The country music world is getting to know her better and better each day, and recently, so has the LGBTQ community. Her name is Cam and she’s here to help queer people and make good music.
(DALLAS) – While visiting the American Airlines Center last month in Dallas to catch Sam Smith’s The Thrill of It All tour, About Magazine got the chance to catch up with country music star Cam. The young country sensation opened up for Smith on his tour and recently penned an open letter to the LGBTQ community in which she told us all she would always have our backs. And while that might seem like a strange thing for a straight country star to do, Cam is more than just a straight country star, as we came to find out. She’s also an educated student of psychology who left the field to pursue her dream of being a musician. And thank God she did. Where would country music be without her contributions to it, as well as to artists outside the genre, including Smith himself.
Just having wrapped her time with Smith, Cam has just released her new single “Road to Happiness” ahead of her second album on which it is featured and a tour of the same name beginning in September. Having just switched record labels from Sony imprint Artista Nashville to the Sony-owned RCA Records, Cam is keeping herself busy and she’s showing no signs of slowing down. About Magazine Dallas contributor Mallorie Hall sat down to talk to Cam while in Dallas.
Mallorie: Can you tell me a little bit about the tour and what’s it’s been like to play these packed venues?
Cam: It’s amazing. It’s like a musical theatre guy who designed the stage, so it’s very — you’ll see it. It’s a very intimate but also a very dramatic, grand thing. It’s really cool to be on a stage like that and be so personal. You know? And everyone seems like they’re here. I said it on stage and I really did mean it — everyone. I think because [Sam Smith is] so comfortable with who he is. He’s so genuine, like how he seems on stage is who he is and I resonate with that; and I think everybody does.
What do you think is the most different for you — just being yourself and being on stage?
Oh, like from my personality? Honestly, I think it’s just a forever dig to try and make sure that I know myself. And the more I do it offstage, the more real I can be onstage. […] You know when something catches you off guard and they’re like, “Hey how’s it going? Tell me about yourself!” and if you haven’t really figured yourself out, you’re gonna kind of say not the coolest thing in that moment. But that’s how it feels. Like … my difference offstage is more like figuring things out. You know what I’m saying? Like … whatever I’ve got, whatever truth I have.
So, you actually began your career as a songwriter composing for other artists. So, what has it been like at this stage of your career to take the mic on stage, having radio hits, versus writing songs for others?
Yeah, well, I actually started job-ness with being a psychology researcher. So I like looked at emotions and cultures and stuff like that. And then when I was like twenty-four I decided that I didn’t love it enough to put up with the downs. Every job has goods and bads; and I realized that the things that came with that, I couldn’t be in love with it. I was like, what should I do? And my professor was like, well, when you’re 80-years-old, picture yourself looking back. What would you regret? Missing out on music or missing out on psychology? Music, duh.
Plus don’t you feel like you can incorporate some of those messages into music? Just the positive ones?
Yeah. Oh my god. I think it’s that same search for truth. You know … like … what’s going on? Who am I? And why do we all do this? So I think that’s what songwriting is too, [but] more personal. When I first started […] I didn’t know any musicians. So the stereotype was like, Oh you can’t do this. […] And then statistically, like how could I actually be an artist? Then when I started doing that and I had a few random things like a producer was supposed to be in one room with someone and then couldn’t show up, so I’d get in the room. And then with Sam, another producer was there, and they were working on something and I got in. So it’s never like I was a really successful songwriter either. When I first got to Nashville I was like, Okay, if I want to do songwriting people will get publishing dues — which is basically like them giving you money up front and then they take a percent of your business. And as you can imagine, in the music business, for newbies, it’s horrible. It’s god awful. Thank god I was from California, and it’s so expensive to live there that I could just laugh at it. You’re fucking kidding me? I better just invest in myself. And you’ll all see when I’m worth it.
What was your first surreal moment, was it like, “Hey, I’m in a booth with Miley Cyrus?”
Probably. I would say like the record deal — which is not by any means the end of the ride. It’s actually really far in the beginning. That always feels like a legitimate thing. You can turn around to your parents and say, “I have this.” You can sit there on Thanksgiving and be like, “You have to respect me!”
You recently penned a letter to the LGBTQ community in which you showed your support for our community and said that we could always count on you. So what inspired that?
I think it’s the human thing to do. I think it’s a normal bar. I don’t think it’s spectacular. Like … it’s really kind of interesting in the country music community. I think it’s a normal thing. I don’t understand that it’s so sweet. People say, “Aw, thank you for saying that.” And I’m not even doing anything. I’m not even doing anything for you. That’s just saying, “Yeah, I’m not an asshole.” And I could be an asshole still … like look how I act! You know? So, for me, I think also I came from the San Francisco Bay Area and I think that our culture is a little bit different. Very special culture. But there’s still ups and downs. And with close friends of mine, when I hear experiences that people have to go through in different parts of this country, and in all parts of this country […] things like suicide rates — if you’re quiet, you’re condemning a lot of kids to living in a dark bubble. And they don’t always get out. So it’s just the least you can do. I feel like we need to get past just clapping and being like “Yay! You said it!” and start pushing the Okay. How are you educating yourself on what this really means and how we need to take care of each other?
You are obviously on tour with one of the most celebrated LGBTQ artists in the world, with whom you cowrote the song “Palace”, for his latest album. What’s the experience been like working together?
He’s incredible, we were actually just talking about this. He said at one point in his life, “I’m just such a proud gay man and I’m standing here on this stage.” And everyone’s just screaming [for him]. And how many times in history has that happened? Someone’s just stood on stage and said this is me and this is who I am. And you just get goosebumps … like everyone’s just so moved. I don’t know. Because we’re still in the stage of that being kind of new, we’re really lucky that he gets to do this and he just spreads so much acceptance purposefully during each show. So it’s amazing to be around. He’s just like … you know … how you think pop divas look sweet but then in the background they’re like bitching people out? Nope. His whole crew, everybody, just are genuinely hardworking, good people.
So both of you are so talented and outspoken and individualistic in your music. What’s the dynamic like from your set to Sam’s when performing?
You will see. I think it actually flows really well. There’s something very musical and vocally driven and like … almost musical theater-ish. Very storytelling. And it just sort of builds. It’s weird because I have to think about it. I can’t sit in the audience and watch. Because my set is so vocally driven, and then it goes into his, I think the theme is very clear and people will appreciate that.
Could you tell us a little bit about what you have planned following the tour?
I just put out “Road to Happiness” which is a new song. And this is like the lead up to my second album. So, basically, I’m going to go over to Europe, come back, and have a tour in a lot of the same places that I was just here with Sam for the fall. And then there are some songs that are going to start coming out.
If you could go back and give your younger self any piece of advice, what would it be?
No one knows what they’re doing. Stop looking for someone who knows what they’re doing. I still catch myself thinking that somebody older — some dude, some white dude –needs to tell me what to do. There’s definitely been people in my career that I have overly trusted thinking people are there to help you. But the people that are going to help you the most are going to say, “What’s your answer? Let me help you find your answer.” People who say “I know what you’re supposed to do. I know what you’re supposed to wear. I know what you’re supposed to look like,” they’re doing it for them. And when there are a lot of people who are younger, it’s just … this is how the world works.
You can get tickets to see Cam on her Road to Happiness tour here.
Interview transcribed by About Magazine staff member, Megan Prevost.