In 2015, Cam lit up the country-music charts with her album Untamed—and she may very well do so again next year, when she releases a new album.
In the meantime, she’s bringing her small-scale West Coast tour to Pappy and Harriet’s on Thursday, Dec. 7.
Born in Lafayette, a Bay Area suburb, she decided to pursue a music career after attaining a degree in psychology from University of California, Davis, and working in research labs.
During a recent phone interview, Cam discussed her new single, “Diane.”
“It’s basically the mirror image of the Dolly Parton song ‘Jolene,’” Cam said. “In this story, the other woman is coming forward saying that the guy she is with—she didn’t realize that he was married. When she finds out he’s married, she goes to the guy’s wife, tells the truth and apologizes. But it’s all wrapped up in this kind of ABBA-meets-Fleetwood Mac, dance-music, up-tempo vibe. You’re kind of dancing along and singing, ‘Diane, I’m really sorry I didn’t know he was your man,’ and you’re having a lot of fun, and then it’s, ‘Oops, wait. What is she saying?’”
With two albums under her belt, Cam said the upcoming album was easier to record—and that she had more resources to work with.
“There’s always the challenge of art—when you get in your own head and … you go through the process, and suddenly everything you have is horrible,” she said. “Sometimes it’s just wading through inner turmoil to figure out what you want, in terms of the process, and it was a lot easier this time around. When I first started in 2010, I was still doing psychology research, and when I first went into music, I started from scratch and was still learning how to write what I wanted, and how my voice should sound. I did it all on a Kickstarter budget.
“This (new) album, after winning a Grammy nomination for the last one, I have a bigger budget and things like strings on this album. I recorded it at the Capitol building in Los Angeles. The songwriters who wrote ‘Girl Crush’ are on it, and it was much easier.”
While songwriters helped with the album, Cam said she writes the vast majority of her material herself.
“It’s a very rare instance where I don’t (write all of it), and that may happen on one song on this next album. But I generally always write it,” she said. “For me, it has to touch base with the emotional part … by writing about the experiences that define you. It has to touch you with some kind of emotion behind it. That’s worth all the work and effort that goes into it. I have to feel pretty intense about it, and that includes me feeling very vulnerable when I’m writing.”
Speaking of songwriting: Cam wrote a song on Sam Smith’s new album.
“I felt like, sitting down with Sam, he already heard some of the new album and liked it, but he knew what he was going into and said, ‘I want to write with her,’” she said. “We sat down, and it was like there was a similar concept that’s floating between you, and you both identify it. If you don’t speak the same language or you’re not on the same wavelength, then it doesn’t work.”
As a Californian, Cam said she struggled when she first arrived in Nashville.
“People definitely have a way of doing things … and tell you, ‘That’s the way it’s done,’” she said. “… Sometimes, when you get into Nashville as a new artist, people are like, ‘Here’s the big-hit producer; here are the big-hit musicians you have to use; and here’s the big-hit writer!’ You just kind of get pushed into the factory line, but then in the end, you get music that sounds like everyone else’s, and it feels like it could be replaceable.”
Cam is currently touring smaller West Coast venues. She said she wants to show appreciation for the West Coast while introducing songs from the upcoming album in intimate venues.
“I lived in Portland at one point in my life. I was raised in the Bay Area, (lived in) Los Angeles at one point, and I got married in Pioneertown. These are all places that I love,” she said. “For me, bringing a show to an intimate place after playing big shows—it’s really cool to be in a venue where you can see people and their faces at an intimate level. That’s all I’ve ever wanted to do in my life: play music in the places where I want to play and for the people I want to play it for.”
Cam will perform 9 p.m., Thursday, Dec. 7, at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, in Pioneertown. Tickets are $20. For tickets or more information, call 760-365-5956, or visit pappyandharriets.com.