interview – cam maclean

– featured image courtesy of  sarah o’driscoll – 

Cam maclean’s music evokes a sense of timelessness.  the montreal songwriter – perhaps best-known for his work in vesuvio solo – began constructing his solo debut full-length back in 2015; the end result is wait for love, an eight-song collection of breezy, folk-inflected soft pop gems interested in parsing how heady topics like heartache and masculinity collide and intertwine.

from early, synth-driven cuts like “where i go” and “new jerusalem” to the piano-oriented title track and evocative ballad “light cast,” maclean has already provided a broad primer to the textures he explores across wait for love, his singular falsetto and angular guitar motifs threaded throughout.  with the album’s arrival just a day away, we caught up with maclean via e-mail to discuss its creation; check out the transcript, lightly edited for clarity, below.

how did this new batch of tunes come about?  did you have a conscious plan to create a body of work separate from vesuvio solo, or did it occur a bit more organically?

i’ve always written songs on my own, and had been planning to do my own record for a long time.  vesuvio solo is (ironically, i suppose) very much a duo – the songs are co-written by both (co-frontman) thom and i.  i do work really well in partnerships in general, though, and in the making of my own record wait for love, working with producer adam wilcox was invaluable.

we started working together on some of the songs in 2015, and a lot of them went through many different arrangements.  the song “where i go,” for instance, was originally done in a major key – adam encouraged me to play it in minor.  “light cast” is another song that ended up dramatically different than it started – it was originally written as a slow acoustic ballad, sung in a much lower register.

wait for love explores a sonic territory that’s familiar to you, but you cite a larger range of influences.  what new artists in particular did you find yourself gravitating towards while working on this release?

i can’t say that i was directly influenced by any newer artists when it came to writing or producing any of these songs.  in fact, perhaps the album i listened to the most while i was making these songs was carole king’s tapestry!

i am, however, of course inspired by a lot of newer artists.  jessica pratt is someone whose music i’m consistently interested in, for instance.  my record does explore similar sonic territory as vesuvio solo, yes, but the songs on wait for love have a confessional quality that makes them quite different from vesuvio solo, i think.

can you speak to any obstacles you faced while recording a solo project that you hadn’t encountered previously?  perhaps there were unforeseen benefits as well?

i worked on the album in a very piecemeal fashion over the course of two years or so.  this was both frustrating (because of course it’s nice to get something done quickly), and also a gift because it did allow the songs to grow and become shaped more organically without force.  the biggest obstacle was trying to complete the album and focus on it while still being active with vesuvio solo and several other projects.

this album has many of the lush qualities that could be associated with the singer-songwriters of yesteryear.  is there a specific decade you find yourself especially endeared to, touchstones that will always inform your work in some way?

the 1970s is probably the decade that produced my favorite records more than any other.  court and spark by joni mitchell, for instance, is a record i always come back to.  other favorites include judee sill’s self-titled debut, paris 1919 by john cale, and paul simon’s debut solo record.

“jacob always” has some memorable imagery that slots in nicely with the album’s overarching themes.  is there a set of circumstances that inspired the track that you’d be comfortable sharing?

jacob as well as the “fortune teller” in the song are fictitious, but the themes in the song are ones i wanted to consciously explore.  i suppose many have driven good love away at one point or another, but of course i’ve known so many men in particular who’ve done this again and again and thought they “weren’t to blame” for the damage they caused.

do you see any more solo work in your future after wait for love winds down?

yes, definitely.  i’ve already begun recording a few new songs for my next solo record.

wait for love arrives tomorrow via atelier ciseaux records; stream it in full a bit early, courtesy of popmatters.

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