Interview: Cam Talks First Headlining Tour, Her Whirlwind 2016 and More
On Thursday (Oct. 27), Cam kicked off her first-ever headlining tour in Chicago. Dubbed the Burning House Tour, after her Grammy-nominated single of the same name, the 12-city trek is giving the California-raised musician — who spent 2016 on the road with Brad Paisley and Dierks Bentley — the opportunity to take the reins and present the songs from her debut album, 2015's Untamed, in more intimate venues.
"You know when you're young and you and your friends would gather all the adults, and you'd make them watch a dance you made up?" Cam told The Boot with a laugh one day before beginning her trek. "I get to make how it looks. I've made how it sounds.
"Especially the fact that, December 11, I believe, will be when Untamed has been out a year — so now we're really good at [playing this music]," she adds with another laugh. "Everything sounds and looks so unique, too. That's very important."
Performing in small clubs will be a different experience than what Cam's been used to in recent months, however. For one thing, she'll be able to play longer sets than she did as an opener on Paisley's Crushin' It World Tour and Bentley's Somewhere on a Beach jaunt; she'll also be performing for people who are familiar with her music, and coming specifically to see her.
"The cool thing is, everyone comes expecting my show, which is actually going to be one of the harder things to turn off," she admits, affecting a big-concert stage banter voice to illustrate what she means: "'Everyone, my name's Cam! Nice to meet you!' [Instead,] I'm going to have to say, 'Hi, you know who I am. And you actually know these songs.'"
That said, being able to give fans a more detailed look at "the stories behind the songs" is also something to which Cam's looking forward.
"Everyone gets to feel the lyrics a lot more; you get to dive in a little deeper," she explains. "Like when you first meet people, and you shake their hand, and they say, 'What do you do?' You have the set answer. And then now this is like, 'We're closer friends. We've had a couple of times hanging out,' and you get to start talking about things that mean something to you, and you both are on the same page. It's a little bit deeper of a relationship."
There's been a lot of award shows and a lot of icons and people that I look up to that I've gotten to meet and sing with. I mean, honestly it makes me feel like I've lived like a whole lifetime this last year.
The Burning House Tour caps a big year for Cam: Besides her Grammy nod, she nabbed four ACM Awards nominations (and performed at the event) and has hobnobbed with some of country's biggest names, dueting with Vince Gill on his album Down to My Last Bad Habit, singing "Like Jesus Does" with Eric Church at Red Rocks and interviewing Dolly Parton. Ask Cam to put into words what her 2016 has been like, however, and she grows thoughtful.
"Man," she starts. "I should be trying to do that more often, because it helps let it sink in for a second. No, I don't quite know how to do it, except there's been a lot of award shows and a lot of icons and people that I look up to that I've gotten to meet and sing with.
"I mean, honestly it makes me feel like I've lived like a whole lifetime this last year," Cam continues, laughing. "All this stuff doesn't change who you are, and it doesn't like make your music better or worse. I mean, reality is still reality, and you're still enjoying that on that end of it. But those crazy moments are like you got a little key to go into this special world, where you're going to do things I literally didn't think would happen to me. It's still very mind-blowing that I'm the person that [gets] to do all those things."
Working out "Like Jesus Does" with Church — "my idol," Cam calls him — on his bus is a particularly fond memory: "I totally melted. I was trying to be so cool," she remembers with a laugh. "The coolest thing is, he just is himself.
"Dolly Parton was incredible, too," Cam adds. "Both of them are very smart people. They have a super-hard work ethic. They know what they want, and they they are very true to what they want to do."
This "stick to your guns" aspect of Church and Parton's personalities — and how this perspective has boosted their respective careers — especially resonates with Cam.
"It's so funny, the people that aren't so tied up in the success part of it end up being successful, because they're doing something that's so much more meaningful," she muses. "It's not just about being commercially successful; it's about providing something that changes people's lives or heals them. If you think about the songs they've put out over the years — those songs have definitely saved people's lives. So it's a really cool thing to be around icons like that and then just humbly sneak away back into the shadows."
At Wednesday's (Nov. 2) 2016 CMA Awards ceremony — at which Cam's "Burning House" is nominated for Song of the Year and Music Video of the Year — she's excited to see "some of the people that have shaped" country music and also look back at the past year.
"What I love about awards shows is that it's kind of like your school picture," Cam says. "We've all been working hard to put out cool music for everybody. And it's really nice to just have a moment to say, like, 'Man, look at all the great tunes that have been birthed, and all the wonderful music.' It's a nice time to stop and reflect on all the hard work put in."
It's so funny, the people that aren't so tied up in the success part of it end up being successful, because they're doing something that's so much more meaningful. It's not just about being commercially successful; it's about providing something that changes people's lives or heals them.
Speaking of hard work: Cam is also working on the follow-up project to Untamed.
"We have lots of songs, but I think we're still pulling together what we want it to be," she confesses. "I don't know how to explain it — creative process isn't exactly linear."
Her vision for the record is already set in stone, however: "It's really important for me that this next album is as real as I can make it," Cam says. "I want to be lyrically very honest and very vulnerable, which is not an easy thing to do. And then on top of it, I love having the sounds of it be familiar and heartwarming and pull on the heartstrings, and still also push people a little bit — to try and make new sounds for them to listen to. It's a lot to figure out with your art."
Cam also says that she's taking her time with the album and isn't going to release it "until it's really, really ready," at a time yet to be determined.
"It's really important me to make sure that it is perfect. The last album, I made before I was signed — so I did it very ninja[-like]," she says lightly. "On our own. And it's really important me to keep that that isolation a little bit, just to make sure I'm making something unique.
"But it's really awesome to now have a record label behind you," she adds. "[And] it's a little bit easier, because you know how to do things better. So I'm really positive that this album is going to be one of the best — if not the best — of my career."
At the end of the day, Cam is also "super grateful" that her long-time supporters — "my main gang, my tribe of people that have made this music happen" — have stuck by her during the "craziness" of her year.
"When we're doing these cool shows with these crazy artists, and doing award shows and stuff, it's my same people that were there when we were doing a Kickstarter and no one wanted to sign me because I was a girl," she says with a laugh. "It's the same group. That makes it feel even better."