Interview with Cameron Wallace, Actor, Radio & TV Host, Music Business Entrepreneur
Here we continue our talk with Cameron “Camo” Wallace and we kick Part II off with his acting career.
TC: I think we know where you come from musically now. Let’s move on to your acting, because you also are an actor.
CW: Yeah, I started that back in the mid-80’s. I probably got fired from my first radio job and was trying to make ends meet and do a lot of extra work around Toronto, since that’s kind of Hollywood North. I was doing Nike, I did a movie “Millennium” with Kris Kristofferson and Cheryl Ladd…”
TC: SHUT UP!
CW: Yeah (laughs)
TC: I saw a recent photo of you with Kris Kristofferson that kind of dropped me in my tracks by the way.
CW: That was cool. In Toronto I also did a movie with Alan Alda, Hal Linden and Ann-Margret, the name escapes me, so that was pretty cool too. I did a movie that Leonard Nimoy directed and that was pretty wild, so when I moved to England I kind of got away from all that stuff. Then a couple of years ago it seemed like everybody I knew had been on “Nashville”, so I thought, “Oh what the Hell?” I got on a couple times, had a couple features. I had a feature on the last episode of the last season on ABC. I had a scene with “Gunnar” (Sam Palladio).
TC: Which is my new cat’s name by the way.
CW: I saw that! A friend of mine, a singer/songwriter from Texas, who lives here in town, Templeton Thompson, was in it and we got cast as a couple. From that I got some interest from agents and I’ve been doing a ton of stuff. Leading up to Christmas of last year, I was in a national Cracker Barrel commercial. I’m in, and this is the coolest, I’m in Bobby Bare’s new video.
TC: Drop the mic…
CW: The video for “I Drink”.
TC: I’ve seen it. It’s so brilliant. Tell us all about it. We need all the details.
CW: This one was kind of unique. It didn’t come through my agent. It came through Bare’s publicist, 117 Entertainment. It was actually between them and Max T. Barnes, who produced Bare’s record, and they were casting the video. I was interviewing Max for one of our Facebook Lives and just before we were about to start, Zach Farnum from 117 and Max were talking, and they looked over and said, “You want to be in Bare’s video?” I said, “Sure”, not knowing anything about the song, but the chance to work with Bare was BIG. About a week later, we were shooting the video. The song was written by Mary Gauthier and she’s in the video, she plays the bartender. So, all I knew when I got to the shoot was, I’m going to be playing an alcoholic and I don’t drink anymore (in real life), and it was going to be dark. Bare wanted it to be dark and it is. It was a fun shoot. It was just amazing to be working with Bobby Bare. As I was growing up and learning to play steel, learning to play by ear, I was listening to records by Loretta Lynn, Ray Price and Bobby Bare. I listened to learn when to play and when not to play, and almost 50 years later, I’m working with Bobby Bare! If you had said when I was a kid, enjoy that record, because 50 years from now, you’re going to be working with him, I would have laughed. What a great guy! Very easy to work with. He’s funny and it was just cool watching him work and how he sees things.
TC: Did he know exactly how he wanted the video to be?
CW: I don’t know about that for sure, all I know is he wanted it to be dark. In the video, which is about alcoholism and spousal abuse, which is pretty dark, the little girl that played my granddaughter in the Cracker Barrel commercial, she saw it, and she was sad and she cried. I had my little cousin down in Oxford, Mississippi who just turned 11, she was sad too. It was cool because it gave me a chance to stretch and do some dramatic things and work with a legend. It’s also a big year for Bare because he’s celebrating 60 years since he first hit the spotlight, so a lot of stuff is planned for him this year. If people haven’t seen the video “I Drink” by Bobby Bare, go find it on YouTube, it’s amazing.
TC: It’s also running on CMT, right?
CW: CMT here in the US, and it premiered on Rolling Stone Country, and it’s all over YouTube.
TC: Another artist I interviewed, Amanda Winter, also appears in the video.
CW: Amanda Winter actually plays my mother.
TC: Which is very odd, since she’s younger than you.
CW: Yeah. There’s a little boy in the video that looks like me when I was younger, and that’s supposed to be me, and then I grow up in the video.
TC: Did you shoot that right here in the Nashville area?
CW: Yeah, out in Hendersonville and the bar scene was at The Nashville Palace.
TC: I’m pretty familiar with those two places. Any future things coming up with the acting?
CW: I had an audition yesterday. I’m waiting to see if I got it or not. My agent’s getting me more stuff. Nashville’s more of a commercial and video market, but Atlanta’s only a few hours away and they do a lot of movies and TV. I think the bigger Nashville gets, the more you’re going to see because it’s a Right to Work State. A friend of mine, a songwriter, Shane Owens, wrote a song, “Nashville You Ain’t Hollywood”, and I love the song, but with all due respect to Shane, he’s a great guy and I love hanging out with him, it’s okay for Nashville to be a little bit Hollywood, as long as we don’t lose sight of our country roots. We’re still Music City.
TC: Your dream acting job?
CW: There are guys I grew up watching on screen that I’ve always loved. John Wayne, my hero when I was a kid and he’s still my hero. Tom Selleck, Burt Reynolds, Sam Elliott, those guys. The older I get the more I identify with Sam Elliott’s character on “The Ranch” (Netflix). I don’t drop the F Bomb nearly as often as he does, but you know. Every time I see someone wearing Ugg Boots I think, “What the Hell?” One of the shows, and my agent is going to try and get it, one of the shows I would love to be on, is “Blue Bloods”. Another show I grew up watching and I think would be cool to do an update of is Dennis Weaver’s “McCloud”. An Arizona sheriff in New York City. I’m a fan of the western stuff. For some reason I get cast a lot as a cop.
TC: You look like a cop.
CW: When I was doing stuff in the 80’s, I would always get lawyers. I just had a mustache. I would get a lawyer wearing glasses. I would take the glasses off and I’d get a cop. I would love to do a detective show though. Westerns too. I ride, so that would be good.
TC: As I was “stalking” you, I saw that you ride as a hobby.
CW: I do. I rode in England too. There’s a ranch, and I can’t remember his name, but there’s this guy who’s one of the best riders in the world, based around Cambridge and he raises Quarter Horses. I took a few lessons from him. I grew up and I rode, but nobody ever taught me properly, so I took a few lessons from him and I learned an infinite amount of knowledge in those few lessons. Mostly correcting bad habits and such. I’ve ridden all over.
TC: So, a good detective series or a cowboy? “Should’ve Been a Cowboy” should be your theme song?
CW: Yes, or the other Toby Keith song, “A Few More Cowboys”. With a few more cowboys, the world would be a better place.
TC: Dream interview?
CW: George Strait, Reba and probably Alan Jackson. Alan can be kind of a tough interview. He’s quiet and he doesn’t say a lot. I’d have to work for that one. Get to really talk to Kris Kristofferson. When I met him, he was promoting the show he had on CMT, so I told him I worked on a movie with him back in the 80’s. He asked which one. I said, “Millennium”. He said, “I don’t even remember that one”, but he was great in it. I would love to actually sit down and talk to him. Then on the other hand, you kind of don’t want to. The guy’s been around since the 60’s and done everything. Movies, TV, music, he founded NSAI, written iconic songs that break the country music genre, he’s just a legend. How do you ask something that hasn’t already been asked? I could ask him about working in “Millennium” but he doesn’t remember it, so… those kind of guys, I like people that transcend genres. George Strait, he’s bigger than country music.
TC: He’s bigger than Texas.
CW: Right. He’s not called The King for nothin’. Those guys, I mean, the way I interview people, I don’t do bullet points. I understand if you’re doing stuff for a TV show that’s only a half hour long, you have to hit the bullet points because that’s what counts, but people like you and me, we’re just conversational. I don’t go in with an agenda, I never have any prepared questions, because we could get on to another thing.
TC: Favorite or most memorable podcast?
CW: Don McLean. He’s got an exhibit that opened at The Country Music Hall of Fame and it’s got one of his guitars and it’s got the actual worksheet from the song “Vincent”. It’s got a copy of the worksheet from “American Pie” because the original sold at Christie’s for $2.7 million or something like that, but again, here’s a guy who has written probably two of the most iconic songs. “Vincent” wasn’t as huge in the US as in the UK, but still, it was a huge hit, what do you ask him?
TC: So, was he talkative?
CW: Oh yeah, he was great. I learned a lot from him. The way he started out, and this is kind of the way all of my careers have been, is he didn’t start out and say, “I want to write a big song.” As opposed to someone like Norman Greenbaum who wrote “Spirit in the Sky”. He sat down and knew he just wanted to write a big song that was like a Porter Wagoner song, and at that time Porter Wagoner was huge and everyone knew his music, and sure enough, “Spirit in the Sky” has been a hit like three or four times. Don McLean was the exact opposite. He said, “I could sing pretty good, I could write pretty good, and when doors opened up for me I just walked through them. I never had a career path.” That kind of reassured me. I’ve never known what I wanted to do, but when a door opens up, I walk through it. Let’s see what happens if I go through Door A. Sometimes it works. I used to play soccer when I was in my 30’s. I was the goalie. With the goalie, they always say, you’re either the hero or the clown. I was the clown more often than not, but being the clown teaches you that failure isn’t always bad. So, I’ve gone through some doors that have been absolutely awful. Bad stuff has happened, but that teaches you to appreciate when you go through doors where good stuff happens, and that’s kind of where I’m at now.
TC: That’s really cool, and Don McLean kind of gave you that epiphany.
CW: Yeah, and I could never phrase it like that. That’s why he’s the songwriter and I’m not. That I never had a real career path, but if a door opened, I just walked through it. That’s what he’s always done and he’s met some amazing people and worked with amazing people over the years, and he’s still touring and it was sort of a magical interview and an epiphany for me. I try and learn things from all these interviews with the more senior guys and their career paths, and help with work ethics for the ones coming up. I learn from that and I think Don McLean gave me the most. The most FUN interview was with Exile.
TC: I’m interviewing Exile at CRS and you’re telling me they’re fun? That’s good!
CW: If I had to pick one interview, my Exile interview was the most fun. My favorite one. I love interviewing historical artists because there’s no pressure. They’re not chasing number ones, they’re not chasing hit records. They’ve been there, done that, got the t-shirt and sold a whole bunch more t-shirts. They’re just out there having fun. These guys for such a long time, were chasing all that stuff. Now they’re just like, we travel, we play, we sell, we go home. Great guys, you’ll love ‘em.
TC: Nashvilleisms. People often have preconceived notions about Nashville. As a resident, tell us your thoughts about it, good or bad. Any advice?
CW: Everybody says how bad Nashville drivers are. I’ve never noticed that except around Christmas time, then the average driver gets magnified as a driver that really sucks, because they suck and they’re in a hurry, and no good can come from those two things. If you’re coming to Nashville, and this applies no matter where you’re going in the world, everybody wants to go to Pancake Pantry and The Bluebird, and yes, they’re kind of big and everybody wants to go there, but don’t go there. I’m not saying those two places because they’re legendary, they were kind of the first two I thought of, but there are so many good places in town that may not have the crowds but they’re great. I love going to Wendell Smith’s. I’m pretty sure the interior hasn’t changed since the Reagan Administration, but you never know who you’re going to see in there, some pretty big artists go in there, the food’s excellent and it’s just meat and three, and their breakfasts are great. Waffle House. No matter where you go in the south, Waffle House is great.
TC: My Mom is going to love you now. When she comes to visit, we HAVE to go to Waffle House because they don’t have them in Buffalo.
CW: Talk to local people. Ask them where cool places are to go. I mean, no matter when you drive by Pancake Pantry, there’s a line. I don’t see the point of waiting two hours to have a pancake no matter how good it is. As for music, there are probably two places you can wear a Stetson and not look like a tourist. The Nashville Palace and Robert’s Western World. Those are about the only two places. I wear one when I go to Texas, but not here because I don’t want to look like a tourist. It’s like when I lived in England. I really resisted going on the boats, they call them punts in Cambridge, because I didn’t want to look like a tourist. I finally did though. If you want to come here, and want to find out what the city is really like, ask people that live here, don’t go by the tour book. I’m a small town guy, I don’t like places that are packed with a lot of people in them. Going into one of the honky tonks on Broadway on a Friday night is one of the last places I want to go. Go to The Nashville Palace. Hear some real country music.
TC: You might even see a good artist there.
CW: Yes, especially a more traditional country artist. More traditional country artists go where more traditional country music is being played.
TC: It’s spacious in there too, which is nice.
CW: Another thing, and I don’t know if there’s an international dress code for songwriters, no matter how cool, but I think it’s cargo shorts and flip flops, so if you see somebody wearing cargo shorts and flip flops in like, February, they might be a songwriter.
TC: I never heard anyone say that before, but you are so right. That is spot on. Maybe add a baseball cap too.
CW: On backwards, yep. That’s the only thing the TV show “Nashville” really never got. They portray songwriters…
TC: Wearing a vest, jeans and cowboy boots.
CW: Well, that’s how I dress all the time.
TC: That’s your look. They have it mixed up.
CW: If you see the guy with cargo shorts, flip flops and a turned around ball cap, he’s probably a songwriter and he probably has a lot of money.
TC: He’s usually perusing the cereal aisle at Kroger and wondering why there are so many different kinds of cereal. That’s always where I see them.
TC: I have one that’s especially for my friends back in the Western New York area, since you and I grew up in roughly the same area. There are people in Nashville that believe country music just isn’t that big up there. Now, you’re in touch with the WORLD. What are your thoughts on that?
CW: Yeah, I mean, I grew up listening to WYRK and I loved it. I’m friends on Facebook with one of the guys that used to work there, which is cool. I loved WYRK. Western New York is great, especially when you get down to the Southtowns, near Ellicottville and Salamanca, with all those cool little bars and VFW Posts. Aaron Lewis, who used to be in the rock band Staind, has a song called “Northern Redneck” which pretty much describes Western New York, Northern Pennsylvania, that whole area, where people are driving ATVs, wearing camo and listening to country music. It’s not the big city, but you get out of the big city, and it’s pretty country.
TC: I think there’s a misconception in Nashville that people in the Northeast don’t even know what country music is. They only listen to rock or rap or pop.
CW: It’s like in the south, country music is everywhere, but in the Northeast, get outside of the cities and those areas are hotbeds for country music. I’ve mentioned it before, but Western New York is one of my favorite places because I used to go camping a lot in Allegany State Park, and I’d go to Bradford, Pennsylvania and that area is so much like Middle Tennessee. Geographically, you’ve got mountains that are roughly the same size, and I think the people too, but I think that’s the small town thing. Still one of my favorite places, and I used to go there when I was like 10, 11, 12 up until I was 16 or 17 years old, was Charlap’s Ice Cream in Boston, New York. Driving through places like that, it’s the same small town people you get in Middle Tennessee. That’s why I dig small towns.
TC: I guess then my message to Nashville managers and publicists is, get your artists up to the Northeast because people do listen to country music and they do like it and they know what it is.
CW: Oh yes, definitely, they do.
TC: My final question. When you Think Country, what do you think?
CW: Texas mostly. If we’re talking music, George Strait again. I don’t watch the NFL anymore, but I’m a Dallas Cowboys fan, always have been, all my life. So, when you say the word, “coach”, Tom Landry. When you say, “quarterback”, Roger Staubach. That was an era when loyalty meant something.
Interviewers note: We chatted a little more and got off topic, but I needed to add this final bit of conversation. We were discussing getting older and how comfort was becoming more of a priority in our lives.
TC: It’s all about comfort I believe.
CW: That brings me to Bobby Bare, and I’ll end on this. Bobby Bare said, “When you get older, the first thing you look for when you enter any room is a comfortable place to sit.” I think he’s got that right.
You can find Cameron “Camo” Wallace in all of these places:
Facebook: Fanpage – Cameron Wallace
Facebook: Nashville Access