Bonnaroo Sundays are a struggle, to say the least. With the hot Tennessee sun beating down on your third, maybe fourth, maybe even fifth day of the festival, the motivation to start your day is usually lacking.
As the temperatures began to rise and the fight against afternoon lethargy began, we made our way behind the Which Stage to meet up with Cam prior to her Sunday afternoon set. As the door to her bus opened we were greeted by gust of invigorating air-conditioning, followed by a welcoming, bubbly, and confident Cam.
Her spirit was infectious and her energizing attitude brightened an otherwise laboring day.
Dressed in a flowing blouse, in her trademark yellow of course, and a pair of the most amazing jeans we have ever seen (sequined mermaid and sea themed), the California-born singer/songwriter sat down to have a chat about her artistry, her early years, and, of course, her favorite color yellow.
Thank you so much for your time today. We’re really looking forward to your set this afternoon. I just want to start off by talking about how your music is very storytelling. One thing I love is when artists can tell a story through their lyrics. Can you tell us what your creative process looks like to capture your personal stories into your music?
For “Burning House” that was a dream. Like, I really did have a dream. First I was telling my story to my co-writer and he’s like kind of like this, and he sang back ‘I had a dream about a burning house,’ and I was like ‘yeah, that’s it!’ So sometimes it’s pretty straightforward and other times it’ll be a catchphrase or something, but it always has to tap into something emotionally that makes me remember something pretty strong; remembering some kind of emotional memory. Maybe it’s because I have a background in Psychology research and love studying emotions, but if it doesn’t have that color to it then I don’t care about the song as much and it’s probably not going to make the album. For me, I have to be close with my co-writer so I can get a little deep into the stuff that’s personal.
Through your storytelling you get to show this side of you that is in fact so personal.
Just being a human being… the personal is something you just don’t share with a lot of people. Sometimes the stories can be very embarrassing and vulnerable. So when you do share it in the privacy of a songwriting room and then you start playing it, like today in front of thousands of people at Bonnaroo, it is a bizarre jump from a very personal conversation and then sharing it with all those people. To be honest, it is not comfortable at all, and the only thing that makes it worthwhile at all is…Ya know, I’d much rather stay protected and not have these very personal stories out there. Like tell other people stories, but when you get fans, or just anyone who listens to the songs, and they come up to you and they hug you and they basically know how you felt. Like they say ‘I love someone with an addiction problem,’ and maybe it’s not the same exact story, but they have that same feeling, that same nerve that got hit. Thist is one of the most rewarding things that I found in life; how music can connect people on such a deeper level that it just reminds everyone that we’re all one humankind.
Do you think that this reward is what gets you over that hump of hesitation to put yourself out there?
Absolutely. I think in the beginning you don’t realize the big picture. You’re just dreaming about lots of people hearing your songs, but you’re also like, ‘eh, I don’t know how much of that is actually going to end up happening.’ And then when you get to the point where people are actually hearing it, it’s terrifying but at the same time you get so much back from them [the fans] that the next time you go into your music, like right now I’m working on my second album, and you’re writing things you’re like, ‘oh s*** people are going to hear this but, that’s kind of cool that people will actually hear this.’ It’s a mixed bag but that’s the part that definitely keeps me going.
And as you keep on going, you have a lot going on with your career and your life, what keeps you grounded these days?
For me, grounded means when you’re traveling a lot and your home is like on a bus and you don’t have a steady spot to be, which I think helps create who you are, like the culture of your community, your everyday routine, the coffee shop you go to, and the gas station you go to, all that stuff…the people you meet with and talk to everyday, those people become part of your personality. So when you’re traveling all the time, in my personal experience of how life is right now, it’s affected by all the people sleeping in the bunks around me and it’s affected by these really rare snapshot experiences of all these people and fans loving the songs. It isn’t a normal experience. And then when you get home from the road, that is not how it goes. You are doing your laundry, people are not screaming at you, wanting to hug you and stuff like that. So it’s a big shift. For me, the great thing is that everybody who is a part of this, we’re all really good friends and the band started creating music years ago, and everybody has either played or written on the album or produced on the album. So we keep a very chill group. I think just kind of staying real with the people on the road, because once you get home it’s easy to be grounded. It’s like a reality check at home.
You mentioned your band and how you have been working on music for many years already. You all worked really hard to get here today and have come a long way from using Kickstarter to create your album. What advice would you have for someone who is grinding away, similar to you had in the early years?
Oh man, it’s tough because in the beginning you look at the stage in think I can do that. You see a person doing it and you think I could do that too. And then you get that fire and you’re hustling so hard and then there’s going to be basically years of things not happening. You don’t have enough money and you’re going to have a breakdown every other week. Then you’re going to think your stuff is really good, show it to someone who really matters and they’re going to tell you that it’s not good enough. But that starts to weed out people in the business and it will make you question if you really want to do this, because you need to pick your ego up off the ground make your work better do it again. It’s good that it’s tough because it keeps the right people going. People who think they could get in and get out, that’s just impossible, there’s no way. So that part’s good, but I would just say first, know all parts of your business because you’re not just making art for yourself. You are now saying that you want to make art for lots of people and it is a business. If you don’t understand where your money is going other people will. Don’t sign anything, get a good lawyer, understand all the business stuff, and then surround yourself with people who understand your vision and believe in you. It’s going to be hard in the beginning but don’t settle for relationships with managers and people that don’t get what you’re doing. All that time you spent hustling and creating…this is your life and this is your career, and this is it. Keep you high standard.
That’s some great advice.
So, you wear yellow…
A lot! And of course wearing yellow today and looking fabulous at Bonnaroo. So…what is with the color yellow?
So I’m from California, and basically when I came to Nashville a lot was different including the weather. I miss the sunshine and I miss the coast. With wearing yellow I get to keep this sunny thing with me everywhere. Honestly people smile at me more when I’m in yellow and they treat me sweeter when I’m in yellow.
It’s a happy color.
Exactly. And there’s this ‘too cool’ mentality with artists and especially when the country industry tries to do this thing for female artists where they make them really sexy and stuff. I’m anti that an anti the ‘too cool’ business, so anything that’s kid friendly that’s what I’m about.
You did mention writing some new music, are we going to hear some new tracks from you today?
You’re going to hear some songs that are not on the album. Some of them may end up on the next album but, these are songs, especially for a Bonnaroo crowd, that makes me really excited. Sometimes when you play country music festivals the mainstream country kind of gets split into this American folky throwback stuff and then this like broken pop country. When you do those types of festivals, as an artist you tend to get lumped into the grouping of whatever you set matches. I think my songwriting and the way the band plays, we play a little bit differently and we’re not trying to do the same thing everyone else is doing. We have all these songs that we play on tour and when we’re at festivals we play with the notion of how far can we stretch things. So today we’re going all over the place. We’re going to play a song that’s basically metal country, and we’re playing a song that’s like a throwback beautiful hymn. I actually didn’t even write this song, but we heard it at the Bluebird Cafe, and no one’s ever played the song, and songs can show up at the Bluebird and they’ll be amazing and no one will ever cut the song. So we’re bringing it to all these people here at Bonnaroo and showing them all the different degrees of how country can be.
It all started when a much younger Jackie dove into her parents’ record collection, grabbed that trippy Magical Mystery Tour album, and played “Strawberry Fields” over and over again until it was engrained into her soul. She grew up on the dreams and stories of Simon and Garfunkel, “Bleeker Street” being one of her favorites, the seduction of The Doors, Van Morrison, because “Brown Eyed Girl” is definitely her song, and the likes of Jefferson Airplane, The Who, Jimi Hendrix…you get the picture. It may not show on the outside, but Jackie has a hippie heart, and that reflects in her musical tastes today. While some of her favorites may or may not be jam bands, her taste in music feeds into many genres. From alternative, Brit, and indie rock - OK, maybe all rock - to pop, to rap, to electronic, she loves it all. As a northerner, she thought she would never understand country until she found herself on a Georgia farm in cowboy boots watching Luke Bryan shake it for her- yeah, she got that. She is a chronic wanderluster, she doesn't believe in guilty pleasures, enjoys a great Moscow Mule, and is an absolute music festival fanatic- you’ll find her wherever the music takes her.