Editor’s Note: In celebration of Women’s History Month, You Sing I Write is highlighting female country artists and songwriters throughout March.
I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing Cam several times over the years. In October 2020, we caught up and discussed her excellent sophomore album The Otherside. The singer has lived a lot of life since the release of her major label debut album Untamed in 2015. She got married, switched labels from Sony Nashville to RCA in New York, and had her first child, Lucy. Her many highs and lows, and life changes throughout the past five years, are all reflected within the memorable 11 tracks of The Otherside. Below is an excerpt of our conversation.
“The past five years since Untamed and ‘Burning House’ I’ve been through a lot and learned a lot and I feel like I’m on the other side of learning some stuff,” Cam said via livestream ahead of playing title track “The Otherside” during an album release show from Nashville’s The Bluebird Cafe Oct. 30. “It feels so right to be playing this. I’m so grateful we get to sing something that’s so magical in the spirit of someone who inspired us so much.”
Cam penned the tune with the late Swedish DJ Avicii (Tim Bergling), Hillary Lindsey and Tyler Johnson. She credits Bergling’s “next level songwriting” and detailed vision for the song as inspiring and says not having him around to finish “The Otherside” had some added pressure.
“It put a drive in me to make sure that I lived up to his perfectionism and genius to try and give his family and his fans something that they could all enjoy again,” she tells me. “That was heavy. Even with Harry [Styles] and Sam [Smith] too — taking songs that they had written — I felt like I really wanted to make sure I do right by them and have them feel good about it. I could see myself in [the songs]. That’s why I choose them because I trust them [and] I recognized the ache in the songwriting.”
Other songs on The Otherside are more personal to Cam as she lived through some of the experiences she sings about. Songs like the autobiographical “Redwood Tree” and sweeping “Like a Movie” strike a chord with both Cam and the listener.
“I think because I came from a psychology background I always think of songwriting as pulling out something from the subconscious,” she says. “That’s something that I feel in my gut. I have to say it, I have to wrap it up in a story so that I can face it and heal from it. ‘Redwood Tree’ is definitely poignant right now with how you spend your limited time here, what amount of that you get with your parents and your family.”
Other songs, like “Classic” and “Like a Movie,” were inspired by her husband, Adam. As Cam explains, shortly after they got married, she asked her husband how he knew to wait for her and how he knew it was her he was meant to be with and not someone else.
“He was like, ‘When I met you it was like a movie.’ It was just so sweet. Even in that song, there’s a little bit of sadness because there’s all these times when it doesn’t work out. You’re afraid to think that it might be the right one,” she explains. “Every song is really important. I try to wrap them up in really cool production so that you start to get lost in a song a little bit and then maybe, sneakily, the words work their way into your heart.”
On “Like a Movie,” Cam went to Capitol Studios in Los Angeles to record the string accompaniment. She enlisted the help of David Campbell (Mulan, Rent, Dreamgirls) who arranged and conducted an orchestra for the song. Cam says she told Campbell that she wanted the feeling of a 50s or 60s romantic film where there is tension and he knew exactly what she was looking for.
“It was perfect,” she says of the arrangement. “I always feel like I’m caught in the rain on a movie set right before they kiss. It’s so sweet.”
For more of my interview with Cam, visit Sounds Like Nashville.