Since it was released in October, Cam’s The Otherside has wowed critics and fans alike with its smarts and heart, an album full of hit-single material that coheres into an impressive artistic statement as a whole. Today she debuts a performance video of the blistering title track here at American Songwriter.
Cam spoke to us about the song, which she co-wrote with Hillary Lindsey, Tyler Johnson and, before his death, Avicii.
“Nashville seems to draw in a lot of collaborators outside of genre moments, and this was one of those,” Cam remembers. “Tim (Bergling, Avicii’s real name) was in Nashville working on stuff for his project. Tyler, Hillary and I went to the studio and sat with him. He was playing this riff on the keyboard over and over again. It ended up being a master class in songwriting. He was relentless. He was going to get what he was there for in the vision that he had. It was really inspiring, but at the time, it was really frustrating. I remember I took a break to get out of the room and thought, ‘Oh my gosh, what is it that we’re trying to find?’”
But Cam later came to realize the genius in Avicii’s methods, in particular the way that he coached her through her vocals on the track. “I loved that song,” Cam says. “That anger that you can tap into. It’s a vengeful kind of song, wanting to see somebody else feel the pain that you’re feeling. When Tim started putting out some stuff and he didn’t use that song, I thought maybe this is the chance to put the song on my album. I started working on it. Unfortunately, we lost Tim and he didn’t get to be a part of the final stages of putting it together. It was a big inspiration to get it done perfectly, because he was a genius and a perfectionist, and he would have settled for nothing less. It was a lot of work to try and get that song perfect, which is work that I am proud of.”
It’s not a song that pulls any punches, which was part of the lure for Cam. “I think at the time we were writing it in that vengeful space,” she says of the song’s creation. “What’s great about music is the more specific you make it to really capture and describe one feeling, you’re almost tapping into a subconscious, because a lot more things come out. For me, I don’t even see sometimes till later. With perspective I’ll say, ‘Oh, I see what I was tapping into there.’ It becomes relevant to things in your life. There’s a reason that theme was present then and still playing itself out for a little while after that. I like touching on the anger part of it too. You also get to question is that anger helpful? Is it justified? Whether it is or it isn’t, it’s really fun to have a song where you could be the person to say, ‘Yeah, fuck you.’”
Cam also began to see parallels between the lyrics and what she had undergone in the music industry. “I loved it, not just it being a vengeful song that comes as you open your eyes to a situation that you didn’t want to see before, but also the transformative theme of ‘The Otherside,’ which is why I titled the album that,” she explains. “This whole past five years since the first album and ‘Burning House’ (her massive 2015 single) success, it’s been five years of a lot of twists and turns in the industry and personally for me to get to this point. This song means a lot to me because of all that. It definitely is a symbol for me of growth in a lot of different ways.”
On top of that, the song tied in beautifully to the themes of transition and letting go of the past that were informing other tracks on the record. “This whole album was written over such a long period of time,” Cam says. “But there are certain connecting threads in the chapters of your life. This chapter was definitely the world isn’t exactly how you thought it was. And as those old ideas fall apart for you, it’s going to be painful and you’re going to be angry at other people and you’re going to be angry at yourself. And then you’re going to have to make a choice. Are you just going to be angry and jaded and that’s the end of the story? The entire album addresses that. And then the last track of the album (‘Girl Like Me’) says no. It’s a decision to try and fall in love with the world again, just seeing it a little bit more clearly.”
Although Cam can’t tour the album right now, this video release is one way to bring its music to her fans. “I’m so proud of this album,” she says. “It’s funny. With the first album, I was so nervous about how people would react. And this time I’m so comforted by how proud I am of what I put together. Obviously, I can’t see people face to face and watch them screaming the lyrics. But from the press response and people’s response on social media, even though it’s one step removed from being human to human, I feel like I did the job. I love to being able to share this. It’s fun to be able to give this song its little moment.”