With the JUNO awards descending on London this past weekend, you might be feeling the need to reconnect with local musicians and talented voices here in London.
Camille Intson, “camie”, is a nationally recognized and chart topping female folk artist, whose soulful melodies and intimate song lyrics have been capturing the hearts of London and her hometown Hamilton since 2015.
Intson is an Esto-Canadian award-winning artist and Co-Founding Director of Winnipeg-based ArtLaunch Theatre Company. She is also a nationally-produced playwright on both amateur and professional stages. Intson is currently an Artist in Residence at The Arts Project, as well as Student Writer in Residence at Western University where she is in her fourth year of English and theatre studies.
The multi-disciplinary energy of camie’s life lends itself to her work; her simple chords and spell-binding lyrics speak to universal truths that resonate long after the song has paused.
One on one
I got the opportunity to sit down with Intson and discuss her work as camie and all its incredible intersections as she prepares to release her debut album “Sharp Teeth” on March 29.
How has the intersection between all of your fields influenced your music? How have you seen camie influenced by your other passions and work?
I moved here to London thinking that I wouldn’t be involved in the arts at all. I wasn’t even in arts in my first year, I was in political science – I wanted to be a lawyer. That’s the biggest joke to my family now.
I feel like I’ve been story telling before I could do anything else. When I was a kid I was a compulsive liar, and I hated other kids so I wrote novels when I was six. I have been writing songs since I’ve been eight – so that’s always been an impulse for me.
When I came to Western I took Bentley’s enriched English course in first year. There I realized how much I loved literature, and how much of that really provoked me to explore other things artistically.
I started writing plays because I’ve always been into theatre and performing – it was sort of a natural fusion of things.
Being an English student you’re exposed to so many different things. Some of it you hate and some of it you really love. Just being constantly exposed to new ideas – that’s what fuels me.
My music persona is just another way of separating my work. I can dip out and write a play, or a song.
You mention your work is influenced by greats like Joni Mitchell, Stevie Knicks, and Carol King. What about the themes and the powerful female voices drew you to folk and away from your classical harp background?
I played the harp classically for ten years – my first job was a wedding harpist at eight-years-old. But folk music was something I grew up with. I was raised on James Taylor and Joni Mitchell.
I feel like I’m genre-bending now. As much as my earlier stuff was simple acoustic folk melodies or twinges, now camie feels a lot more indie than folk.
It was awesome being raised on those albums. They’re just so beautiful and poetic, and Joni sees the world in such a kaleidoscopic fashion. I love lyricists who are also poets. If you look at Boby Dylan’s chord progressions they’re really simple, but the shit he dares to say resonates.
And female voices? I don’t know, I like women.
How have you seen camie change since 2015 when you started performing? Are there any themes you never expected to be drawn to that you now make part of your art?
It’s funny when I think about the first time I did music gigs. Those times when I was fourteen and singing songs in a coffee house about my highschool boyfriends. It was so cringe.
I’ve always been interested in desire, even before I even knew what the meant.
I’ve always drawn from personal experience because I feel like songwriting is very much that. As I get older my music has been more influenced by the changes that are happening in myself physically and mentally, but also how that connects to everything around me politically.
Sharp Teeth is a record about desire and love and loss and courage, so that’s playing into classic camie tropes, but even now I’m writing a lot of political protest pieces.
My music is no longer just a way of me getting back at my high-school boyfriends for being shitty. Now that I’m creating more externalized stuff I think of my music as an exchange with the world.
On Sharp Teeth, your song “Teeth” features scenes of winter solitude of February in Buffalo, and “I am a Mountain” sees camie declaring herself as various forces of nature – a mountain, river, and sea. How does nature play in your work especially with regards to emotional states, relationships, and identities? Where does this connection come from?
When I write I huddle myself up in a corner of my room and shut myself off from the outside world – that’s where camie’s internal stuff comes from.
But I started realizing in the last two years just how much of my fluctuating mental states come from what’s happening outdoors. Now I spend hours watching the ice skate down the Thames river.
As human beings it’s easy to get pent up in the instrumental fashions of our consciousness and not connect to the elemental things that are around us.
I never really realized how much of my songwriting I talk about water and ice and nature – but it’s everywhere.
I’m reminded metaphorically of the wild when I think about mental states and the way that we dip in and out of feelings, emotions, intuitions, and passions. The wild is always changing and becoming and self-sustaining. It’s always sort of something other than itself.
It’s an age-old connection but it feeds a lot of writers.
You’re a London based artist, but you got your start performing in your hometown Hamilton. How do the two cities, your hometown and your adopted city, feature in your work? Are you drawn to one city for different inspirations than the other?
When I think about playing music in Hamilton I have such amazing memories.
I would play Hamilton bars when I was 17 and be the only young person in the room, which confused a lot of the people there.
When I think about London music I think about how hard it’s been as a student to get out and do gigs.
But I also think about that one time I performed at Eastside’s. I was at a table really close to backstage reading T.S. Elliot’s Four Quartets while eating chicken fingers and in my full Bolshevik camie attire and wondering what my life is.
They’re different for different reasons.
Hamilton has a special place in my heart because it’s where I felt like a very small fish in a big pond. It’s what I needed at the time. In London it’s harder for me to go out and do shows as a student but I’ve had such amazing experiences and met amazing people doing that.
You are incredibly involved with the local London Music scene, and perform at many intimate university gatherings and non-profit events. In April you performed at Women of London Music and Dollhouse Showcase, sharing a stage with the talents of Emm Gryner, Megan Schroder, and Jenn Rayna. What have been some of your favourite stages here in London?
Dollhouse was definitely one of my favourites because it’s an all-female, all-ages showcase. I’ve met so many women of all different music backgrounds and I had some amazing memories there. It was packed, and everyone was there to support female musicians in London. It is so important to recognize that demographic – you don’t get any dudes singing Harvest Moon. You don’t feel out of place.
Every time I think about playing Tabu nightclub when I was 17, I laugh.
I got to play at the London Music Hall of Fame last December. That was a really cool stage because I got to meet a bunch of people who were in those circles.
I also think I like those gigs because I can play songs that tell stories about my life and nobody knows who I’m talking about. The problem with playing songs at university is that I can’t say, “oh this is a song about so and so” because everyone knows each other.
I like playing to crowds of strangers the best because you can really be honest and raw. There’s a vulnerability present in the work I do.
“Sharp Teeth” is produced by John Petingalo at Smokey’s Sounds.
“Sharp Teeth” will be released March 29. Tickets for the release party are $10 for general admission, or $15 in advance including a copy of Sharp Teeth.
You can keep up with camie in all her travels here.