NASHVILLE, Tennessee (AP) – Country singer Cam’s five-year journey between albums was an evolution in recognizing harsh truths about a music industry that had bruised her a little but didn’t break her.
The California-born singer with cinematic influences immediately made an impression in 2015 with her dark horse double-platinum ballad ‘Burning House’. Doors opened for her, including getting a Grammy nomination, invitations to tour and write with British pop star Sam Smith, and open to Tim McGraw and Faith Hill. She became an outspoken advocate for industry diversity in inclusion task forces at The Recording Academy and the Academy of Country Music.
But two years ago, Cam decided to walk away from Sony Nashville’s imprint Arista, citing different values, but staying under Sony on the RCA Record label in New York.
She hasn’t publicly addressed the split, but she alludes to this professional break in the song “Girl Like Me” on her new record “The Otherside,” which will be out Friday.
Cam wrote the song with hit country writer Natalie Hemby after watching the documentary series “Surviving R. Kelly” about long-standing sexual assault allegations against R&B artist R. Kelly, who was still signed to her label at the time. . Although he was later dropped from RCA Records after the doc came out, Cam struggled with feelings it brought out about women’s experiences in the music industry.
“At some point, your dreams had to be broken or your trust broken,” said Cam. ‘They’re going to give you up and you give them up and everything that happened to me. And then I had to find a way to truly fall in love with the music business again. “
For the new record, she has a collaboration agreement with RCA and the Nashville label Triple Tigers, a spirited company that has scored several # 1 country radio hits with their indie country artists Scotty McCreery and Russell Dickerson.
Cam said she was looking for a label partner who was more selective and cared more about his artists.
“They don’t throw a lot of stuff out and see what sticks,” said Cam, whose first name is Camaron Ochs. “That courage to do things in a new way really appealed to me.”
“I think she’s light years ahead of any other artist,” said Norbert Nix, president of Triple Tigers. “I don’t think it’s a risk for the radio to play this artist. I think it is an advantage for the radio to play this artist. ”
With the help of a circle of hit pop and country stylists including Jack Antonoff, Harry Styles, Lori McKenna, Hemby and Smith, Cam’s new record showcases a sophisticated storyteller and vocal powerhouse unique to everything on country radio.
The title track, a carefully crafted country dance track, was co-written with acclaimed Swedish dance artist Avicii, whose real name was Tim Bergling. They co-wrote it with songwriters Hillary Lindsey and Tyler Johnson, with the intention of putting the song on one of Avicii’s records.
“He was such a perfectionist,” said Cam. “He sat there while I was recording vocals, like in the room, which I haven’t had anyone do before.”
Unfortunately, Avicii was not told the finished song, which was produced by Jeff Bhasker, Douglas Showalter and Johnson, before his death in 2018 at the age of 28.
“It’s sad because he was such a genius,” said Cam. “This song took many hours, many hours to get it perfect. It felt like the Tim thing to spend a lot of time making it perfect. “
Cam and Smith were already well acquainted with each other’s songs and vocals after Smith helped introduce Cam to the international audience when she toured a leg of Smith’s Thrill of It All tour in 2018. A song they co-wrote, ‘Palace’ , was also used in an iPhone TV commercial.
She knew what she was getting into when she heard Smith’s easily recognizable voice on the demo of “Happier For You,” a melancholic country song that matched Cam’s aesthetic of moody and introspective country tunes.
“It’s lightning fast, but it’s also so fragile and it’s so beautiful to let that big voice tell you something so soft,” said Cam. “It was like vocal gymnastics to get everything right, which was so much fun.”
But the most recent career reveal for Cam was more about the so-called work-life balance that new moms face. Cam and husband Adam Weaver welcomed their first child, Lucy, in December.
“I feel like the balance of motherhood is a joke. That’s not real, ”Cam said from her home in Nashville, while her mother-in-law babysitted downstairs so she could do interviews for her new album. “But I still feel like I might get there.”