Contest:: Win Cam Penner’s new LP (X5)

Cam Penner is the working man’s musician. He’s out there on the road, without a booking agent, hoping beyond hope that his music, and all good music gets heard. His latest record, Gypsy Summer, finds Penner exploring new textures and bolder sounds, and even though his fractured rootsy persona still creeps into the mix, this isn’t a depressing record. Gyspy Summer is full of hope. It’s full of love. It’s full of everything we should be looking for, not only musically, but in life.


We almost never do interviews on herohill - mainly because we are not good at them, and lack the social skills to have face to face conversations - but Cam is such a passionate man, we thought reading his words might inspire you to take a chance and listen to his music.

So we are going to make this easy. Cam has generously offered up (5) LPs and to enter the contest, just tweet about Cam’s music. Put @herohill in the tweet so we can find out about it, but this is about getting the word out for a talented musician working on a very small budget. I can’t recommend this record enough. If I had the cash, I’d pay for Cam to fly to Halifax for a show, but hopefully if we get the word out about his songs, he can make the trek town to town, show by show. It’s probably more Cam’s style anyway.


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MP3:: Cam Penner - My Love & I

Obviously, Gypsy Summer is a huge shift sonically from Trouble & Mercy. What led to this change and how does that affect your live show/touring?
Summer time. Legendario Sweet Rum. My sweetheart. Her lips. Her thighs. Her waking eyes and spending long mornings in bed with her. Forgiveness. Al Green and Gladys Knight. Underground hip hop. Watching & listening to the world change time and time again.


My live show will always be different than my albums. It has to be as they are two different art forms. The show is honest and real. It’s very musical and delicate, sometimes fragile. It’s always evolving. Jon Wood, my musical companion is right there beside me he is a major part of the orchestration. When we get on stage we know why we are there and where we want to go…leading each other down different paths.


I don’t shy away from playing songs like ‘My Lover & I’. I know the feel and learn how to translate that to the stage. Sometimes it works, sometimes its shaky but always honest.


Your last record was born on buses, trains and couches; life on the road and all that touring entails. Gypsy Summer, while equally as emotional, feels more optimistic. Was the writing process different this time around (more collaborative, band driven) and if so, which do you find easier?
This album is optimistic. It’s exciting. It’s poignant. Its a rallying call, “It’s going to get worse before it gets better.” to ”You be good to your Lover, You be Kind to your Lover.” I knew I wanted a fuller sound on this album. Something more alive and groove oriented. I wanted it to be the sound of a river this time, not a creek. About a year and a half ago I bought an old set of Gretsch drums. That was the start of the writing process. I just couldn’t get enough of them. I’d throw on some old soul and motown, play along and was transfixed by motion and movement. Thoughts turned to lyrics and it just started spilling out. I also enjoyed the summer time like never before. Afternoon and late night drinking with my sweetheart and friends. There is a line on the song “Throw Your Hands Up” that pretty much sums up last summer:

Summertime sunshine, summer dresses, clotheslines
Longer days and short nights, bathing in the moon light

Back porch front porch, were burning down the late torch
The weight upon the floor boards, is moving to the beat

I wouldn’t necessarily write lyrics like that but there was a celebration of life going on around me at the time. As for the recording process I knew which musicians I wanted to play on the album. With no rehearsals we headed to a ranch house in Southern Alberta I had been wanting to make an album at for the last fifteen years. I’ve never enjoyed making an album as much as this one. A gang of musicians in a cabin half a mile from the Canadian Rockies. No cell phone reception, no internet, no interference. Just music making. Wolves, wires, wine and whiskey. I could have stayed out there another two weeks. I remember when we hit the record button on day one. It was like we all took a deep breath and then released it over the next ten days. Just beautiful.


You are one of many musicians that has found a home on blogs in vary diverse locations. Canadian sites on either coast, Florida, Chicago. How do you get your music to the fans and do you feel pressure to give away your music to appease the current music world?
It was funny seeing Gypsy Summer get out there so quick, that was a first for me. As for giving it away I don’t give a shit. Music shouldn’t be caged by cost or currency. The one thing that does trouble me about the digital age is that everything is instantaneous. It’s right now then gone in seconds. It’s a flash and then were on to something else. I wonder if we are losing lose our appreciation of what we are actually holding. I was reading the inner notes on the new Gil Scott-Heron cd…..

“There is a proper procedure for taking advantage of any investment. Music, for example. Buying music is an investment. To get the maximum you must listen to it for the first time under optimum conditions. Not in your car or on a portable player through a headset. Take it home. Get rid of all distractions, (even her or him). Turn off your cell phone. Turn off everything that rings or beeps or rattles or whistles. Make yourself comfortable. Play your LP. Listen all the way through. Think about what you got. Think about who would appreciate this investment. Decide if there is someone to share this with. Turn it on again. Enjoy Yourself.”

AMEN. I don’t care if people download, burn, share or buy my album. Just spend the time to listen to it all the way through. It is a beautiful and honest album. Gypsy Summer is an album. {Side A (songs 1-6). Side B (songs 7-11). For those who don’t have a physical copy of the cd.} It’s not just a collection of songs.


Without question, the shocking transition into funk riffs and heavy percussion you hear on this record contrast the stripped down feel of Trouble and Mercy. How did you and the band decide to explore these new textures and tempos? Was there any artist you were influenced by and trying to pay homage to with the sound or was it simply an organic growth that resulted in the new sounds?
Before the album was recorded I was demoing the songs over and over in my studio. I knew what I wanted to hear. I also had to learn to let go to some extent and let the musicians bring their feel to it as well. The recording process was very live, no rehearsals. Just set up and start playing. I didn’t even give them my demos until a few days before we headed out to the mountains. I wanted a feel. I wanted to make a song breathe. You look at each other. Sometimes you’re overwhelmed by emotion. Sometimes frustration. You’re swaying. You’re creating as you play. You allow yourself to be moved.


As for influences, like I said before I was listening to tons of old soul and r n’ b music. Billy Preston, Allen Toussaint, Maceo and the Macks, Gladys Knight…..Also a lot of underground hip hop. J Dilla, Nujabes, AndrRomak, Madlib, MFDoom……there was an excitement to the music. The phrasing, the confidence and the emotion. I don’t necessarily think I was paying homage just was moved by the music and the passion behind it.


I don’t really listen to the kind of music I write and play. I find it distracting from what I do. I look to other styles and daily existence for influence. I don’t ever feel trapped to write in one way. I’m more interested in evolving. One thing that really moved me musically in the last year was a finding a live performance of Al Green singing “Jesus is Waiting” on Soul Train. Absolutely stunning. He looks pretty fucked up. The irony of it all.


Currently, you are over in Europe. I’ve often heard - and from the few shows I’ve seen over there I’d tend to agree - that European crowds are more respectful and fully embrace country/roots song writers. Do you find it easier to find a home for your songs overseas, and if so, what is the biggest hurdle to building that same type of enthusiasm here?
I just returned from a three week tour in the UK/NL/GER/FR. I do enjoy touring over there. Nice theatres, people buy the music, they listen, they laugh, they are engaged. I do have booking representation out there which helps quite a bit. I don’t have that here in Canada and America. To be very honest I find a lot of people climbing over each other out here to get ahead. It has made me very wary of the industry in Canada but then again I haven’t waded that far into it.

It would be nice to see more small theatres in both large cities and small towns. More support for arts & culture by not just the government but by the people. People will have no problem paying $13 - $20 (shit popcorn included) to sit through some shit hollywood movie for two hours but won’t pay the same price to see live original music, theatre or dance for the same price. Absolutely ridiculous. When you participate by attending these events you are participating and helping support and create community. The payoff is staggering.


Last question… as you spend long hours waiting to play and traveling between shows, what records and books are keeping you sane?
I have a few books on tour with me one being the Life and Political Times of Tommy Douglas. A pretty good book to read during this election. I was listening to the Nature of Things and Suzuki was interviewing Margaret Atwood, they were talking about death, cremational and burial. The book ‘Death with Interruptions’ by Jose Saramago was brought up so I’ve just started that one as well. It’s about how this one region defeats death, no one longer dies and what entails. I don’t listen to much on the road I just focus on the live show but at airports, on airplanes, and before sleep I listen to Arvo Part’s ‘Alina’ album. Oh yeah, every day I read a bit from a book called ‘The Power of Kindness, the unexpected benefits of leading a compassionate life.’ Yup that’s right some self help.



This entry was posted on Monday, April 25th, 2011 at 9:27 am and is filed under Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.

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One Response to “Contest:: Win Cam Penner’s new LP (X5)”

gerd April 27th, 2011 at 1:54 pm

song-link does not work,
but great actor

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