“The vibes are noticeably – totally – back!”: Songwriter, busker and one-man band Cam Cole on his first venue tour
Interview: Richard C. Bower
Cam Cole is a singer, songwriter, busker and new age traveller from London who is known as a street performer and one-man band. His music is influenced by Folk, Delta Blues, Grunge and Rock N’ Roll.
Many of Cam’s internet videos have gone viral, giving him a rapidly increasing worldwide audience, and I caught up with him before his debut Sheffield performance this week, where we discuss life on the road, performing during the pandemic, and his first ever UK venue tour!
Hi Cam, good to see you again! Tell us – what have you been up to and how has the pandemic affected you as a street performer?
This tour is my first set of performances since 2019 – from when before covid existed. Throughout the pandemic I’ve just been chilling out. For a while I went to Glastonbury and stayed with a bunch of hippies on various sites and wrote a load of tunes. I used the time positively in which I wrote a lot … also, having a bike, I learnt a lot about motorcycle mechanics! In terms of street performing during the pandemic, there were times when it was really banging.
I imagine there were times during the latter stages of the pandemic when people would come out for a release – did you get a sense of this?
Every now and then there were sudden rushes when people would come out with a ‘fuck it’ attitude, and just get pissed in the street. I managed to do a couple of shows during this time, and it was fuckin’ buzzin’ out there! Everyone was off their faces. Whenever restrictions were lowered, people would come out and release so much repressed energy! Me included – it was mental!
Was this in stark contrast to what it was like generally out there?
Most of the time it was a case of going out to assess the situation on the streets – they were pretty much deserted. Nobody went out to see a busker. And of those who were out, everyone wore face masks. Nobody would stop and watch and, if they did, they’d get timid and scared. At times I really did feel like I was performing to the pandemic.
How have you approached this tour – baring in mind its your first venue tour?
In preparation, I went busking the weekend before and the vibes are noticeably – totally – back! The tour itself represents something different for me. Tonight (Sheffield) is my fourth gig and each performance is constantly developing and changing. In terms of differences, the biggest ones are when, in a street show, I’d play all the happier songs at the beginning to try and attract the crowd – as people generally didn’t know my music, whereas on this venue tour I keep such tunes for the end. That is a key difference.
At times I really did feel like I was performing to the pandemic.
Also, my words are more considered when corresponding with my audience. With the street show I’m trying to get everybody to come forward and put money in the box but, on this tour, I don’t need to do any of that – I’m just wanting everyone to fuckin’ have it!
I’m learning about all these subtle differences as I go but, because I’ve been busking for many years, some habits die hard. It all feels the same to me though essentially – I just want to keep on playing. Be it on the street or in venues.
Cam’s new album ‘Crooked Hill’ is out now on CD, download and all streaming services. Vinyl is also available on pre-order.