promotes irresponsible drinking”! Well as said by the lady herself, when is drinking every responsible?! Anyhow it made for a great drinking song! Fireball Whiskey.
Fireball whiskey made my night again, it ain’t pretty but it’s worth it in the end.
With that, after almost 2 hours, we had reached the final song of the night. We all knew it was coming and looking around you could see how eager the audience were to hear this intimate performance of this track. The song was written after a dream that was had surrounding her guilt at how she ended thing with the guy she had also written about in Stuck In The Middle. In real life, she was due to go to a party and she knew she was going to see him there. Over thinking the situation meant she dreamt about it and in that scenario, she arrived at the house to find it on fire. The place was surrounded by emergency services and there were firefighters telling her no one could go in because it was too dangerous. Ignoring the warning she ran in, found this guy and laid down beside him until they both died together. From that came not only a gorgeous song but the track that catapulted this incredibly talented lady into the limelight as it hit #1 and paved the way for this concert. It was, of course, Burning House.
This is a long review but I did not feel like I could gloss over too much! This show was really a sight to see and I am so honoured to have been a part of it. Cam is surely on the road to bigger and better things and this show was a testament to her talent and passion for this music. She will be back, I have no doubt so be sure to catch her at the next show!