Having spent most of the year living out of a backback, self-confessed ‘hippie nomad’ Cam Cole is dropping on on Dublin for the second time this year before, I sincerely hope, he takes some time off for Christmas. His time on the road, naturally, informs his travel, and with a new album plus a series of EPs on the horizon, the lively rocker feels on the brink of something big.
I spoke to him ahead of his Grand Social show on December 15 (tickets here).
You seem to have had a bit of a mad year on the road. How has it been for you, and will all that travel seep into your music going forward?
Yes mate it was insane, the busiest year I ever had. I have been living on the road and in Trucks/Vans for almost a decade now so that lifestyle has always been in my music to some degree and that won’t change. It’s just who I am. But of course being in the US, Mexico, Canada etc. for the first time and the stuff you see there leaves an impression.
You’ve described yourself as a ‘hippie nomad’. How possible is that lifestyle on the road – I assume touring and travelling are pretty different experiences for you?
It is possible but you need say goodbye to some comfort. You have and learn how to rely on yourself. My lifestyle has always been travelling around, playing shows etc so all this touring comes quite naturally to me. The only difference is that now that the shows get bigger the whole organisation behind it has also grown. I used to just rock up in places and play, now there is a lot more going on behind the scenes with a lot more people involved. But that has always been my dream.
Camden is world famous for its music scene. How has it impacted on you and the way that you perform?
I guess if you want to stand out in Camden you can’t just be a good musician, you need to work on your show, how it looks, how it captures people’s attention-. So it made think about that side of it and up my game there.
You’ve a few covers in your arsenal. How do you pick what to rework?
To be honest, I am not the biggest fan of covers. It was an idea my producer had to keep people engaged on streaming platforms and I thought well let’s give it a go and then found these 4 songs where I felt I can give it a fresh spin. I only do it when I find I can add something to a song I really care about, give it my interpretation of it and really change it. If I don’t feel I can add to it, I don’t do it.
Is there a distinction between what you do busking and at a more official gig, collecting a few quid in a hat aside?
Big time! Busking is completely free, if it rains or no people are there or it just doesn’t happen that day then no one cares. At a show, with people buying tickets way in advance I have to have my shit together. When I busk, people have no expectations and I can surprise them. But for example when I rock up in Austin Texas, where I have never been, and there are 400 people that waited a long time to see my show wearing t-shirts with an album cover of mine on it the vibe is different.
My job then is to meet those expectations and if possible surpass them. Times are tough man, so for folks to drive for hours, pay their hard-earned cash on my tickets and take so much time out of their day to come to see me is something I’m super grateful for.
Tell me about your journey with ‘Sounds From The Van’
We had all these tours planned and after years of playing on the street I finally had a fan base and an album out… and then Covid came and it all went to shit. So we thought well I am always writing, rehearsing, playing etc anyway in my Van. Why not record it and stick it up on the Internet. And it just became this thing where people not only got to hear my music but they got to know who I am and I got to show them how to play my songs, how my equipment works, how I practice..all that stuff. It was fun.
You’re pretty prolific with the recordings. How much do you write and what gets your creative juices flowing?
Thanks man! I write all the time, I have a backlog of like 50 songs and then even more demos and ideas for other projects, bands, songs I want to give to other performers etc. Honestly dude, I mostly just sit down in the evening with my guitar, smoke a spliff and play around until I find a sound or some chords or a riff that just sticks with me. I don’t try to force it but when I find it I keep at it.
Tell me a song from your archives I should check out and why – something a bit less obvious!
‘Message In The Mountains’ from my 2nd album Crooked Hill. Bit of a secret favourite of folks. The mix is amazing and it has all these different vibes in it from atmospheric chants to really heavy rock.
Do you have any particular expectation for playing Dublin?
No because I found Irish people are awesome at gigs. Just do your thing and party, I will do mine and then I know we will take the roof off.
When all this is over, will you sit down and record something new?
Well my 3rd album is already recorded! We did that this year as well in secret at Rockfield Studios in Wales. We recorded so much stuff we will release it as four EP’s leading up to my 3rd album which will drop in the summer next year. And if you come to my Dublin show you will already hear some of those songs!