Cam has finally returned — and her new album was worth the wait.
On Friday, the country singer-songwriter dropped her exceptional sophomore album, The Otherside, her first release in five years. And it's been a long road to The Otherside.
Cam (real name: Camaron Ochs) broke out in 2015 with her Grammy-nominated ballad "Burning House," which appeared on her debut album Untamed and remains the best-selling country song by a female solo artist. Her critically acclaimed single "Diane" followed in 2017. But the release date for her next album kept getting pushed and, after disagreements with her former record label, she left the company in 2018.
As she put together her genre-spanning new album, Cam — who welcomed a daughter, Lucy Marvel, with husband Adam Weaver last December — worked with an A-list roster of writers and producers, including Harry Styles, Sam Smith, Jack Antonoff and even the late Tim Bergling (aka Avicii).
Here, the Nashville star, 35, opens up about her journey to The Otherside.
How did you settle on the title, The Otherside?
I feel like I am now on the other side of something. When you're in the thick of it, I felt frustrated, I felt elated. I felt all the different feelings, going through professional shifts with labels and marriage and all that kind of stuff. I had everything happening to me and I think, Saturn return all that business — I was becoming myself, but it's not a fun process to become, is it?
The truth is once you get to the other side and you can look back, it's like, "Oh, I see the meaning and the purpose. I can laugh at the dark parts. I can accept that it's such a mixed bag. I can see where I made mistakes and places where other people made mistakes." There's like a perspective to it.
This group of songs, I've been saying it's like Mary Poppins, when she pours her medicine and it's different colors for different people, because I had five years worth of pulling things out of my subconscious to heal, you have all kinds of stories on this album that are going to hit you at different times and hit different people in different ways and I love that; I love that it didn't make 11 of the same song, that sounds the same. It just tickles me to have something that whenever you speak to someone, I just don't get the same response from anyone, and it makes me so happy.
You’ve been waiting years to release this album. What does it mean to finally put it out in the world?
There was this moment of, "Everyone's pushing their releases back. Should we do this?" And I was like, "No, no, we're putting this out right now." I'm so proud of it. I'm in retrospect, now, glad that it took the time it took, because "Classic" and "Girl Like Me" came at the end here and just the final tweaks on "The Otherside," everything feels like it's exactly how it's supposed to be now. So the universe is doing what it's doing, and I'm playing my part.
You really worked with the who’s who of the music industry this time around. Tell me about collaborating with this group — Avicii, Sam Smith, Harry Styles…
I feel like it's like my musical neighbors, because we're all connected in some way, and it was a big deal for me too, because I don't normally take outside songs. I feel like it's cheating on my process, but I trust these hearts and I trust these voices. I see in them what I want to see in myself, that they are trying very hard to keep learning and growing to be the most themselves that they can be. It's an evolution, it really is. It's not a static definition of who I am. It's like an ongoing process, but very committed to it, and that, it speaks to me.
Avicii was such a perfectionist. He had such a high standard that it was really frustrating in that songwriting session [for "The Otherside"]. I took a cigarette break, and I don't even smoke cigarettes, I just needed a break because it was like he had such a vision for the song. He wasn't about to put everyone's comfort ahead of that vision. Those are the people that I trust that are trying to tell stories that matter and are important and we need to hear for our healing. That's why I was like, "I got to have them in this very self-reflective chapter."
Sam says these super vulnerable things, in such a big voice, like: "I'm telling you that I'm actually really not okay. I'm not okay. I know I shouldn't be fine, but I'm not okay. Now I have to watch my ex go marry somebody else." Sam — they are going through a brand-new chapter of trying to be as Sam as possible. I do not think that's easy for a second and it's really inspiring to watch, beautiful to watch. I think it reminds the rest of us that we got a lot of work to do loving ourselves. I feel like this is my quest, I'm on my hero quest or whatever, and they're definitely my little guiding light posts. They're going through similar journeys or something.
Then Harry, he has such a true artistic sense. He's so committed to being an artist and I just feel like that. I remember someone saying in a condescending way, about how he has all these young female fans. He said something to the effect of he was just so proud that he was part of giving music to our future doctors and leaders. I was like, "F— yeah, that's my guy."
This album spans genres. What does country music mean to you, and where do you think this album fits in country music?
I mean, the truth is that country is a made-up thing to sell records to a segregated America back in the '30s. But here we are, and I think what has become important to me and what seems to be important to the other people that listen to country music, is I think it's something about continuing to be brutally, if not comically, brutally honest about where you're at.
That's what I think is so sweet when you hear classic country records about super macho cowboys talking about how they're just crushed. Some woman just crushed him and they're not even trying to hide it. They're just, "I got nothing, just tears." It's just that openness to talk about life because you know that you're struggling with it and everybody else is struggling with it. I know different people have different things that mean a lot — but for me it usually comes down to the story, the lyrics and the story. A lot of times in pop or popular music, the lyrics don't get the full weight that they could.
What’s it been like to promote and release an album in the pandemic?
I mean, honestly, it's been kind of nice because I can just do a bunch of stuff from my house, hang out with my kid, and it's not as sad to be traveling and trying to be away from her and my husband. So that part's been actually really nice. Maybe this is idealistic too, but I think it strips it back to that, anyone who's doing it right now, isn't doing it for the business part, we're doing it for the music. I've said this a million times, but music has been in every culture since the beginning of culture, because it is a human need. We need it for each other. We need it with each other and that shouldn't get superseded all the time by the profit and the business part of it.
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