Alex Cameron
Alex Cameron | Image: Jordi Vidal/Redferns

Alex Cameron: “Even in the Darkest Times I’m Still Trying To Make It Explosive”

When Alex Cameron last performed in Australia, things were just about to go off the rails. He played the final show of his 2020 Australian tour on Wednesday, 11th March at Melbourne’s Estonian House. By Friday, 20th March, Australian borders were closed to non-residents.

Cameron, who had been in the process of touring his 2019 album, Miami Memory, returned to his adopted home of New York City where he remained for the majority of the next two years. The former Sydneysider reemerged in late 2021 with the single ‘Sara Jo’, his first piece of new original music since Miami Memory, and soon announced his fourth album, Oxy Music.

Released in March 2022, Oxy Music is a surprisingly upbeat record given the circumstances surrounding its creation. Despite the anthemic musicality, however, Cameron incorporates allusions to the US opioid crisis alongside references to vaccine hesitancy and themes of isolation.

With Cameron set return to Australia for a national tour this November, Music Feeds spoke to the former Seekae member about the creation of Oxy Music, his return to touring, and the desire to come back to Australia.

Alex Cameron – ‘Sara Jo’

Music Feeds: How did you go weathering the storm of these past few years? Did you get through it safely?

Alex Cameron: More or less. I was pretty lucky in terms of the fact I spent most of my time in New York City and it was a pretty shared experience. Whatever was happening to me was typically happening to the person next door as well. So there was a sense of communal grief, a communal experience.

While 2020 was billed for us as being a very busy year, that didn’t end up happening, but I also got really lucky with having done some writing for other artists. So for the first time in my career I was sort of receiving royalties, which really helped.

And we found ways to stay busy and I think – I can’t say it enough – we were definitely one of the luckier acts. Away from home, but having an audience that was really actively listening to the music and I definitely didn’t feel like I was left in the lurch or anything like that.

MF: When did you start working on Oxy Music?

AC: I do a bunch of writing while we’re touring, so it was a mixture of having a few ideas set and ready to work on, but then also just not even really being able to get to the studio for a good six to eight months before we started to figure out what the right sort of approach was going to be and how we were going to do it.

But we have a little studio space in Red Hook in Brooklyn, which has some instruments in there and some recording equipment. So it was really a matter of pooling resources and doing it bit by bit as opposed to banging it out all in one session. 

Alex Cameron – ‘K Hole’

MF: Thematically, it feels like writing Oxy Music would’ve helped you to make sense of the craziness of the world. Was that the case?

AC: I was asked this question in Interview magazine, where actor Sarah Snook asked me, “​​Do you write to gain or lose your identity?” I think most of my work is an attempt to make sense of things. 

In a lot of ways, I am sort of creating worlds or characters or little narratives, [and] a lot of it is an attempt to make sense of things. So I look for some type of catharsis through the writing process and when I’m trying to express something, I’m also trying to make sense of it. 

MF: The album feels a lot brighter than one might’ve expected given the themes it touches on. Was it a surprise to yourself that your music was taking on a tone like that, or was it a conscious decision? 

AC: I really like sort of anthemic folk – emotional, powerful music. I don’t really do the whole downtempo sort of moody, contemplative thing in the music. I really do try to write folk songs that have a singalong quality to them. So I don’t know if that’s really something I can avoid at this stage. That’s what I want to make. 

So I think even in the darkest times, the themes, or lyrical content, I’m still gonna be trying to find a way to make it explosive. 

Alex Cameron – ‘Best Life’

MF: You’ve been playing a lot of shows around Europe and the US this year. How has it felt to get back into performing after all this time off?

AC: It felt really good. We didn’t over-rehearse. We tried to just pick up where we left off. We tried not to focus on the fact that we’ve been apart for two years and just tried to get back into it.

Financially it was touch-and-go there for a while in terms of getting everyone out on the road safely and taking care of everyone, getting everyone paid. There was a bit of chin scratching there for a moment. But I think for whatever reason, people that are listening are really rusted-on in a way. People were there to hear new songs and old songs and it kind of felt like a celebration in that sense. 

I think this is definitely an act that’s carried by people who love the music. I don’t get a sense that there’s anyone in the room who’s there to just check it out. So, without having to do too many small rooms, we managed to sell a lot of tickets and get out there and have a real go of it. It was a lot of fun and a real reminder of how much I love performing and touring. It’s really special. 

MF: Have you noticed a difference in the way the crowds are responding on this side of the pandemic?

AC: I just feel like crowds are very welcoming. And that might be because these days it’s pretty obvious – I think to everyone, even in the audience – how much of a challenge it is to organise a tour and get it done properly and safely.

But I don’t know, I think crowds have always been really generous to this act for whatever reason. That was the one thing I was grateful for: there wasn’t at all a dip in the presence or the feelings in the room. It was very much a supportive feeling and it felt like a good, equal transaction in terms of what the crowd were giving and what we were giving.

Alex Cameron – ‘Far From Born Again’

MF: You have the Australian tour in November. Does it feel strange to have this homecoming on the itinerary at long last?

AC: It does, ’cause it’ll be almost three years when we come back. But I love coming down to Australia. I haven’t seen my parents in three years so it’s gonna be really nice. I’m going to come out to Sydney a little earlier and just spend some time and then get on the road.

And we’re managing to bring the whole band, which is really exciting as well, because my main fear was that I was gonna have to modify the show in order to get down there. But fortunately the way things have been going, we’ll be able to take the whole band. So it’s going to be the same show we’ve been doing in Europe and America.

It’s gonna be red-hot, man. And we’re so excited. Every now and then I sort of remember that we’re going to a certain city and I’ll have a memory in that city and I’m just excited to get back there and feel at home again.

I think there’s always a part of me that wants to show Australia and the people down there what we’ve been doing over here, you know? I don’t know if it translates or if it reaches and I still feel like we’ve got a lot of work to do in Australia in terms of bringing it up to speed with what’s been happening over here.

Alex Cameron Australian Tour 2022

  • Friday, 18th November – Freo.Social, Fremantle, WA (Tickets)
  • Thursday, 24th November – Manning Bar, Sydney, NSW (Tickets)
  • Friday, 25th November – The Triffid, Brisbane, QLD (Tickets)
  • Saturday, 26th November – The Croxton Bandroom, Melbourne, VIC (Tickets)

Further Reading

Love Letter To A Record: Alex Cameron On Jack Ladder’s ‘Hurtsville’

Russell Crowe Can’t Stop Tweeting About Australian Musician Alex Cameron

Alex Cameron And The Art Of “True” But “Harsh” Love Songs

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