"Music's always worth your time, the music business? Hmmmm..." In conversation with Cam
Five years is a long time for a mainstream act to take to follow up a hugely successful debut, but that's how long Cameron Ochs took. Many things have happened in Cam's world during those five years, not least that she got married and gave birth to her baby daughter. She also changed record labels and clearly hasn't enjoyed all of her interactions with the business side of what she does; "You know, music's always worth your time, the music business? Hmmmm..."
We talk to Cam on Zoom, as is the 2020 way, and it's the best way to talk with her, she's animated, positive, and radiates charm, even when she's talking about self-doubt that appeared during the writing of her debut record, Untamed; "I didn't have the twenty-year-old sitting in my head saying, like, none of this is good; don't even throw that one out. I didn't have that kind of anxiety. I felt a little more comfortable. I feel like I was better, better at my craft."
When we talk about Untamed and how Cam feels about it five years on, she's more wary of her reply than you might imagine; "Well... it's... I don't know how to... you know... as an artist..." before settling on her answer; "I like to just move forward, so I love those songs, some of them have aged better for me, like I'm still very moved by 'Village' and 'Cold In California'. If I was one hundred percent, this is what I have to offer the world and nothing tops it, then why would I be making more records?"
And as if to cement the point, talk about Untamed ends with the question, have you got bored of playing those same eleven songs over the last five years; "Oh my god yes, bored a million times over! That's why if fans have watched multiple shows the arrangements would evolve. We had a whole Beauty and the Beast-esque intro to 'Burning House'. I was telling more and more stories, getting more comfortable with being vulnerable in between songs, all kinds of stuff. So, yeah, whatever I'm doing has to feel new."
But it's the new record, The Other Side, that we're here to talk about, and it absolutely moves her sound on from her debut. Those five years have been spent well. The stories Cam's gathered from the life she's been living are represented throughout her new record, particularly with her husband who "has definitely given me song ideas", specifically for 'Like A Movie'; "I remember being at the kitchen table unloading groceries and we're looking at each other and I said, "how did you know it was me? Like, how do you know not to settle for someone earlier or wait for someone after?" And he said, "Because when I met you, it was like a movie""
He also contributed the lyric "they don't make them like this anymore" to Cam's recent single, 'Classic'. And overall the two complement each other in life; "He definitely challenges me. We're not the same. We're very we come at things from two different angles. So I think that helps me creatively to open up to a whole bunch of new stories that I got to tell."
One of the less flashy tracks on The Other Side is 'Girl Like Me', and it's the song that's maybe the most personal for Cam; "It's the end of the record and it's a piano only track I wrote with Natalie Hemby. It was also the most personal internal dialogue coming out. I remember she had the idea and was sitting down playing it. She had a couple of lines and I thought "Oh, wow. That's so beautiful" Like admiring it as if it were a story. And she was like, "It's you. It's your comeback story" And I was like, "That is me!"
The most challenging experience during writing for the record ("My least favorite at the time, but my favorite later on looking back") was with the late writer-producer Avicii on the title track, 'The Other Side'; "We went in and he was so intense about what he wanted, like he just kept playing this melody over and over and over again. I was so overwhelmed I took a cigarette break, and I don't even smoke cigarettes! Outside, Hillary Lindsay and I came up with the chorus, come back and sang it to that's perfectly fine, but this vowel right here, it shouldn't be an "oh" it should be an "ah", and I was like, oh, my goodness, how narrow of a scope you have to make this perfect. And by the end of the session, I was so frustrated but then so happy because of how perfect the song sounded." And it turned out to be a valuable lesson; "I was so grateful that he wasn't putting our comfort ahead of his vision, which that happens in a lot of situations. So now, looking back, that was a really good masterclass on how to put a song together".
And that story sums up Cam the person and Cam the singer, honest - seriously so at times - always fun, and always learning, taking the positives out of every situation. She's infectious and inspiring. Oh, and The Other Side? It's another excellent album. All this and no mention of 'Diane'.