Earlier this year we had organised a music festival in Singapore named "Sing For Kindness" in collaboration with Uncle Ringo and Singapore Kindness Movement. That was where we first had the chance to meet Camille Miller, an amazing Canadian singer, songwriter and performer who had just moved to Singapore a couple of weeks earlier.
She truly is one of the best musicians we had ever worked with and we recently had invited her for an interview for our blog, sharing with us about her music, her history and her current activities including her latest EP album, named "Cover Me".
Hope you enjoy the interview.
1. When and why did you start playing?
I always wanted to be either two things. The first was a soldier. I grew up in a military household and often lived in military housing growing up. I started military cadets at the age of 11 and for the next 10 years, it was all I was interested in. I was in the marching band and played clarinet, and was in Sea Cadets as a Boatswain, eventually moving on to Naval reserves. As a very young girl I taught myself guitar and used to write my own little songs as a form of general protest against my parents. Haha. It wasn’t until I was 22 years old and I realised being in the military was not something I believed in anymore, that I embraced my 2nd dream of singing. I graduated high school in 1991, and by 1995 I was playing music mostly full time.
2. What are your main impulses to write about music?
I tend to write usually as a lullaby to myself. When I’m writing, I pace, and play the piece over and over again. Often going on long walks to finish the lyrics. If I'm worried, or feeling anxious. Sometimes just one line will pop into my head, and the whole basis of the song will start with that. Most of the time the song starts OUT because I feel a certain way, but then by the time the song has finished most of the story is just that. A story.
3. Which famous musicians do you admire? Why?
I grew up with some amazing musicians who are all still performing and writing for their careers now. Out of Canada I grew up playing music with Pat Steward and Doug Elliot who are together the rhythm section for one of Canada’s top alternative rock/Pop bands-ODDS. I used to Nanny and house clean for the bass player in exchange for recording time. These guys like many famous Canadian musicians all started out in clubs playing covers. Honing their songwriting crafts and scraping together enough money to record their own albums. I admire this kind of work ethic because it is humbling. There were always ‘two camps’ when I grew up, those who would play covers and those who would not. I don’t know in the end which is better as a Songwriter, but I do know I learned a lot being in the ‘camp’ that played covers for a living. I would never in a million years change it. Artists I admire and listen to: Lucinda Williams, Sheryl Crow, Crowded House, Elvis Costello, Stereophonics, Aimee Mann The Killers, Grace Petrie Odds, Serena Ryder, Lindsay Martell, Tina Jones, Ryan McMahon, Begonia, David Gogo, and Steven Page.
4. What are your fondest musical memories?
This memory is not very old. But last summer I worked together with two other Canadian songwriters, Lindsay Martell and Tina Jones. We called ourselves MJM Grande. We did a number of shows together, showcasing each others songs. This has been one of my fondest and most satisfying musical experiences because it feels SO wonderful, to musically support a song that you love.
This EP is a collective of songs I wrote whilst living in The United States. Each song is a different phase or emotion I was going through.
Building Steam, which we are releasing a video for TODAY- July 4th, (you can watch the video just below this interview) was written to myself as a ‘snap out of it and get cracking’ song. I was scared and worried that making music and trying to do a tour was pointless. So, this song was a bit of a scolding, in order to keep going.
Cover me, was a song I wrote after trying to throw my smart phone away. I had read an article talking about teen depression and how bad it is now with smartphones and social media. I thought even as an adult who NEVER had a mobile until I was 34 years old, this rings true. Every image is ‘filter perfect’. It's hard to live up to our online lives.
New Walk was written just as I arrived in The US. I was scared I wouldn’t be able to ‘start over again’ musically. I had just left a fantastic group of musicians in Brazil and I was missing them.
Living The Dream, came to me after speaking to my longest friend on the phone, Ironing shirts and watching The Kardashians on TV. I told my girlfriend I had to go pick the kids up from school and she just casually said ‘Oh you are living the dream my friend’. I thought it was funny.
The last song, Song for Our Sons, is a song for Sam, our 7 year old son, who was not having an easy time in school and was feeling very bad about himself. It's heartbreaking, we can all relate though I think to most of these emotions.
6. You are one of the best live performers I’ve ever seen. But I’m sure mistakes happen sometimes – it happens to all of us. How do you handle mistakes during a performance?
Hangi, awwwwww that is sweet! Man. When I make a mistake (AND IT HAPPENS A LOT) something takes over, and I just keep going. I do not stop for a second. The worst part of making a mistake is the inner voice, the cold sweat, the uncertainty that you will do it again. As I have been performing solo a lot for the last 6 months, I go through this almost every performance. And the worst thing about screwing up when you are just a guitar and voice is there is NOWHERE to hide. A sense of humor helps a lot!
7. Do you still get nervous before a performance?
Absolutely. I also am very annoying throughout the whole day until I've finished performing. Just ask my husband!
8. What advice would you give to beginners in music industry?
Play live as often as you can, learn some covers, don’t worry about all the freakin’ pedals and gear, just learn to play your instrument as raw as you can. Be prepared to play long sets, and to people who sometimes are indifferent, it's all good for you. Like eating your vegetables!!! Haha.
9. What makes a good studio session?
Starting on time. Lots of water. The comfort in knowing you can explore a little bit. Pre-production. Great musicians and producers to work with.
10. How often and for how long do you practice? What is your practice routine?
Not enough. Haha. I try to practice now 3 times a week for an hour each time. This allows me to learn a few new songs for my gigs as I try to bring new material each week when I perform. It also then puts me in the situation where I might work on new songs. Practicing by myself is one of the most boring things ever. But its very important. Even if I do 30 minutes in the afternoon before whatever gig I have that night, I notice I am more on the ball.
11. How do you balance your music with other obligations?
Well like right now, I got up 2 hours before the kids and I have about 20 more mins until I have to bring into ‘Mom mode’. I'm learning how to balance things. My husband is very supportive and we swap off wherever we can.
Hmm... I don’t know. There are great advantages and some great setbacks. I'm still trying to see where I fit in.
13. What is your biggest challenge as a solo artist?
Getting myself out to an audience that is different than the audience I have now. As I have moved so many times, my main fan group or mailing list still seems to be people from North America, Brazil or The Uk. As a solo artist promoting shows and promoting events on social media, everything still seems to target people that are not anywhere near me. This is annoying for THEM and myself. I'm working on trying to organically find a new audience. That is tough for me as a solo artist.
14. Had you ever faced rejection from the public? If so, how did you deal with it?
Rejection? Yes! I think rejection is not exactly as we dream it is. Like someone coming directly up to you and saying they dislike what you do. The rejection comes in the form of silence. And with the majority of promotion being internet based or social media based, the lack of response can be very very painful. I've also had someone who has always reviewed albums I have made come out and say she HATED my last album and would never listen it again if given the choice. THAT was a tough one to swallow. I am a 46 year old woman. I have spent over 20 years working on what I do, and have NO plans on giving up. I am stronger now at this age then I was in my 20’s. I am more responsible, less drunk, happier, and generally feeling pretty determined. Rejection is a normal part of life. It’s okay. I can take it.
15. If you didn't become a musician, what would you be doing right now for a living?
Primary school teacher.
16. If you could give only one message to your fans, what would it be?
Thank you so much for still wanting to hear what I have to say even though I keep moving ALL over this planet. Love you all, Love me back.
Thank you Hangi for this amazing opportunity.