After her debut single “Burning House” blew up in the country music world, singer-songwriter Cam has not slowed down. Upon completion of multiple tours with acts such as Dan and Shay and Dierks Bentley, Cam is heading out on her first US headlining tour. The Burning House tour comes through Philly to play the Trocadero Theatre Oct. 29. We had the opportunity to speak with Cam in advance of the show about her career, success and upcoming tour.
The Triangle: How has your career changed since the success of “Burning House?”
Cam: January to June was a lot of promotional stuff. When you first make your album you live in a studio for a few years, basically, and nobody wants to call you because they don’t know who you are. For about five months I was visiting radio stations, promoting the first single. All of a sudden, it was kind of by accident, but I played the [Grand Ole] Opry and I played “Burning House” as the second song. DJ Bobby Bones was like, “Hey, when you played the Opry you played this other song. Would you play that on my show?” and we just played a verse and a chorus and the song blew up. ITunes shot up, everybody started reacting and Sony, which major corporations usually don’t do, turned on a dime and was all, “yeah, we’ll put that out!” From there it just took off which was because a lot of times, in the music business, everyone likes to plan everything out. It was just so cool to have [“Burning House”] take off on it’s own. Then in December, the album came out and I was nominated for a Grammy. It was kind of quick turnaround, but normal everyday life feels the same. I still feel the same when I’m hustling and running around to play shows. But now when I play shows, everyone sings back to me. All of the words. So it’s just been a really cool thing. A lot of times you’ll make your art for yourself and you do it to make yourself happy, but it is really nice when it resonates with other people and they have stories that feel the same in their own life, so that makes you feel less alone.
TT: This is your first headlining tour, so what is it like to be the main act versus being a support act?
Cam: It’s awesome. You get to do whatever you want to do, you get to set up the stage however you want, you’re not playing at 6 p.m. when it’s still bright out and people are just filling in, you get to help with all the lights and everything. It’s like everything you’ve dreamed, you get to do. We get to put together this really cool look, we get to play as long as we want and have cool VIP meet and greet experiences for people. It’s kind of like the world is your oyster when you get to do your own show, which is super fun. It’s a great thing for people who like doing and creating their own thing, since it’s basically like throwing a big party.
TT: What can the fans expect from you on the tour?
Cam: They definitely can expect it’s going to be high energy, look cool and sort of fantasy-esque. I tell lots of stories and talk a lot, which is fun because when people come to my shows, they like hearing the stories behind the song as it ends up being we all have the same story. It helps connect everybody. It’s cool but it’s also a dramatic enough scene with lighting and sound that you get to just forget about life for a hot second.
TT: When you started out as a musician, did you ever anticipate having this much success?
Cam: No. My first “career” was doing psychology research in college, as that’s what I studied. After college I did research jobs and labs and had a couple of things published and thought that would be where I was going. I realized that there are a lot of ups and downs with every job, and it’s not because of the science but more of just how things work, and it wasn’t for me. I had asked my professor, “What should I do?” to try and figure out what path I should take. I had only dreamed of being a professional musician. Her response was, “Picture yourself at 80 years old and looking back on your life. What would you regret having missed out on: psychology or music?” And I was kind of like, “Well, that’s some deep shit.” I went into it knowing that I just had to do it for myself, and I didn’t expect what was to come. I mean, I hoped people would care what I was making, and I’m definitely a very determined person so I kind of set my sights on things like being nominated for a Grammy, and you say that stuff but you really don’t ever think it’s going to happen. I think last year when I saw my name on the Grammy CD compilation, I was just like “holy crap.” It’s totally wild.
TT: Going off of that, what was it like to be nominated for a Grammy at such an early point in your career?
Cam: We grew up watching that every year and my mom would always buy the album, and it just feels like a completely impossible thing. You know when you’re watching TV and it’s like, “Wow, I can never be that person on TV,” since you’re just sitting there watching it. But now it’s like, “Holy shit, I crossed over.” It’s a whole other world over there. It shouldn’t be everything or the reason you make your music. But it feels very validating, and in an industry that is so bumpy, unstable and has a lot of doubt built into it, it’s nice to have that kind of positive moment where you get recognized. My whole little gang and I definitely celebrated getting nominated.
TT: Didn’t you present an award too?
Cam: I did!
TT: What was that like?
Cam: It was awesome! It’s just that there’s so many famous people. I was backstage and Adele would run by, or Rihanna, who was supposed to perform but didn’t, kept running by, and it’s like, how? I guess I’m not cool enough yet for it to feel real. I presented the award with Lieutenant Dan from “Forrest Gump.” Like, get out of here. He was all, “Let me get a picture with you!” And it was just crazy to be in this room with people you look up to. You appreciate them, and they’ve all worked so hard for a lot of years. It’s a really cool thing to be all in one spot at once.
TT: Going back to the touring idea, what’s the best part about performing live?
Cam: The first thing you do is get really nervous, which is important because it shows you still care what’s going on, but what I love is when you have moments in your song built in that are meant as punchlines to make the crowd laugh, or a moment when you pause and they all kind of hold their breath. It’s just really cool because everyone is there with you. You think that performers can’t see you when you’re in the audience. I remember dancing and singing along and you feel like they can’t see you, but we can totally see you. Every single person. Maybe sometimes we focus above you to not get distracted, but we totally can see you. When I look out and see everyone singing the words to “Burning House,” and I can see it in their eyes they’re feeling the same thing I felt when i went through that story in my real life. Everyone is on the same vibe. I don’t know anything in the world that can do that to so many people all at once. Those three minutes are like a very spiritual experience for an artist.
TT: For people who may not specifically know a lot of your music, why should they come out and see a show of yours?
Cam: I think they should come out because it’s visually cool, the sounds are amazing, it’s great country songwriting and the production is done by the guys who worked for people like P!nk, Taylor Swift, Bruno Mars and OneRepublic. It’s just a really cool mixture of sounds. You will definitely like some aspect of what’s going on. The live band is insane; I’ve been playing with these guys for five years now, and a lot of times, live music is a bunch of tracks, more like karaoke with music blasting out of a speaker and someone singing along. I always feel cheated when I go to shows like that, because I could’ve sat at home and heard the same sounds from my stereo without drunk people around me. My show is more like real music in real time with lots of hit sounds coming out of the speakers. The sounds are all getting triggered which means you’re actually playing. For anyone who likes that part of it, it’s rewarding. I think it’s just a cool little journey we all go on together, so I vote that you come.
TT: To wrap everything up, when you started making music, what’s the one thing you wish you knew before getting into it professionally?
Cam: The music part of it. I think the business part is its own other story. I think you just have to remember that. This goes for whoever in whatever business, but whenever there is something “set up” or that sounds like a rule, it was just made up by somebody else. You don’t have to do the same thing. There’s really no absolute rule and that’s the thing that’s important. There’s no one that has all the answers, there’s no one in history that did it first and that’s why you have to do it. Just do your own thing and play your own game. Just don’t listen to those who say “oh, that’s dumb” or “you should do it this way.” Listen to people who encourage you and say, “What are you working on? That’s awesome! Let’s go make our own f-cking party.” I think that’s the hardest thing to remember when you’re starting out.