Echo’s exciting new signing, Forever Like Red recently blew the crowd away with their set at Hyde Park’s London Calling.
Hailing from Louisiana in the Deep South, by way of LA, Cameron Meshell‘s stunningly haunting vocals and emotive, intelligent song writing have produced a forthcoming album which brings together the best of both piano and guitar driven rock in a neat little package that’ll be turning heads. Dee Massey met up with Cameron before their Water Rats show for a chat about the early days, recording the new album and what he makes of all those Jeff Buckley comparisons…
So let’s start right at the beginning…you actually started off as a solo artist?
Yes, if you go back to the early days I had a band then [called Cameron Meshell]. My brother played drums and a good good friend of mine played bass. So I’ve kinda always been in a band. I worked solo around 2000, so yeah it was a good few years of solo. And we’ve had this actual band together for just six months.
So what made you actually decide to make it a band as opposed to just be a solo singer/songwriter?
I moved to Los Angeles in 2003 as a solo artist, just writing songs for acoustic guitar. I wanted to form a band, I was really struggling… I guess struggling to find myself and find what kind of music I wanted to be doing, and I’d written songs like ‘Father’ and ‘Forever Like Red’ before I moved to LA, but I was really struggling…. But I did manage to get a publishing deal early on, I was really lucky to get that. I wanted to put together a band and then I met Pelle [Hillstrom – formally of Modwheelmood] and so we started working together and putting songs together.
And the fact that you’re from LA, Pelle’s from Sweden and the other guys (Mikkel Heimburger (bass) and Jesper Kristensen (drums)) are Danish – does that have any impact on your sound?
You know what, I can say that it actually doesn’t on this album because really this album really just me doing my thing…. yes they’ve played on a couple of songs , but we’ll see what happens with the next album.
I read that you come from a deeply religious family, has that effected your song writing?
[laughs wryly] Oh yes. Absolutely, that fuels me. ‘What Will You Pay‘ is a song about questioning your faith, your religions. I am not a deeply religious person, my mum doesn’t like that too much as she’s a deeply religious person. But pretty much if you’re born in the south and you come from the south religion is number one, you start with that and then you worry about other things.
And what does your mum think about what you’re doing now?
She loves it, she couldn’t be happier.
People say you sound very like Jeff Buckley which is quite a big accolade to have placed on your shoulders, is he one of your inspirations?
Honestly..no![laughs] In fact that’s the most annoying thing about it, everyone goes to Jeff Buckley but if you listen to early Freddie Mercury that’s where my voice comes from, it’s not Jeff Buckley at all.
I hadn’t picked up on that at all! I’ll have to go back and listen to him now.
Yeah yeah, Freddie Mercury is my number one influence. In fact if you go back and you look at who influenced Jeff Buckley you’ll find that Freddie Mercury was one of those people. Because his falsetto is exactly where I’m taking it from, and I’m not ashamed to say that. I totally learned how to sing from the school of Freddie, not Jeff Buckley.
I do listen to Jeff Buckley, but I think everybody wants to go back to him. I read an article in NME that said something about Thom Yorke and Chris Martin getting their inspiration from Jeff Buckley, but any male that does a falsetto is going to sound just like Freddie Mercury or Buckley..I mean look at Mika.
How would you describe your sound to someone who’s never heard Forever Like Red?
I would say melody, it’s a nice clean smooth sound – but it really depends on which song you’re talking about. If I was talking about Father or something like that I’d say breakdown, piano based, melodic, catchy….something like that.
When I saw you playing at the Carling Academy you did a really rock driven set, is that the direction you’re heading in?
Well actually tonight’s going to be very different. We’ve taken the rock out. We’re adding two piano songs and taking out Father, so we’re trying to change the set and make it a little mellow, ‘cos we’re gearing up for Hyde Park [London Calling], and we want to do a more mellow set for that.
I wanted to ask you about your deal with Echo, how come you chose to sign to a UK based label?
Because I couldn’t get a deal in America! [laughs] Actually that’s not true – I was offered a couple of deals, but we passed on them because we didn’t think it was the right time to sign but in the end we were offered a major label deal in America but we turned in down and kept going and eventually we just couldn’t get a deal, I don’t know what the case is now but Echo came and had been interested pretty much since the beginning, and we decided that it was pretty much the best label to go with. They allowed us to tour and build it up like [labels].. used to 30 years ago.
So let’s talk a little about your new album ‘Distance’. You started off recording it with Brad Wood before switching to have Dave McCracken produce it and Richard Wilkinson mixed it – how come you swapped producers?
We did the Brad Wood sessions and it was a little pop, I literally have a whole other album that’s a little more smooth, and we wanted to put some edge onto it.. We did the deal with Echo, and picked Dave McCracken out of a handful of producers, mainly because Dave didn’t have the huge names behind him I think. We met with guys who’d produced huge names and we went with Dave because he seemed newer onto the scene and we liked what he did. We worked with him one day in a meeting that actually turned into a session , and we pretty much said ‘that’s the guy’ and he did a great job?
And did you enjoy the whole studio process?
Yeah, mostly. Obviously sometimes it gets really stressful, especially when you’ve been drinking and you come in and you’re just pissed off and you don’t want really to be there, but for the most part it’s an enjoyable experience. I had a good time!
How involved did you get in the mixing?
Not too much…In fact [laughs] they don’t even invite us down when they’re mixing! [laughs]
[laughs] I know!
Did the end result sound like you’d hoped?
I’m very happy with it, you always want to change things but at the end of the day, you have to say this is what it is, this is what I loved when I was listening to the playbacks, before it even got mixed….the feelings there.
You’re midway through your UK tour right now, how’s that been for you?
It’s been great. I mean….at times if feels kinda pointless when you go way out of your way and you’re kinda playing for two people, but most of the time when people come up to you and say ‘ great show’ it makes it worthwhile.
And you played Hyde Park’s ‘London Calling’ in June!
Yeah but no one seemed to know we were playing! I was bummed out about that because we weren’t up on the posters that were all over the subways, ‘cos we weren’t confirmed when they went to press.
You need to get your street team out writing your name on all of them! What does the rest of the summer hold for you guys?
Well we’re off in July and August off and then we’re hitting it hard in September, at least that’s what I know right now.
So it’ll all kick off big time in September?
I hope so! [laughs]
Ok, and to finish up, I have a few questions that I ask every band..it’s your quick fire round.. what 3 things should you always take on tour with you?
A book..your ipod and a pen and paper. Oh and a pen and paper only count as one thing..
That’s totally cheating!
But you can’t have one without the other!
Hmm…ok what’s the worst thing about being in a band?
Oh man..you have to listen to three other people [laughs], you can’t always get your own way..
And the best thing?
Well fortunately I usually end up getting my own way! [laughs]. And being out with friends and having a good time. There’s always going to be ups and downs.
What was the first gig you ever went to?
Doctor John, the New Orleans pianist I think, I actually met him. Probably my first gig.
What bands do you listen to at the moment?
I love the new Killers album, the new Bloc Party, the new Artic Monkeys, and the new Keane album’s growing on me.
What’s the most shameful CD that you own?
[laughs] Jordan Knight…the solo Jordan Knight
Seriously! He really did some brilliant stuff! Well not him…but whoever was playing…there are some really cool songs on there [laughs sheepishly] I think it’s called…oh whatever… I stand behind that, there ARE a couple of good songs on there!
That’s so going to come back and haunt you when people Google this interview!
[laughs] It’s not that bad!
Where would you most like to tour and who with?
I would love to tour with U2 all over the world. I think that they’re one of those bands who are just so damn huge, they’re so lasting, they’re the mould for a rock band, they’re the mould and that’s what you have to follow, and just try to follow that path. Oh and maybe Queen too…but that’s pretty unlikely!
What’s your poison?
I’m having it now [raises pint]
And your hangover cure?
And lastly, any words of wisdom for Crossfire readers…
Yeah…stay away from hard drugs!