Our Interview With Cam Maclean

Northern Transmissions Interview With Cam Maclean of Vesuvio Solo
Cam Maclean by Sarah O'Driscoll

Cam Maclean has been writing music for years and for the past few he and his musical partner Thom Gillies have come together on several releases under the name Vesuvio Solo. Based out of Montreal and ever-garnering praise for their group releases, Maclean made the jump earlier this month into releasing solo material. His first solo LP Wait for Love, produced by Adam Wilcox features intricate guitars and Maclean’s impressive falsetto. While Maclean was fresh off the release of Wait for Love, he was nice enough to sit down with Northern Transmissions and respond to some questions about his new record, his inspirations, and his process. Cam Maclean’s debut album Wait for Love, is now available via Atelier Ciseaux.

Northern Transmissions: As you normally write in a collaborative setting with Vesuvio Solo was there any large changes between that process and the one for Cam Maclean’s solo work or do you find working with others seems to be the way you work most naturally?

Cam Maclean: One of my favourite things about making music is collaborating with others and the sense of community that that brings. I think that a lot of solo artists downplay the extent to which they need the input of others to make their music – whether they be producers, engineers, co-writers, or even just the friends who’ve provided criticism. With Vesuvio Solo, the songs were more straightforwardly co-written, by both Thom Gillies and myself. In making Wait For Love, though, I very much relied upon the input and talent of Adam Wilcox, who produced the record. The final product would have been very different if he hadn’t been involved. It was the partnership between him and I, more than anything, which allowed the record to come together the way that it did.

NT: What would you say was your biggest drive to start creating solo material outside of Vesuvio Solo? Is there any particular thing that made you decide to finally put it all together for Wait For Love?

CM: I’ve always written songs on my own, as well as with Thom, and so I always knew I’d put out my own record in time – even when I was more busy with Vesuvio Solo. There wasn’t so much a conscious drive to create solo material as just the fact that I’d always done that anyways. Work on this album though began when I started sending Adam some demos of the songs I was writing on my own, back in 2015. He would listen and start to put together his own arrangement and ideas for the songs, and then we’d come together and fully collaborate in terms of bringing them to a place we were both happy with. We worked both separately and together on the songs, pretty casually, over a two year period or so.

NT: Keeping in terms of what drives you to be an artist, was there an artist in particular who drove you to start creating as a young musician?

CM: When I was 17, I lived with my mother for a year in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. During that time I played with a lot of local musicians, one of whom became something of a mentor to me. I can’t recall his name now, and I’m sure he doesn’t remember me. In fact, the ‘mentorship’ lasted for only about 30 minutes, while he and I jammed on a couple of his songs (after all the other musicians at this particular session had gone home). He played me this amazing ballad he’d written, and I asked him to explain what he’d been trying to say when he wrote it, or what the idea was behind it. He told me that he had simply sat down and came up with a riff on the guitar that he liked and then started singing whatever came to mind overtop of what he was playing until he found lyrics that worked. I later went home and wrote what was maybe my first half-decent song. The experience had made me realize that I could write more meaningfully if I wrote to some extent from outside myself, rather than when I was trying to force getting a prefabricated message across.

NT: As listeners of the record can tell, you write from an incredibly personal place. Was there any point in the creative process of this record where you learned something about yourself or made some kind of breakthrough?

CM: I think of all of my songs as having a fictional character to them, even when the lyrics draw on some personal feeling or experience… I guess the experience of writing and producing this record made me realize more deeply that whether the song is more directly personal like Sleepwalking or more straightforwardly fictional like Jacob Always, my songwriting comes from a place of being carried away by some musical or lyrical idea and just seeing where it takes me… Even when what comes out in the lyrics is drawn strongly from personal experience, I never know exactly what I’m going to say once I begin to write.

NT: Is there anything on this record you feel particularly proud of? Something you can’t wait for people to hear.

CM: I feel proud of the record as something that demonstrates (I hope) my different skills as a musician and writer, in a way that brings them together (again, I hope) pretty seamlessly.

NT: Do you feel you’ve learned anything recording Wait For Love that you believe you’ll be able to apply in the years to come?

CM: I’ve learned to second guess myself less, which I suppose happens as you get older anyways. The experience of making this record definitely taught me to remember to have fun making music as an end in itself. The music industry is of course competitive, not least because we are all fighting for a piece of a shrunken pie. If I can find a supportive community and prioritize having a good time together making music, hopefully other good stuff will follow.

NT: Stepping back from the record for a moment do you feel that solo touring is something fans could look forward to?

CM: Yeah! I’m doing a number of Canadian dates throughout the summer and fall, and am also starting to plan upcoming shows in the U.S. and Europe. Stay tuned!

NT: And finally, an easy one, who have you been listening to lately?

CM: This summer I’m doing a couple shows with my friend L.A. Foster, whose music is great, as well as with an amazing Argentinian artist named Lola Granillo. I’ve also been listening to my friend Cadence Weapon’s music, whose self-titled record (which came out this year) I would definitely recommend. Aside from people in my direct community, I’ve been enjoying the music of artists as disparate as (for instance) Joan Manuel Serrat, Judee Sill, and guitarist Lenny Breau. When I can find the time, I like to spend at least a couple hours of the day listening to music of all sorts.

Interview conducted by Maguire Stevens