By Nazly Siadate
Originally published on Advocate.com October 19 2012 4:35 PM ET
Camille Bloom isn’t your typical indie singer and musician. Her sultry voice swallows you whole when she lets out that signature wail. Her humor and personality shine through her music — and her presence.
"Doesn’t it feel like a church in here?" she asks me, her voice smooth and calm. Her lips curl into a suggestive smile. "It’s so you all behave." We burst into laughter. She’s referring to the pews facing the stage at Genghis Cohen in Los Angeles.
With a voice that makes you want to testify, and her percussive guitar flawless, she’s earned radio and television play and fielded opportunities to tour the U.S. and Europe. Fresh off a U.S. tour, Bloom took a minute from her busy schedule to open up about how she got swindled into the music biz, her dedication to her non-profit rock n’ roll camp for young musicians, and her latest album, Never Out Of Time.
The Advocate: You used to be a high school teacher, then switched careers to singing and songwriting. How was that transition for you and what precipitated that transition?
Camille Bloom: I wish I could say it was a gigantic leap of faith, but in fact, it wasn’t. I was pursued by an investor who wanted me to leave my career in exchange for seed money of $30 to 50K . I am an incredibly trusting person — and after meeting for months and writing up a contract, I left my teaching job. Then, just like a good novel plot line, the investor never showed up to our meeting to sign the contract. It seemed a tragedy at the time, but in the end, it was one of the best things to ever happen to me.
Your lyrics are so unapologetic and powerful. I’m thinking of, “I know that life has dealt you one after another blow / But this is not my fault and I know you know I know.” Do you ever have concerns about being so unabashed?
Sure I do. What I write in my music can be so personal. It is bound to offend some people. Many of my fans say it is what draws them in, that they can actually feel the music and the lyrics. To me, that’s a compliment. I don’t sit down and say, "I am going to write a song now." I wait until inspiration or deep emotion hits, and that’s when I am motivated to write. I try to capture the human experience in my music, which is often personal and painful. Some people will be turned off by this, but that’s OK. Not everyone can like every song or artist.
Your stage presence is full of energy. At times it’s highly personal and other times hilarious. How does that help you connect with your audience?
Since I do write from such a personal place, and many of my songs are emotionally intense, I found that the best way to offset that in a show is with humor. I don’t try to be funny — in fact, I used to have terribly paralyzing stage fright. I used to feel like I was going to vomit before every show. I would shake. It was awful. However, one day — and I remember it so clearly — I was playing a festival with my band, and my fear just shut off like a switch. I wasn’t nervous anymore. So my stage presence just naturally evolved into what it is now. I share myself, my stories, the inspiration behind the songs. And I just happen to be dorky on the inside, so most of that resonates with people. It makes me human, and approachable, and it helps me to connect with the audience and vice versa.
As a lesbian in the music industry, do you have a large LGBT fan base? How do you maintain reaching out to your LGBT fans and still manage to reach a broader, perhaps more mainstream, audience?
I have such a diverse fan base from market to market. In some cities, I have a really devoted LGBTQ following — and in other cities, my median audience age ranges from 5-year-old boys to 76-year-old straight married couples. I love the diversity of my crowd. It feels important to me to bring people together that wouldn’t necessarily go out to dinner together. And of course, I have never hired strictly gay publicists or radio folks. I am a musician first, and who I tend to sleep with is secondary. It’s about the music to me, and I really want to reach all people.
Your vocal range is so dynamic and vast. Where did you learn to sing like that?
Honestly, the biggest influences happen to be my mom and dad. I grew up listening to them sing and play guitar. I have more of my mom’s voice I think, and my dad’s guitar playing, but they were both an inspiration growing up. I grew up listening to every kind of music — from classical to hard rock to hip-hop to opera and country. And it was a game of mine to try to emulate the voice I was hearing. I distinctly remember listening to a Destiny’s Child CD and rewinding over and over again until I could hit that vocal run. I would try to belt like Wynona Judd, match Michael Jackson’s falsetto, and whine like Alanis Morissette. They were my teachers — they just didn’t know it.
Who are some of your favorite artists and musicians?
There is this band I am loving right now called The Kyteman Orchestra, out of Holland. It’s the brainchild of one guy who put together close to a 60-piece band, which blends hip-hop, electronica, classical, choral music, and pop to make this magical sound. I am also digging a guy named Ben Howard, an English singer-songwriter. After a show in Belgium last spring, the owner of the venue put [Howard’s album] on, and I was immediately like, "I have got to get this album! Who is this?" It was Ben Howard. I also love Alexi Murdoch, MUSE, and Coldplay.
Is there a theme behind Never Out Of Time?
Yeah. The theme is essentially that we are never out of time to do the things we most want to do in this world. Unless you are dead, or have a medical condition that is stopping you, I think there’s still time to pursue your dreams, or get clean, etc. There are a lot of songs on the album about battling addiction or making changes in your life. The song "Running Out of Time" on the album was inspired by a friend who I thought was going to kill himself with his drug addiction. It’s a personal album, and I wanted to send the message that it’s not too late.
You also dedicate time to youth at outreach centers and schools giving presentations and workshops on songwriting and music. What inspired you to reach out like that?
When I left my teaching job, it wasn’t because I didn’t want to work with kids. In fact, they were the ones that kept me in the classroom. I loved being a teacher. I knew that I needed to pursue music, but I didn’t want to stop reaching out to kids, so this was a perfect fit for me. I love doing workshops and spreading the message that there are positive ways to cope with and combat depression and rise up after living in broken homes. You can be the first person in your family to graduate college, just like me. I also direct a non-profit Rock ‘n Roll Camp in Seattle, and it is so inspiring to help young musicians find their voice.
I love "Here You Come Again." It sounds like a self-discovery song. How does this track fit into the theme of the album?
This track was really about two things: I am allergic to wheat gluten, and when I eat it, it makes me feel crazy. I felt inspired to write a riff that feels circus-like and would capture how I feel when I am "gluten’d out of my mind." Also, when I eat it — and sometimes even when I don’t — I totally beat myself up and I am filled with self-doubt. This song is directed at that voice that takes us over sometimes. It’s an awakening song about deciding not to listen to that voice.
Do you have any future albums or projects we can look forward to seeing?
I am working on songs for the next album, but that is a slow process because I have been spending so much time on the road. I am not planning to rush it at all. That’s not how I work. Though I have thought about doing a holiday album or EP. I also really want to start co-writing with folks for side projects. So I guess I have a lot of ideas for future projects. I tend to stay incredibly busy, so I am sure you will see something in the near future!