Editors’ Notes “I was a total idealist,” Cam tells Apple Music. The Nashville country singer, who’s also one of the city’s most sought-after songwriters, says the five years she spent writing her sophomore album were some of the hardest of her life. “I had this Disney idea of how the world worked, and at some point that just...broke.” Tracing a string of major life changes—breaking up with her old label, inking a new contract, marrying her husband, and welcoming her first child—The Otherside reflects a dramatic shift in thinking, or her journey through disillusionment into clear-eyed realism. That evolution unlocked a new side to her sound. “My songs have always pulled from my psychology background, but I had this filter on and didn’t even know it,” she says. “Once I took that off, I could be so much more honest. I could see the world, and myself, for exactly what they were.” Read on as Cam tells us the inside story behind each song.

Redwood Tree
“I grew up in the Bay Area with a redwood tree in my backyard, and I did a lot of thinking up there. I wasn’t raised in a specific religion, but the most magical, awe-inspiring experience I can think of is being in the redwoods, feeling so small. It’s like a cathedral in that it reminds you of your place in everything. Fallen redwoods have rings that represent the thousands of years that they lived, and you’re like, ‘Oh, we’re just flies buzzing around.’ We wake up one day shocked to realize our parents are suddenly old. Like, when did my dad's beard get so white? I had watched the movie Arrival around the time we wrote this song, and I loved the idea of time not being linear. The soundtrack has these voices that go ‘Da, da, da, da,’ and we nod to that in the production. I hope time isn't linear. I hope I get more time with my parents.”

The Otherside
“Tim, or Avicii, came to Nashville a few years ago to write for one of his albums, and we were in the studio with Hillary Lindsey and Tyler Johnson. He started playing this piano melody over and over and over again, and I don't smoke cigarettes but when Hillary took a cigarette break, I was like, ‘I'm going, too.’ It was just so intense. He was really stuck on this thing. While we're out on the back porch, she and I came up with an idea for the chorus, and he loved it. But he fiddled with it for hours. He was thinking about cadence, about how we speak, about code-mapping it onto a melody, and about the actual phonetics. Tim never wound up releasing that song, so I was like, ‘Ooh, maybe that means I can.’ Even though it’s such a heavy thing not having him around for the final edits, I did feel this great responsibility to work my ass off to get it right. Because I knew that’s what he would have done.”

Classic
“On the other side of the spectrum, this is one of those songs that just magically fell into place. I went up to New York for a few sessions with Jack Antonoff at Electric Lady Studios, and it was so fun. Creatives tend to beat themselves up a lot, but Jack and I sat there jangling around on this 12-string guitar and writing a song that had this nostalgic Simon & Garfunkel ‘Cecilia’ vibe. It’s about how there are people in your life that outlast everything else—technology, fashion trends, swings in politics, whatever. Nothing's a constant in life, but a few people are. It was inspired by this moment when my husband and I were in Argentina and he found a pack of Lucky Strike cigarettes. He doesn't smoke anymore, but he goes, ‘I’ve got to smoke these because they don't make ‘em like this anymore.’ And then he looks at me and goes, ‘That's a country lyric.’”

Forgetting You
“I was writing with Lori McKenna, Tyler Johnson, and Mitch Rowland, and we’re all pals from working on various projects together. Still, I always get nervous when I go write with Lori, even though she's so humble and chill, because I’m like, ‘Don't embarrass yourself in front of the poet of our generation!’ Which is to say, I knew I needed to bring in something cool. I had this line, ‘I'm getting older/But you never change.’ The song is about holding on to the concept of someone from the past, and measuring everyone up to them even though it’s no longer real. That's why you keep moving forward but they never seem to age.”

Like a Movie
“Before we were married and had a kid, I’d come home from tour and my husband and I would have this tiny bit of quality time together. And the truth is, we’d usually get high and go to Walmart. One day, we were unloading all our groceries and I was like, ‘How did you know it was me? How did you know not to settle for someone earlier or wait for someone else?’ And he just smiled and said, ‘Because when I met you, it was like a movie.’ Now, I can remember when we met. I was a mess. It did not look like a movie. But it was so, so sweet. I wrote with the love junkies—Lori McKenna, Liz Rose, and Hillary Lindsey—and the strings are David Campbell, who’s actually Beck’s dad. Jeff Bhasker wanted a ’50s movie soundtrack vibe with strings that swelled like an orchestra, and David immediately got it. Apple Music did a teaser video for the album, and if you watch it, there should be video footage from that string session.”

Changes
“I usually write all my own music, but this is the first of a couple songs on this album that I didn’t. I guess I feel like it's cheating. I'm supposed to be digging all this personal stuff up and figuring myself out, so taking someone else’s song feels like a shortcut. But I trust Harry [Styles]’s writing. I feel like he tries so hard to be himself in his music, and he doesn't take it lightly. That pursuit resonates with me. The demo had Lori McKenna singing with Harry on background vocals and his whistle, which is still in the track. It was amazing to hear a song that someone else wrote that clicked so much with me personally. It’s about feeling like you’ve outgrown where you're from, and you don't really want to admit that. It’s kind of an uncomfortable thing to say, but I love when things are uncomfortable. That means it’s important.”

Till There's Nothing Left
“This song has steamy sexual energy... Like, ‘I'm giving you my whole heart but also my body and a quickie in the back seat.’ While we were recording my vocals, I was trying to sit back and make it cool and sexy, and I realized I was blushing. I was blushing because society tells us that sexuality is a private thing. If you want to be respected as a woman, if you want to be considered intelligent, you can’t be sexual. But then I was reminded of my grandmother who was raised Baptist on a farm in Saskatchewan. She's the one who gave me the sex talk, unbeknownst to my mother. She said, ‘Sex is like a milkshake. Once you have it, you're always going to want it.’ She was comfortable with her sexuality without it being the main thing about her. So I thought, ‘If a woman born in the 1930s on a farm in Canada can own it, I can own it.”

What Goodbye Means
“A friend of mine was going through a divorce. It was pretty ugly, but he was being so kind. I asked him, ‘How are you being so nice right now? I don't get it.’ And he said, ‘Because she might change her mind.’ I still get goosebumps thinking about it. We've all been there, not quite ready to accept the reality of something, and that's okay. You've got to take it at the rate you can take it. This song has such a classic melody. It’s warm. For some reason it feels like a summer evening in New Mexico to me.”

Diane
“This song is a response to Dolly Parton’s ‘Jolene,’ and man, it really seems to resonate with people. Crowds sing it back to me in this emotional, over-the-top, theatrical way. I suppose most people have had infidelity affect their life one way or another, but it’s hard to watch people you care about go through it. There's so much shame around it that you don't get to talk about what you need or how to heal. And you almost never get to hear the other party’s side. So ‘Diane’ is my moment to role-play, I guess. I'm the other woman and I slept with your husband and I didn't know he was married, but you’ve got to know the truth. Parton's lyrics to the other woman include the word ‘please,’ and that just killed me. She's so humble and human, asking someone to please not take the love of her life away. Immediately, I was like, ‘That's the narrative. That's what is so often left unsaid.’”

Happier for You
“This is the other song that I didn't write, and it’s from Sam Smith and Tyler [Johnson]. Sam and I have a great relationship because I helped write the song ‘Palace’ for their album and then they brought me out on tour. We have a lot of trust. When Lindsay [Marias, Cam’s manager] and I first heard this demo and Sam came in singing, our jaws dropped. The emotion was so raw and honest and real. I love the juxtaposition of saying something very loud and publicly—to the point where it almost feels proud—but actually it’s something that makes you want to curl up in a ball.”

Girl Like Me
“This is the author's note at the end of the book. Natalie Hemby had come over and started playing a verse on the piano, and I was like, ‘Oh god, that is so sad.’ And she's like, ‘It's your story. This is your comeback story.’ It’s funny how sometimes you can’t recognize your own self. Writing this song was uncomfortable but in the best way, trying to pull lyrics out in the chorus (‘They’re going to give up on you/You're going to give up on them’). You can’t just become jaded. You have to push through. It’s a gift to be able to see life for what it is, and to see yourself for who you are. I think anyone who has been through that phase of disillusionment will think, ‘Oh, yeah, tough. But this side is better.’”

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