Interview: Cam Talks “Till There’s Nothing Left” & Sophomore LP
Country music needs Cam. A consummate singer/songwriter with a flair for storytelling and attitude to burn, she stands out as one of the genre’s hottest new talents. All of those skills are on full display on “Till There’s Nothing Left.” The California native’s latest single is an instantly hummable, feel-good banger about being head over heels in love. It’s yet another tantalizing taste of Cam’s long-awaited sophomore LP, which has been in the can — with a couple of exceptions — since 2018.
I recently caught up with the “Burning House” hitmaker to discuss her intoxicating new single and the lengthy delay. (A label shakeup was the culprit). She also spoke about the hot-button issue in country music. Namely, the treatment of women. Cam addressed the fact that women are played on country radio in ever-decreasing numbers and put forward a series of acute observations. Other topics of conversation included her collaboration with Diplo and the prospect of future features. Get reacquainted with Cam in our Q&A below.
Are you excited by the (overwhelmingly) positive reaction to “Till There’s Nothing Left”?
Honestly, I don’t know how to say this in a way that doesn’t sound bad, but for the first album I was in my 20s and nervous and you hope everyone likes the music. With this album — I was more confident with my songwriting, singing and producing. I am so thrilled that everyone loves it, but also I just knew that they would because it’s so good. [Laughs]. I’m just so happy that we could enjoy it together.
Why did you decide to make it your next single?
It is really hard when you have a full album of songs that you love for different reasons, but that song just seemed to grasp people on the first listen. You know what I mean? You don’t have to be emotionally ready for it. You’re just like, “I’m here, I’m ready to dance.” Also, it’s really nice for me too as a new mom period. It’s really fun to just get into a song that’s so steamy and fun. I don’t know. It just lightens my mood. It’s a fun thing to have going on.
I’m sure there’s heavier stuff on the album.
Yes, of course. There’s definitely heavier stuff as in more conceptual and meaningful, which is wonderful. This song is still meaningful in a different way, but it’s just easy to move to. That’s I think the first thing you start doing as opposed to thinking about regrets or old lovers or whatever. It’s a little bit more on the romantic side too. It’s really just fun to have this one in there.
You have already done some interesting promo. Tell me about the flight.
That was my daughter’s, Lucy’s first flight. I handed out cute little gift bags that had earplugs and candy to all the passengers that were around, so they wouldn’t feel quite as upset when the baby started screaming, but she actually was completely good. She was totally quiet, so I looked like a genius mom. It was full-on luck but I’m hoping that we can keep that streak going.
When I spoke to you last in 2018, you said the album was pretty much done. It has been almost two years. Is it the same album or have you recorded new songs?
Since then, maybe two more songs have snuck their way on there. Everything was ready to go and what happened was… there was a label switch. It was a business thing that held up decisions like how to get it out and when to get it out. However, it was awesome to have the time like, “Okay, let’s go back in, let’s re-listen, make sure everything’s perfect. Are there any other songs? Go in and write with a couple of other people just to see.” Some of my favorite songs came out of that period too. You got to keep making lemonade from lemons.
It’s great that you were able to tinker with the album, but was there also a period of frustration?
Oh my god, all the time. I have it right now even. “Till There’s Nothing Left” is amazing but I can’t wait for you to hear the other stuff. It’s a game of patience too because it’s letting people discover it and find it and get to fall in love with this song and giving them time to do that because not everybody in the world hears it at the same time. So you got to let it grow for a little bit, and let people enjoy this being the song before you then eclipse it with the next one. It’s good to be patient, but yes it’s not the default setting for me, no.
Also, country music seems to move a little slower than other genres. Things take a while to build at radio.
Yes, so slow. Even the radio doesn’t like it. I think it’s slowly starting to change. With streaming, you can have different songs come out. I think people are a little more open to it. But yes, it used to be this one specific lifecycle of a song. That can be so tough as an artist to be like, “Well, I have all of this, but I’m waiting.”
I still love “Diane.” Is that still on the album?
Oh, yes. That one’s in. I love “Diane.” That one is also definitely a little bit intense to listen to once you start listening to the lyrics, but what a banger.
We touched on it last time, but there’s even more chatter about the attitude towards women in country music now. Have you noticed any significant changes?
I think people are aware that there’s a discrepancy now, whereas before I think they said, “No, that’s not really real.” There’s still some people who really don’t believe the numbers or think really are playing the best records. They think that it’s all just a normal business model, but more people are realizing that there’s an inherent bias, that’s obviously playing out. There are small steps that are happening to make space [for women] but you also feel a little bit of resentment coming from the other side too and people are not sure what the right solution is.
There are even women who are just tired of talking about it and don’t want a forced quota. Everyone is aware that the solutions are starting to come forward, but everyone is also a little bit frustrated like, “What do we do and how do we do it right?” So that it happens the right way and everyone feels good about it. You want it to be a change that the whole industry can embrace and we all can move forward into the next generation winning because that’s what’s really set all of us up to be making the best art and the best financial decisions for the industry.
I have noticed a lot more media coverage about it and artists appear to be a little more open about the topic.
There’s a little bit of a PR moment happening, which can be frustrating because I feel like it’s people that are not quite in industry but they think it’s going to sell a story. They’re not committed to really highlighting it in a way that’s really meaningful. This is more than what you’re asking for but I think that sometimes people on the [West] Coast or people that are a little bit more “progressive”… they like to feel better about themselves by saying, “Look, we aren’t as bad as country music, are we?”
This bias exists everywhere and you’re just seeing it play out in country music, but the same way that you need to address it in music — you need to address it in all industries. Sometimes I get a little frustrated with the way people cover it too because it’s a little shock and awe moment. At least we’re watching it arc towards the right thing.
What do you think the solution is?
With the GRAMMY Task Force and then also the ACM Diversity Task Force, I’ve been trying to educate myself and I wouldn’t say that I have the exact specifics because each industry is so specific in how, who are the players? Who are the partners? What are the policies? What’s your governance look like within your system? I would say the biggest overarching thing that feels important to have people understand is that diverse leadership and diverse membership make better decisions and those companies are more profitable.
That being proven, can help inform and help people respond in a way like, “Okay.” I don’t think you need to mandate things on an output level. If you have the right people in the room, like a diverse group of people in the room in powerful decision-making places or in your membership, if it’s a voting membership, you’re going to get good outcomes and that’s what you want. You don’t want to force people to go one way or another. You just want to make sure there are opportunities for everybody.
That’s what I have learned, but we definitely need discussions about lots of different solutions because the first solutions that come along are not going to be the best ones. You got to keep tweaking.
When I think about country legends, artists like Dolly Parton, Reba McEntire and The Judds spring to mind. Women seem to be very prominent in the genre back in the day. When did that start changing?
If you look at the data from some of the studies that have been happening with Annenberg and Women Want More and then Jayda Watson out of University of Ottawa, it shows that women have always had a lower percentage of the songs, maybe about 30 percent. But then come the 2000s… definitely, by 2010, we dropped to 15 percent and then 10 percent. We’ve never been 50-50, but recently there has been something depreciating those numbers. It’s like, “Yes. Yes, we’ve always been less represented but we’re currently seeing something that’s even more bizarre.”
I do also think that’s just our society is not set up by women for women. I do think for women to break through, you’ve got to be so good. When you do break through, that’s why it makes us look good because then when you do break through the references you’re making are outstanding. Those are not mediocre musicians. It’s a weird elite echelon that you are actually familiar with on a super-wide public level.
Those numbers are genuinely shocking.
I know. That’s where a lot of times people that are new to the subject, they’re like, “Well, it’s always been a little bit skewed.” It’s like, “No, not this bad.” That’s why it requires some thought and some action immediately because it literally is just continually going down every year from that small number. It’s crazy.
That’s really eye-opening. When I read over our last conversation, I realized that I had asked you about collaborating outside of the country bubble. Then the song with Diplo came along. Did “So Long” start off as your song?
Thank you. I wrote the second verse. That collaboration came to me. Sam Hunt actually wrote on that song and when it came to me I was like, “This sounds like something — gender pronouns were reversed — but it sounded like something that I would sing.” They did such a good job with the production. It wasn’t overdone and it still felt intimate, which is something that feels like me too. I’m just really lucky. When collaborations happen and they actually ring true to both parties, it’s a good feeling.
Do you have more collaborations on the horizon?
There are actually three collaborations on the new album but I can’t tell you what they are. I’m really excited for you to hear them. There’s definitely some upbeat stuff, some dance-y stuff.
Will we get the album this year?
Early summer is what I can tell you. It is coming soon, which is exciting!
Good luck with everything. I can’t wait to hear the album.
Thank you, so nice to talk to you again.