2016 CD REVIEW
BURNING HOUSE IGNITES CAM AUSTRALIAN TOUR
“I had a dream about a burning house/ you were stuck inside/ I couldn't get you out / I laid beside you and pulled you close/ and the two of us went up in smoke/ love isn't all that it seems I did you wrong / I'll stay here with you until this dream is gone.” - Burning House - Camaron Ochs-Tyler Johnson-Jeff Bhasker.
In the dream she rushed into the burning house, ready to die alongside him.
The next morning, Cam Skyped songwriter/producer Tyler Johnson in Los Angeles and recounted her vision.
A devoted Metallica fan, he wanted to write a song that mimicked the acoustic guitar opening in Nothing Else Matters and formed his riff over the phone.
The producer co-wrote eight songs on Cam 's album Untamed and fashioned her story in two opening lines that alternate between standard 4/4 time and 3/4 bars: "I had a dream about a burning house/ you were stuck inside, I couldn't get you out."
It was all they had but when they next saw each other Cam and Tyler talked about it near a campfire and recorded the snippet with logs crackling in the background.
Johnson later played it for fellow producer Jeff Bhasker while moving furniture and Bhasker was struck by the melody and the snap of that fire coupled with the image of a burning house.
By morning he had come up with a chorus and the trio finished it in a couple days of writing and recording at his home studio in Venice in Los Angeles.
Cam created a staggered, hesitant pre-chorus that rises in optimism, only to tail off with resignation before the hook.
When they reached the bridge, they took a unique approach, alternating three new musical lines with three repeats of the chorus final phrase, "In this burning house."
"Whenever you can repeat words in a song and it's natural, you know you're doing something right," says Johnson who produced the album with Cam and Bhasker.
"I've never been involved in a bridge like that, where the repetition comes in the bridge."
Johnson played guitar that day but couldn't make the last four notes of the central riff work.
They later hired Cam 's guitarist, Doug Showalter, to redo the part.
He threaded the four notes together, though he could never replicate the emotional impact in Johnson's playing, so Bhasker spliced their two performances together.
Bhasker added acoustic piano and bass and drums but decided to mute them in the final, opting for a stripped-down take.
"A lot of times, a production might just be there to make up for anything that the song is lacking," Bhasker said.
"If you've got a great song, you let it shine, and I always personally try to write a song that stands on its own, that can just be played with a guitar and piano."
There were other additions - they found a crackling fire in a sound-effects library and laid that underneath.
"It's not very overt at all," says Bhasker, "but I did kind of think that that needed to be on there."
Johnson also commissioned a string arrangement from Oakland musician Hamilton Ulmer, then recorded three players in Nashville, stacking each three times to form a nine-voice ensemble.
Cam sang the song repeatedly with the lights down low to set the mood at Bhasker's studio, then again several months later, using portions from both days to build the final performance.
"Those vocals took a long, long time - lots of choices and takes," says Johnson.
"She sings everything great. There's not a pitch issue, there's not a timing issue, but when you get into that great of quality, it's about that 1%. That's what sets the difference between Adele and the 100,000 other girls that want to be Adele - it's that last 1%."
Cam , now 31, apologised to her ex-boyfriend in a much less dramatic conversation than she had imagined.
Burning House spread to a wider audience after release as a single and had a dramatic effect on listeners.
Women who meet Cam at concerts pointed to men in the audience who represented their burning house - others told more heartbreaking stories.
"I've had at least three people who've told me that they've lost loved ones in house fires, and this song - on another, obviously more literal, level - means so much to them," says Cam.
"The main thing is just that it connects. I get stopped all the time and people tell me they heard it on, in their car, they had to pull over and cry. So, it makes me so happy that a song that is very vulnerable for me, because I'm basically admitting that I was a jerk to someone else and that there's no way I can fix it in real life, and I'm stuck trying to fix it in my dreams. That's not something that you're really proud of, and it hurts to kind of talk about."
“Once we break that moonshine out/ we do things we won't live down/ dancing on the Chevy hood/ think you won't? I bet you would/ find somebody you ain't with/ steal away and steal a kiss / hang your clothes up on a limb / grab a rope and swing on in.” - Untamed - Camaron Ochs-Tyler Johnson-Casey Beathard.
It inspired second album Untamed - featuring 11 of her autobiographical original songs - released on December 11.
She says the songs embody lessons she learned over the last five years and is reflected in the album cover art that features her drinking a lemon out of a straw.
"Most of it's about accepting life as it is, and not trying to when life hands you lemons, make lemonade, but instead just drink it straight, and be who you are, and don't avoid all the bad parts,” Cam explained.
“Because those are really important too and help you learn who you are, and help you experience it all more fully."
Cam says the decision to call the album Untamed reflects the meaning behind the title track.
The song is inspired by "going off the beaten path" to the perfect party spot - and where the cops don't know about.
"It's about having your own kind of party with your own rules, and you're just being free,” Cam added.
“You get to be who you want to be. And that is the journey that I've been on this entire time with this album. I got to write and make the music I wanted to make, and we weren't fully in the Nashville system yet. So not on purpose trying to be different, but we just made our own party. And everyone is so invited to come enjoy it and just be themselves. I think by me trying to be my most real self, it helps everybody else feel like they can be themselves. So, Untamed is just this, it's just not done up in any way. It's not trying to be anything else than what it is. So it's kind of wild and real.”
CALIFORNIA RANCH AND YOUNG YELLOW
“She may be singing 'bout the country/ and putting out the hits/ but those boots sure never stepped in horseshit/ so thank God she lives in the city/ cause country ain't never been pretty.” - Country Ain't Ever Been Pretty - Cameron Ochs-Anders Mouridsen.
Mandolin and banjo adorn several songs Want It All and Half Broke Heart.
Hungover on Heartache, Mayday and Runaway Train explore ruptured romance.
Cold In California exploits weather metaphors for music and love and Country Ain't Never Been Pretty depicts contrasts between farm life and city slicker girls.
“I grew up in Northern California, but was born in Huntington Beach California ,” revealed Cam who was raised in San Francisco suburb Lafayette .
“My grandparents had a ranch in Oceanside and when I would be down there with them they would always play old country. I am completely obsessed with Patsy Cline! Being there was where I heard a lot of cowboy stories. My grandfather is a really great storyteller and a lot of my song-writing comes from really valuing that. When I was really little, it started because my grandpa was cowboy-ish.
"He loved horses and he would throw water on our faces at 5 a.m. and say, 'If you want to ride the horses, you gotta go feed them now.' And he loved country music, so a lot of my early memories are tied in with that kind of music. So there's that classic feel with Patsy Cline, and then new stuff like Bonnie Raitt, and then in high school, it was reigning Nineties country like Dixie Chicks , Tim McGraw and Shania Twain, and that was the coolest thing ever. That definitely shaped me."
NETHERLANDS AND NEPAL
“The glitter and glamor, the fortune and fame/ the sugar-free soy vanilla lattes/ leave all that to the folks in the city/cause country ain't never been pretty.” - Country Ain't Ever Been Pretty - Cameron Ochs-Anders Mouridsen.
While studying Cam spent time in The Netherlands and later Nepal .
“I wanted to be a singer when I was really young, but then I decided I wanted to be a Supreme Court Justice for a while and then I wanted to be psychologist. I did emotional psychology for a little while and I think that really helped with song-writing. Around 2009 I started recording a few songs and doing a lot more writing for myself as well as for other people.”
Cam is known for her love of the colour yellow.
She wears it all the time and it's prominently showed on her album art with the lemon.
"Yellow is like my California sunshine I get to take with me everywhere,” says Cam who announced on September 15 that her real estate agent boyfriend Adam Weaver had proposed.
“Everybody is nicer to me when I'm in yellow, and I feel like a nicer person in yellow. It sort of embraces the whole idea that there's optimism. Even to saddest songs. So yellow is kind of like my visual reminder of that."
Cam wrote Maybe You're Right for Miley Cyrus album Bangerz and others for Maggie Rose.
“Sometimes when I write a story telling song I write it from a guy's perspective so I guess I assume it will be for someone else,” Cam explained.
“However, the more I learn about how I write I find I have to identify with what it is that I am talking about. It has to come from something that resonates with me. I love doing the vocals for the demos as well. Even if it is for someone else I just love singing it and feeling it. I connect with and hope that someone else identifies with it too.
I love writing. In the town I grew up in there weren't a whole lot of rock stars living there and becoming a singer, well it kind of seemed like there were pretty slim chances. I grew up singing in choir and studying music as well. So I always loved all aspects of it. However, to be in the spotlight was never why I did music. I think writing was a good first step. It helped me build on the craft. Once I started performing my songs I loved how that felt. I felt like I was seeing the project all the way through and loved seeing people's reaction.
“Cause your whole heart's a village/ everyone you love has built it/ and I've been working there myself/ and that's where I'll be/ with a front-row seat/ to watch you live your life well.” - Village - Camaron Ochs-David Manzoo-Natalie Murphy.
"I think that the song on Untamed that's the most personal to me would be Village ,” Cam confessed.
“That is one that I actually started writing with another writer, and then I sort of hijacked it and said, 'I really need to write this song about this specific thing.' I grew up with a girl named Claire Rudolph and from like fourth grade to the end of high school, we were best pals, and her older brother was like my older brother because I didn't have one. So just family time and hanging out at their house, they were like a really close family group. And when we got to high school, he'd drive Claire and I because we were freshman, he was a senior, so he'd drive us to school and I'd be terrified and in awe of how cool he was. He wasn't like the jock or the best looking dude. He just was the nice guy that everybody knew and loved to be around. A lot of times in your 20s, it's hard to encourage each other because you're so in your own head and kind of insecure, and he just was like, 'I love what you're doing with your music and I'm so proud of you.' And a few years ago, he was killed in an avalanche, and that was my first time losing someone that was so close, and so young, and I didn't know how to handle it. I definitely knew that Claire didn't know how to handle it. I remember spending some time with her. She was living in St. Louis and we were just up there hanging out. She had just had her first kid about a month after Chris passed away, and we'd sit there and just talk about how it's such a bummer that he wasn't going to be around for a lot of stuff. You think about that stuff a lot when you have a new kid, and the thing that I really wanted to do for her is tell her what I thought he would want to tell her, and this is what I would want to tell my sister if something happened to me. It's just that your heart is made up and shaped by all these people that have loved you in your life, and that you have loved. So I pictured it as this little village with all these little houses in it, and the people that have loved you live in there, and even when it feels like they're gone, they're never really gone. It's a really heavy song, but that's what country music is about, real stuff. And it gives you a chance to cry, because sometimes you just need to cry."