Singer-songwriter Colyn Cameron of Wake Owl is based between Vancouver, BC and Portland, OR. He was originally born and raised in southern California and about seven years ago he taught himself guitar and began writing songs.
After graduation, Colyn studied organic agriculture at Emerson College in England, worked on various farms throughout the UK, Germany, Chile and Canada, and then traveled the world. Upon returning to Vancouver, Colyn spent some time playing in bands before recording the songs he had written after his travels abroad. The result is Wake Owl's Wild Country EP (out now via Vagrant Records).
I recently had the opportunity to catch up with Colyn regarding his musical journey and his new Wild Country recording.
Hi Colyn. Before we dig into the writing and recording of Wild Country, I'd like to ask you a little bit about your journeys to founding Wake Owl. First, when and how did you begin learning and playing music?
Colyn Cameron: I started teaching myself guitar around the age of 16 and began writing songs as well.
Which artists, albums, live performances, and/ or personal experiences inspired you to pursue music seriously?
Colyn: I still don't feel like I am pursuing music seriously. The more I experience, the more it just feels like one big process and journey I am on that never had a real starting point. Even before the guitar, I was trying to rap, and before that who knows. The people that inspired me to play music the most were always those who had the least interest in it as a career, but it was a need, an unavoidable creative impulse.
You were 16 when you began writing your own music. Can you talk about your early influences and inspiration and how things began to take shape for you?
Colyn: My early inspiration was having that feeling of my own creative outlet, something of my own world to explore ideas and emotions, and something I didn’t have to "share". Obviously that has shifted a great deal to where I stand now, but it is a memory I have of the feelings then.
I guess I was at a stage where people like Dylan and Young seemed the most authentic in their storytelling, so that was a tradition I got interested in a lot. Since then it has evolved and incorporated all of my other influences musically and lyrically, including hip hop.
You have spent a lot of time traveling - studying organic agriculture in England; working on farms in the UK, Germany, Chile, and Canada; and visiting other places of the world. How did these different experiences influence/ progress/ deepen/ strengthen you songwriting?
Colyn: It helped because I was just taking in so much during a lot of those travels. I wasn’t creating a lot. I was just consuming experiences. I just feel grateful they resurfaced as songs and things that made me feel good in their creation.
Can you discuss your experiences after returning to Vancouver, and when you began writing and recording songs - including "Gold" - and Wake Owl began.
Colyn: I was involved in a lot of music making with friends and I did a lot of busking. After different ups and downs in this, I decided to record the EP.
How and when did you connect with Vagrant?
Colyn: After we played a show in LA. We talked a bunch and decided it was a good partnership.
Can you talk about when and how you began working on material for the new record?
Colyn: The EP is over a year old for me. To me it just can't feel like a new record, but I am still excited for it to be finally out there for anyone to hear. I wrote most of these songs in summer of 2011. It was a really hard time I was going through and these songs seemed like the only real thing, the only place I was sure of something. They all came out pretty quick and felt like a group.
Can you discuss your writing process (both musically and lyrically)?
Colyn: Generally the melody and music comes first. Sometimes lyrics come out right away that are exactly what it needs, sometimes I have to ponder it a lot harder, try different things. The best thing about this EP was that I was not really listening to that much other music at all. When I am super creative I listen to a lot less music.
What are some of your non-musical influences?
Colyn: Walt Whitman, William Stafford, Orland Bishop.
Your band has toured in Canada with Bahamas, Zeus, and The Jezabels, and a number of your own US shows. Can you discuss some of your most memorable experiences touring with these artists? And how have these artists inspired you both musically and personally?
Colyn: They were all quite short tours so we didn’t bond a bunch. The Bahamas folks were awesome. More than anything, I just saw how long and hard Afie has worked to get where he is and it is always cool to see it working out for these guys.
What are your plans for 2013?
Colyn: It will be busy. We are embarking on our first real American tour, hitting SXSW, and soon after that will start recording our full length record. I can't tell ya’ll who we are doing it with but it's gonna be fun. I think some more touring after recording, summer festivals, and I hope to have the full length out before the year is over.