If the cruel year of 2020 has taught Cam anything, it’s to prioritize the things that mean the most to her, from family and friends to the daily decisions she now makes as not only a wife and a mother, but also as one of the most innovative music makers of our time.
It’s a crucial and complex shift that she explains rather simply.
“I have way less ‘give a fuck’ these days,” Cam says in an interview with American Songwriter while she self-quarantined with her husband, Adam Weaver, and baby daughter, Lucy, in the days after COVID-19 began its hold on the world. “Things I used to worry about, I now don’t give it a second thought. I’m much less afraid of expressing myself. I’m quicker to say, ‘nope.’ I only have a certain amount of time and I don’t want to spend time on that. I tell people things like it is. I know what I want.”
And what she has wanted and worked on for the past three years is an album filled with music that can only materialize when a woman grows up in every way imaginable.
“When I first started out in music, I was so new and unsure about just about everything,” says Cam, who burst onto the country music scene with the lyrically apocalyptic 2015 hit “Burning House,” which still remains the best-selling country song by a female solo artist over the past five years. “I spent a lot of time wondering if people would accept me and if I was good enough.”
Inside, she knew she was.
So in 2017, she released the global-favorite “Diane,” which many referred to as a modern-day “Jolene.” The next year, Cam asked to be separated from her label, Sony Nashville, whose operations, she says, were not in line with her values. She went and toured internationally, co-wrote with Sam Smith and opened for Harry Styles at the legendary Ryman Auditorium in Nashville.
And she grew up.
And she grew confident.
And in that growth, a new album materialized in the form of Otherside.
“It’s been a long road with this album, whether I wanted it that way or not,” the somewhat genre-less artist explains. “It’s been amazing to have the time to work on it and perfect it. When I got the final mixes, I was like, ‘oh wow.’ I feel like I did what I wanted to do, and it sounds the way I wanted it to sound, and it feels the way I wanted it to feel. I just had such a better understanding of myself this time around. Instead of saying that, ‘I hope they like this,’ I’m saying that, ‘I made what I wanted and I know they are going to like it.’ So yeah, it feels really good right now.”
Featuring cuts such as the excruciatingly painful “What Goodbye Means” and the quite romantic “Like a Movie,” Otherside was written in Los Angeles, Nashville and New York, utilizing collaborators/executive producers Tyler Johnson (Harry Styles, Sam Smith) and Grammy-winner Jeff Bhasker (Kanye West, Bruno Mars).
“I got to work with some amazing people, but I’m not the type that goes out and gets whoever wrote the biggest hit last year so I can work with them,” Cam says. “I don’t like leaning on people just because they made other hits. I was lucky enough to have success simply by being different the first time, so really that reinforces my belief that I can now do whatever I want.”
Offering listeners a musical kaleidoscope of sounds and textures, each song on Otherside shines brightly on its own. That’s something that Cam — who once aspired to be a justice on the Supreme Court — specifically set out to accomplish.
“Every song got its own production on this album,” she explains. “I used the whole color wheel on this album. No song sounds the same. Every song sounds the way it should sound.”
One thing that has yet to change is Cam’s tendency to still feel a tad uneasy about the craft of songwriting itself.
“Writing is difficult for me, not because I’m not good at it, but because it’s a time when I have to be very vulnerable,” she says. “I mean, I go into some songwriting sessions and my face actually gets hot because I’m so nervous what I’m going to say. Is it good enough? Should I say it? And can I really say it out loud?”
On the sexy lead single “Till There’s Nothing Left,” for example, Cam was left to wonder how far was too far to go lyrically.
“Me and my husband will go drive and have a quickie in the back of the car,” she laughs. “Why am I embarrassed to sing about that? All these dudes are talking about this in every song. Sex is ours too.”
And on Otherside, she makes these sorts of statements louder than ever not only for her benefit but for her fans’ benefit, as they have been thirsty for new music from the California native.
“I hope they hear their stories in this album,” Cam concludes. “I mean, I remember the days when I was a senior in high school listening to The Indigo Girls. Through those songs, someone could say things that I didn’t know how to express. It makes you feel seen and makes your life a little bit easier.”
And for now, Cam says there is no better feeling than that.