Cam: A Conversation with Country’s Newest Star
By Nick Coulson
Meet Cam, the singer/songwriter taking the country music scene by storm. She is a multi-nominated artist who just returned from her honeymoon and is gearing up for her first headlining tour, the Burning House Tour, which is named after her of her biggest hit. The tour kicks off in Chicago at Joe’s on Weed Street (940 W. Weed St.) on Oct. 27.
Unlike artists who have grown up on the stage, 31-year-old Camaron Ochs, or Cam as she is known in the music world, had a different journey to the country music scene. She was working in a college psychology research lab when she says she hit a wall. A professor gave her life-changing advice: “Picture yourself at 80,” he said. “What would you regret not having done more: psychology or music?”
“I had always loved music, but I didn’t know anyone who was a musician or who made money off of music,” Cam said. “It seemed like a reckless thing to go into, but I had loved it so much.”
Following a move to Los Angeles, Cam met and began working with songwriter/producer Tyler Johnson (Taylor Swift, Pink). Under the watchful eye of Grammy-winning producer and songwriter Jeff Bhasker (Fun., Mark Ronson), Johnson and Cam co-wrote songs, including “Maybe You’re Right,” which ended up on Miley Cyrus’ album, “Bangerz.”
After moving to Nashville in 2013, Cam began recording an album, which was financed through Kickstarter, with the help of Johnson and Bhakser. One of the songs cut from the album, “Down this Road,” caught the attention of a Nashville radio programmer who began playing the song at his station even though Cam was unsigned at the time.
With the airwave boost and Bhakser’s help, Cam found herself in front of Sony Music’s CEO, Doug Morris. Morris fell for Cam’s talent when she auditioned, and Cam went on to sign with both the country and pop labels of Sony.
Work quickly got under way on the newly signed artist’s debut EP. The four-song EP, “Welcome to Cam Country,” was released in early 2015, and included “Burning House,” the song that would launch Cam’s career. However, that was not the song selected to be her first single. It was a slower song — which Cam said didn’t seem fitting to release in the middle of the summer.
“It was a great song and a very personal song, but it didn’t sound like a commercial hit,” Cam said.
Cam performed “Burning House” during her debut performance at the Grand Ole Opry, and it impressed radio DJ Bobby Bones, who had her on his show the next morning. Bones asked her to play a little bit of the song that morning, and his audience loved it.
“It shot up the iTunes charts because [the audience was] buying it. [Sony] saw this organic response in this choice that people wanted that song, and they immediately put it out,” Cam said. “A lot of people loved that song but didn’t think it was a safe single choice. It was really cool to have it move forward that way because it cut through at something so different.”
Cam’s album, “Untamed,” was released in December 2015 and included the songs from her EP in addition to seven others. Cam co-wrote every song on the album, which she said was the surest way to know that she loved every single aspect of the album during the tweaking or changing of lyrics and sounds.
“I don’t really care about being famous or being a big country star. Some people like that stuff, and that’s not really why I do it. For me, I really have to care about the music a lot,” Cam said. “So, writing it and making sure it was something that I loved so completely, that was my way of making sure that I could make it through some of the harder parts.”
Since Cam burst onto the music scene she has received a nomination for the Grammy Awards, Academy of Country Music awards, Country Music Awards (CMAs) and, most recently, the American Music Awards for Favorite Female Artist-Country. At this year’s CMAs, which will be held on Nov. 2, “Burning House” is nominated for Song of the Year and Music Video of the Year.
“[Award shows] are kind of like that picture you take on the first day of school. You kind of get a snapshot of where everyone was this year and the community that’s worked hard to put out this music. It’s really cool to celebrate that,” Cam said. “I’m really happy that ‘Burning House’ is part of the nominated songs. It’s really amazing. But, win or lose, that’s not really the point. The point is that we all get to be there to sort of celebrate the fact that we worked our butts off and put out some cool stuff.”
In the midst of all this success, Cam is preparing to embark on her first headlining tour. Although she has toured with some of country music’s biggest names, she described headlining her own tour as “exciting” and “terrifying.”
“It is somewhat terrifying to ever do something completely on your own,” she said, “but the people that are going to come to this are the original fans. These are going to be the fans that are around my entire career — the fans that I know best and the fans that I care about the most. I am excited to meet everybody.”
The Burning House Tour will make 12 stops this fall. Joining Cam on the road will be opening act Adam Sanders. On the road, Cam said she will be decked out in her signature color, yellow. It’s a wardrobe choice she said is part branding strategy and part confidence-building.
“I don’t really buy the whole [idea that] women have to be super sexy in order to be an entertainer or have a music career. I don’t really see the link there,” Cam said. “Yellow is a super open and welcoming color. It makes me feel better to be in yellow and people seem to be sweeter to me when I’m in yellow.
Be sure to give “Untamed” a listen, but also watch Cam’s performances of “Hello,” “Uptown Funk” or Patsy Cline’s “Crazy,” and you’ll quickly realize that Cam is not your average artist. It’s quite obvious that this is just the beginning of a successful career for one of country’s kindest, most humble and most talented new acts.
Tickets for Cam’s show at Joe’s on Weed Street cost $15 in advance and $20 the day of show. You can buy tickets at joesbar.com.