Feature Interview: Colyn Cameron Of Wake Owl
Singer-songwriter Colyn Cameron from Wake Owl has accomplished a long list of notable hallmarks in his youthful life. Originally hailing from Southern California with relocations to Portland and Vancouver B.C., Cameron has not only perused his passion for music but also his inherit need to travel and study abroad. From Emerson College in England studying Organic Agriculture to traveling the globe, Cameron’s music has been a pursuit of passion and creative expression on a journey destined for greatness. However, getting the chance to speak with Colyn last week during the final countdown to Tall Tree Music Festival, you wouldn’t gauge that the humble young-man thought twice about Wake Owl’s rise to popularity since their EP release in January 2013.
Colyn– Yeah, no worries!
So, I want to talk about Wake Owl within the last year and how the band has taken a huge step professionally. From your Wild Country EP release on January 29th 2013, to playing on the stages of Sasquatch, Bonaroo and soon to be Lollapalooza, how has this surge in popularity affected the members of Wake Owl on a personal and professional level?
Colyn – The members of Wake Owl have been changing over the past year. The folks that are going to be playing at Tall Tree have been touring together for roughly six months. So, we’ve been solidly playing together at all of the festivals this year.
(Pauses) It’s pretty crazy when I think about it sometimes; I also don’t try to think about it a lot. These are opportunities that arise and you have to make the most of them; you know? It’s important to continuously grow as an artist through the opportunities given.
Could you reflect back over this past year; what have you learned about yourself as a musician?
Colyn– As a musician I’ve learned that I have to stay as creative as possible in the time that I have off. What I mean by that is, you can get in your head a lot on the road. There are industry things happening, expectations, disappointments; things are good…things are bad. A lot of that can mess with your actual creative flow. That’s the main thing that I’ve learned through all of this. If I can stay connected to some creative source then I can forget about all of this to some extent. I’ve also learned not to take it too seriously, there are always going to be disappointments.
Before Wake Owl formed, I read that you did a lot of travelling, worked on organic farms and went to school. Do you take time when you’re home to go outside and be in nature? Is that what brings you back to the core root of who you are?
Colyn – Yeah for sure. I think everyone in the band try’s to do that. Mostly spending time outside and focusing on writing. On the road, you’re focused on preforming. Preforming and writing are very different things. When I get back home I get obsessed with writing again. Generally, that’s what I do most of the time: I catch up with friends and get back into writing.
So, I want to go back to the beginning to contextualize Wake Owl’s journey. I’ve read that your musical interests were peaked with rap and hip-hop. Who were you listening to at the time and what were you writing about back then?
Colyn – That was quite a while ago, ten years ago now. At that time I was listening to the mainstream hip-hop that was out. The first CD I bought was The Real Slim Shady and at that time I was listening Eminem, Dr. Dre etc.
That was the first time that I started messing around with lyrics, writing and rhyming. I was listening to hip-hop and that’s what I was drawn to when I was younger.
Colyn – I got a guitar and it changed my life. Coming from someone who hadn’t previously played an instrument, it was a way to write songs. That started seven years ago before the EP was written. I was doing it for a long time before songs started to emerge that I could share with people.
How did you get your first guitar?
Colyn– I think I rented it from Long and McQuade – I think it was like that. Yeah.
You began your career at age sixteen, as a solo singer-song writer. Was there a moment when you realized that you wanted to make this a major focus in your life or was this a slow evolution?
Colyn – It’s been a really slow evolution. It started when I went to England and I was playing the most music that I had ever played. I played all day every day. That’s where I started to play with different people. It was a slow evolution; it came in waves. It started there, and I went away farming and came back to it.
I was busking for about two years in Vancouver, writing songs here and there. That was where the preforming started to happen. Since then, it’s been another evolution in terms of going from busking to touring in a band. It’s quite different.
Ya, I can only imagine.
Colyn – It’s been a huge learning process.
How did you and Aiden Briscall meet? What sparked you two to collaborate and form Wake Owl?
Colyn -We went to high school together, and ran into each other a few years after when I was working on the EP. I was already thinking about putting violin on the EP. I called Aiden and he came and played the violin with me. Once the EP was done, I gave him a call because I was thinking about preforming. The EP sparked a reason to reach out for him, but we’ve been getting to know each other musically since then.
You and Aiden live apart. How does the distance affect your song writing?
Colyn – When we’re apart, we send ideas back and forth through email and Dropbox. We get together before touring when we have the time and really make the most of it. It’s worked so far, but can be challenging financially.
Ya I can only image. Flights aren’t cheap.
Colyn – I was trying to find a name for the EP because I didn’t want to put it out under my own name. Wake Owl popped into my head and I spent a few weeks trying to find something better… but it stuck. There is no real crazy story behind it or anything.
Could you walk me through the process of your creative inner workings? How does a song like Wild Country, Gold, Seaside or Grow take shape?
Colyn – A lot of those songs started with me playing guitar, with different melodies coming and going. It just comes to me. Playing grabs me in all different ways and I’ll follow those. It will develop into a line, chorus or verse. Sometimes I’ll have a part of a song or it all comes at once, although that’s kind of rare.
Wake Owl is no longer just you and Aiden. Josh Daignault and Andy Shauf are touring with you as well. How did they join forces with you? Is this now a four piece band?
Colyn – Josh and I had run into each other a few times at different events and festivals. I saw him in Portland when I was living there. We started talking and I said that I was looking for someone for a rhythm section. We started skyping and started sharing ideas. Josh flew to Portland later on and we tried jamming together, the three of us. We then brought Andy into the circle. It felt good and we ran with that.
Looking ahead, two years from now, where would you like to be in your life personally and with Wake Owl professionally?
Colyn – We’re making a new record this summer, so hopefully that will be out (Laughs). Hopefully do a ton more touring based on how the new record is received. Maybe even work on a third record by then?
I would like touring to be more compact, because right now it’s really spread out. I would like to get the creative relationship closer with recording and touring. It would be great to be self-sufficient while touring (laughs).
We are really excited for Wake Owl at Tall Tree this year. Is there anything you are looking forward to as the festival approaches?
Colyn – We’ve spent a lot of time in B.C. and on the Island. I think we’re looking forward to playing a festival in the woods that’s close to home.
Colyn – That’s a crazy question!
I would be a Redwood Cedar. I’d be close to the stars at night and I’d be ancient. I’d be in California.
Where you’re from.
Colyn – Ya, exactly (laughs)
Thanks so much for taking the time to talk with me today! We’re looking forward to having you at Tall Tree this year. In less than a week! Coming up quick!
Colyn – Ya, thank you! See you all soon!
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Emmalee Brunt is a freelance music writer living in Victoria B.C. She is the co-founder and writer for Betty and Kora and is the official Tall Tree Festival correspondent, writer and content creator for www.talltreemusic.com .
You can read Emmalee’s posts here on Tall Tree Music and on Betty and Kora at http://www.bettyandkora.com