Camille Bloom has ’Big Dreams’
With a strong sense of self and a striking and clear talent as a singer/songwriter and guitarist, Camille Bloom has created a meaningful path to independent musical success. The road to her latest CD "Big Dreams" is one filled with her constant passion in doing what she loves to do and after ten years as a performer, continuing to present a diverse, creatively observant and heartfelt set of new songs that was released this week.
A former English teacher, Bloom initially left the stability of a career in teaching to pursue her musical dream. Now while enjoying this pursuit wholeheartedly, she also manages to give back some of the knowledge she’s learned along the way. As one of the founders of Rock.org, Bloom teaches songwriting and vocals during the winter months. This is in addition to touring both internationally and in the states, songwriting and continuing to grow as a vocalist and guitarist.
The six songs from "Big Dreams" offer a diverse layering of musical identity. Camille Bloom fervently addresses the "have" and "have-nots" on "The System is Broken," points a clear eye to the current disconnect in the use of technology in "The Zombie Song," and also unveils a very personal admission of love to her lesbian partner in the poignant "To the End." There is an emotional and intelligent richness throughout "Big Dreams."
Camille Bloom shares her surprising way down the songwriting path of discovery, explores some of the joys and realities of being a woman in the music industry and a lesbian ... and shares her personal philosophy and the inspiration in always staying true to and focused on those "Big Dreams."
EDGE: It feels to me like your voice on ’Big Dreams’ is more ’front and center’ this time around. Your vocals are really clear and strong. How would you describe your approach to the production of ’Big Dreams?’
Camille Bloom: First of all, the reason that I went for that sound, it ended up to be an acoustic EP. When I tour Europe and a lot of my touring in the states, I’m touring acoustically. So, people get used to hearing a show and they come back to the merchandise table and say, ’Hey. I wanna pick up an album.’ I say, ’Great. This is with my six-piece full band (laughter) with cellos and lots of harmonies.’ Especially in Europe, they say, ’Gosh, do you have acoustic album?’ So, I decided to do something a bit more stripped-down and put that vocal front and center. Really lyrically I felt like I just wanted them to really hear what I was talking about.
EDGE: Before I ask you about specific songs, tell me about the songwriting process in creating this new batch of material.
Camille Bloom: Sure. It’s actually pretty funny. I do this thing. I’ve done it traditionally throughout my career. It’s kind of crazy-making. I’ll set a recording date often times before the songs are written. I knew that I wanted to release a new acoustic EP this fall. I didn’t have the songs for it but I had internalized the dates for myself. For this album, I had to get away to be able to write. I took a writing retreat in Hawaii. I had a couple of wonderful extended family members offer that if I was their personal chef for the week, I wouldn’t pay for accommodations. I said, ’Absolutely.’ I took my guitar and my cooking skills to Hawaii and I played every day.
In my real life, I’m either playing a show, working on bookings, so I don’t get a lot of time to write. I ended up writing at least half the material there. ’The System is Broken’ I had written before that trip. So, it was kind of ’pressure’ writing, which was weird. Though, I feel like for me, if I don’t put pressure on myself to sit down and write... it’s not that I didn’t have ideas for songs but if I do not make myself sit down and play guitar creatively as an artist, I often won’t take the time for myself. It’s sad, but the business of making music is less about making music and more about all the other aspects.
EDGE: You have a great ability to create relevant lyrics in regards to society with ’The System is Broken.’ There is also a scathing viewpoint of technology and communication in ’The Zombie Song.’ What struck you to create ’The Zombie Song?’
Camille Bloom: I finished that song six hours before recording it. I had had this riff in my head in my head for quite a while. I knew there was something coming out that was cheeky. It felt like it was ’tongue-in-cheek’ or goofy lyrically. One day I went on a walk in my neighborhood in Capital Hill, Seattle. I was doing a loop walk and I had my eyes open and my head up. I was just out for connection as I spend a lot of time in my office or on my way to venues. No one would meet my eye! Everyone was stuck on their cell phones. Listening to music or engaged someway with a laptop. I couldn’t find connection with anyone.
It just dawned on me that this is what’s happening in our culture, is that you never have to be alone. You always have your community at your fingertips. That’s when the idea came to me that this would be the idea of the song. And the night before we went to the studio, I finally finished the chorus. We’re sort of walking zombies... I love technology. It’s the idea that we’re too attached to it. Literally, if my phone died, I wouldn’t know anyone’s phone number except my dad and mom. (laughter) It’s not a preaching song. It’s more like let’s all take a look at this and laugh about it.
EDGE: Definitely. On the flip side, I have to say that ’This System is Broken’ is rather an intense song and a freefall of letting out your frustration in regards to the state of affairs in society at times.
Camille Bloom: Yeah, I read the book ’The Hunger Games’ and I was initially inspired by that idea of the incredibly wealthy people and the incredibly impoverished and starving people. That book really had a lot of political commentary about the have and have-nots. I started with that idea. And Seattle is a super-city and I love it, but we have a high, high homeless population and we don’t have enough room for them. I see it every day. I just feel like there is this great difference that we need to take a look at. When I toured the United States, it seemed like everybody has that problem.
But when I toured in Belgium, Germany etc. and I didn’t see the homeless population. They took care of their people. The wealthy pay the taxes so there are enough shelters for the poor. That’s when I started to get angry about my country and how embarrassed I was that we had these problems. I was pretty angry and each time I sing the song, it takes me back to that. I go there and think about the disparity.
Getting an education
EDGE: In addition to touring and working as a full-time performer, you also teach courses in singing/songwriter for the non-profit RockSchool.org. Tell me about this experience and how it has benefitted you over the years?
Camille Bloom: I feel that I learn as much from the kids as they learn from me. In the sense that they inspire me with their passion for life and all of them are passionate about music. I bring out the fact that we are all artists but we also need to be smart business people and that we can look at this as a serious career. I try to instill in them that you can be a successful and touring musician.
Getting an education is very important. The way to truly do it is to work really hard and get an education. It’s kind of a camp of love when I work the camp. It’s to help people find their voice and everything they have to say matters.
EDGE: You’re definitely instilling your knowledge of the real world in regards to music.
Camille Bloom: Yes and also telling them there is always room to get better. None of us are as good as we can be. It’s teaching them to be good listeners and good communicators.
EDGE: Definitely. I want to compliment you on one more new song. I have to say that ’To the End’ is a striking love song with really powerful lyrics. What was your inspiration for this song?
Camille Bloom: I’ve been in a long-term relationship, the longest one of my life. My partner was going through a really rough time, having just lost a circle of friends and being really sad. I wrote this song in that time period. I realized that not even this could make me step away. In fact, it made me step forward. It made me say, ’You know what? I’m gonna stick this out. I am so here to be a partner to you and to be with you. I know that if I were going through this hard time, you would do the same.’ I do get emotional and I almost cry every time I play it. It’s a very vulnerable song.
EDGE: As an out woman, how has the perception towards you as an artist changed over the years?
Camille Bloom: You know what’s funny? I can answer that a couple of ways. The first thought is that it really hasn’t been relevant to my music career though in the beginning I was pretty quiet about my lifestyle. I never lied about it but didn’t make it an issue. What I really wanted to be was a respected musician. I didn’t care where my audience came from if they liked the music and connected to it.
Over time and in the past ten years, I’m so much more comfortable with myself. I have really opened up and social media has really helped with this. So, your audience gets to know you in this intimate way. I’m pretty much an open book.
(But) what I have found as one of the biggest problems is that I’m almost too gay for mainstream media and that I’m almost too straight for gay media. What I mean is that because I don’t put on every press release ’out lesbian singer/songwriter,’ a lot of the gay papers will not pick it up. The Advocate did a great review but that took years. Maybe I’m not out enough. There is sort of a double discrimination that can happen. You have to be either so ’out’ that all the gay papers want to cover you or so closeted, that all the straight papers want to cover you. It’s a really weird dynamic.
I actually experience way more adversity around being a female than I do being a gay female musician. It’s such a male-dominated industry. That’s a bigger issue of being discriminated against or people saying, ’Wow, you’re a girl and you really play guitar. I didn’t expect that.’ That is way more surprising to them than who I date or whatever. Nobody has ever said to me, ’Oh you’re a gay musician.’ (laughter)
To purchase "Big Dreams," which was released on Nov. 12, and to check out her latest touring dates for the new release, go to Camille Bloom’s website.