As well as her reputation as a talented artist and performer, Cam is also renown for her integrity and outspoken support of issues such as the under representation of female country artists throughout the genre, the rights of the LGBTQ community and most recently the Black Lives Matter movement. And she is not afraid to stand up for herself and her principals too when it comes to her own career, parting ways with Sony Music Entertainment ( with whom she’d signed in 2014 through a partnership between Sony Nashville and RCA Records) a couple of years ago when her sophomore album was seemingly done, dusted and ready for release. Apparently the relationship had been strained for some time, and Cam finally decided she was not willing to compromise on what she wanted out of her career to satisfy the industry, citing “ different values” as her reason for leaving and instead becoming a full time artist on RCA’s New York roster.
She removed some songs from the original track listing, added others and tweaked things in various ways and as a result we have all had to wait patiently ( or not!!) to hear the long-awaited follow up to her critically acclaimed 2015 debut, “ Untamed”. But what Cam is giving us with the appropriately titled “ The Otherside” is an album that is truly a reflection of where she is right now in both her career and personal life ( as I’m sure you are all aware with regards to the latter she and husband Adam are now parents to daughter Lucy ). It’s being released through a new partnership between RCA and Nashville-based Triple Tigers which Cam herself brought about this year, and while it sees her working closely once again with Tyler Johnson and Jeff Bhasker there’s some new collaborations when it comes to both writing and production, some of which have been the result of outside projects that Cam has been involved with in recent years, and she has even recorded two outside cuts this time around.
The album really is an example of worlds colliding…names on the credits include country music royalty Lori McKenna, Hillary Lindsey and Liz Rose, Jack Antonoff who seems to have worked in a variety of ways with artists from multiple genres including Taylor Swift, The Chicks , Pink and Lana Del Ray, and from the world of pop there’s UK’s Harry Styles and Sam Smith. It was written over the last three years in Nashville, LA and NYC, and the result is an album which is sonically and stylistically really varied, something which Cam hinted that we should expect via the songs made available pre-release. What is constant throughout the eleven tracks is the strength of the writing, the wonderful production and of course Cam’s impressive vocals, which seem to have got stronger and stronger over the years. And there’s some important messages for humanity along the way, too.
Here’s my brief thoughts on each of the tracks, including the all important writing/production credits, together with my favourite lines…..
1. Redwood Tree ( Writers Camaron Ochs, Tyler Johnson, Anders Mouridsen, Producer Tyler Johnson )
A reflective song about the passage of time and not appreciating what you have until it’s too late. This is among the most personal on the album and is apparently Cam’s mother’s favourite! Redwoods are common in Cam’s native state of California and can live for thousands of years, this poignant write being addressed to one at her childhood home which she returns to after leaving to chase her dreams. Backed by a driving beat, she apologises for her selfishness, my favourite line being “ you got your roots, I got the wind in my soul”.
2. The Otherside ( Writers Camaron Ochs, Hillary Lindsey, Tim Bergling aka Avicii, Tyler Johnson. Producers Jeff Bhasker, Douglas Showalter, Tyler Johnson)
This song came to be during a writing session for the late Avicii’s album, his team giving their blessing for it to instead be included on Cam’s. The track has a Celtic vibe to it, Cam turning the tables on an ex who wants her back having hurt her in the past. I see this song as about learning to see things from another person’s point of view, and not doing things to others that you wouldn’t want them to do to you.
Favourite line “ I know that I’m cruel but I learned that from you” .
3. Classic ( Writers Camaron Ochs, Jack Antonoff. Producer Jack Antonoff)
A light hearted interlude with this fun and very catchy song which I think will prove to be a great singalong at her live shows. As Cam says about the writing session “ Jack and I caught something in the air that day and ran with it”. About a relationship that outlasts any short-lived trends, it cleverly likens it to both objects and people from the past who are now considered timeless. And the accompanying video sees Cam channelling her inner Hollywood glamour, just fabulous!
Favourite line “ Ain’t nothing new I’m waiting for ‘cos they don’t make ‘em like this anymore”
4. Forgetting You ( Writers Camaron Ochs, Lori McKenna, Mitchell Rowland, Tyler Johnson. Producers Tyler Johnson, Jeff Bhaskar, Douglas Showalter )
Things slow down for this very a relatable song….I’m sure many of us have been it this situation, coping well with a break up when busy and with friends but memories come flooding back when on our own. Apparently inspired by Cam smelling stale cigarette smoke lingering in now “ non smoking” rooms in hotels, the lyrics paint a very vivid picture with the hotel references central as she looks back nostalgically at a relationship that is no more. Her heartbreak is almost tangible and when it comes to vocal delivery this is one of my top tracks, I particularly love the steel on this one too. Favourite line “ In the silence you’re silently hiding away”
5. Like A Movie ( Writers Camaron Ochs, Lori McKenna, Hillary Lindsey, Liz Rose. Producers Jeff Bhaskar , Tyler Johnson )
All three of the fabulous Love Junkies collaborate with Cam to give us another delicately delivered, mid tempo track, and what a dreamy one this is. Hauntingly beautiful production thanks in no small measure to the orchestral accompaniment, in particular the gorgeous strings, it’s about the inevitable ups and downs of relationships with the good times more than make up for the bad….in fact they are so good they seem almost unreal, like in a film. The backing vocals are especially beautiful on this one too.
Favourite line “ standing still but still you move me, the whole world fades away, the colours change when you say my name”.
6. Changes ( Writers Harry Styles, Lori Mc Kenna, Tom Hull, Tyler Johnson. Producer Tyler Johnson )
The first of the two outside cuts, Cam saying that songs by other writers have to hit her in the gut for her to consider interpreting them herself. She delivers the verses over a simple acoustic guitar driven accompaniment, the lyrics painting a fantastic picture of small town living and the short sightedness of the people who choose to stay, something that wasn’t an option for her having sampled it for a while. But things change for everyone, whether or not they think they will. For me it’s one of the most country music infused tracks….incidentally it’s Harry Styles’ whistling at the end! Favourite line “ The river sways, I can almost hear it now, as if to say you’re not the only who wants a way out”.
7. Til There’s Nothing Left ( Writers Camaron Ochs, Jeff Bhasker , Tyler Johnson, Hillary Lindsey. Producers Jeff Bhaskar, Tyler Jonhson)
Cam’s love song to her husband, and what a steamy, sensual track it is! The backing vocals and driving drums add to the tension, which builds explosively as this slow song progresses . She wants to give her love completely, with no holding back, and isn’t afraid to let us know in a world where women talking about their sex life often isn’t encouraged. To quote Cam , “ Sex is ours too. I remember my Grandma Marvel giving me the sex talk when was 12 : ‘ Sex is like a milkshake: once you have it, you’re always going to want it ‘“
Favourite line “ I want to know what it feels like to disappear into you and never have to say goodbye” .
8. What Goodbye Means ( Writers Camaron Ochs, Anders Mouridsen, Tom Kimmel, Jeff Bhasker. Producers Tyler Johnson, Douglas Showalter)
Who’s to blame when a relationship ends? In this case it’s a marriage, this song seeing Cam doing a lot of soul-searching and trying to analyse if the impending divorce was her fault. And there’s such sadness and desperation in her voice throughout it’s heartbreaking, hoping her husband changes his mind and returns. I love the unexpected calypso rhythm in the chorus. One of my favourite tracks.
Favourite line is the entire break “ Is the truth too close, is the past too far away? Is the future lost?”
9. Diane ( Writers Cameron Ochs, Tyler Johnson, Jeff Bhasker. Producers Jeff Bhasker and Tyler Johnson)
I don’t think I really need to add anything about this track that Cam fans don’t already know! Released as a single in 2017 it’s a firm favourite in her live repertoire and I think there would have been a revolution had it not been included on this album!
Favourite line….all of them! All together now, at the top of your voice ….” Dia-ane , I promise i didn’t know he was your man!”
10. Happier For You ( Writers Sam Smith, Mitchell Rowland, Tyler Johnson. Producer Tyler Johnson)
Another outside cut, this bluesy, soulful song, which has a touch of gospel in too thanks in no small part to the addition of the organ. It starts with church bells setting the scene perfectly for Cam’s ex’s wedding day, and although she was convinced she was over them and would cope that turned out to be far from the truth….she still addresses them as “ darling” here. A situation that many of us have found ourselves in I’m sure, seeing someone you find you still hold a torch for all loved up and unable to feel happy about it at the time….but hoping that day will come.
Favourite line “ No longer lonely but I still see ghosts of you”
11. Girl Like Me ( Writers Camaron Ochs, Natalie Hemby. Producer Tyler Johnson)
What a way to end this wonderful album, it’s really the only place for this totally stripped back track which is in stark contrast in that respect to the full production of the ten which have gone before. Accompanied just by Tyler on piano, Cam digs deep into her past experiences, both personal and professional, to offer some great advice on negotiating life. Delivered with such raw emotion, it’s a powerful statement on so many subjects and every time I listen to it I hear something new. Phenomenal. Favourite line … a really tough one to pick but today I’ll say “ Take it from a girl who takes things to take the pain away ” ………but that may well change tomorrow!
Yes, this album demonstrates what a versatile artist Cam is, and how the most important thing for her is to connect with songs and not be bound by the constraints others may try to impose on her music.
She is celebrating on release day by live-streaming a ticketed show from the legendary Bluebird Cafe in Nashville, when she’ll be telling the stories behind the songs ( ticket link here https://boxoffice.mandolin.com/collections/cam) but I’m sure we are all hoping it won’t be too long until we can see this versatile artist in person and sing along with these fantastic new songs as well as favourites from her back catalogue.
Pre-order/pre-save “ The Otherside “ here https://smarturl.it/TheOthersidex?iqID=site