Raised in Southern California, Cameo Adele has been honing her skills as a vocalist and songwriter for years. Last month the singer-songwriter, released her debut album, To You From and Venus - an exploration of jazz, liberation, funk, and spirituality. Following the release of her debut album, I had a conversation with Cameo about her influences, women's liberation, spirituality, and more. Here's our conversation:
Thanks for taking out the time to talk about your album! So, how'd you get into making music?
No problem, thanks for having me! Both of my parents are singers and my Dad plays the bass too; he was a part of a few bands that had some success during the 80s. Growing up, my mom was my vocal coach. I started writing songs around 12, and started getting serious about making music around 14. I recorded a few originals at the time but nothing I was super proud of. Around 18, I joined a collective of artists out in the Valley where I was staying at the time called First Class. I eventually ended up leaving them and moving to Anaheim where I joined a collective of artists called Deadwest. Being in both of those collectives, with this desire, love, and passion for music, helped me gain the necessary confidence in myself to really pursue my own sound.
The production and overall sound on the album are great! Who are some of the producers/musicians you worked with?
Thanks so much! For the most part I exclusively work with my producer Ujah. Ujah's a musician, vocalist and producer. I also worked with Andrew David V. They're collectively known as VXV. I was able to get their shared talents on a few songs such as Sensation, Sonica Sonata, and the B&H interlude. A producer named Oso was kind enough to lend us his beat for Never which Ujah just added a few dynamics and guitar too. Other than that, Ujah is to credit for the overall sound of the album. Thanks to his musicianship and connections, we were able to get other musicians on the songs as well to bring in that authentic sound. We had Scotr Dagg on trumpet, Stephen Wood on saxophone, Daniel Kristoff on piano, and Trevor Torres on violin.
I'm interested in learning more about you and your team's creative process. Do y'all typically start with music, a chord progression/beat, then write lyrics? Or, is it a fluid process?
We have a pretty scattered process actually (laughs). It's ironic because a lot of other local producers are so impressed with our process, but it's not all that glamorous or fluid or well organized. Sometimes I'll start a song a capellaand I'll send it to Ujah via voice memo - a super minimal recording. If he likes it, he'll either immediately start creating to it, or he'll wait 'til I come by and he'll figure out the chord progression on his guitar and build from there. Sometimes we build together from the ground up, especially when I'm working with VXV. They'll begin building the beat, then I'll start to write, and when I'm stuck Ujah can help me with melodies being a vocalist or even lyrics sometimes. Andrew also chimes in with lyrics when we work together, so it's a full team effort. As we're creating, Ujah will think of what the song we're creating kinda feels like and we'll reference it for inspiration. There's usually a few songs being referenced every time we work. And keep in mind we are very paced workers, the final sound of a song is so far from the original draft a lot of the time. So there's A LOT of revising that goes on.
What was the motivation behind starting Run with a tribal chant? What's it saying?
The beginning of Run is chanting "Ose Baba." It's a Nigerian praise that means "Thank you God" or "Thank you Father." The song itself is about measuring up to God. Ujah is Nigerian, but spent time growing up in the States. I'm always begging him to share more Nigerian culture with me and to incorporate it into the music, 'cause I definitely think it's something that makes him original that intrigues interest. When we were creating Run, it had a very natural tribal feel to me so I just started to hound him like "we gotta make it more tribal, let's make it sound like Nigeria" (laughs). He found a sample of a man chanting Ose Baba, and we originally had that but I kept hounding Ujah to do it himself so it was authentic and luckily our creative team backed me up on that so what you hear is Ujah himself in all his Nigerian glory (laughs).
I'd like for my music to help others feel less alienated and alone.
The idea of a strong, liberated woman of color accompanied by the planet Venus was the original blue print idea for the cover. But, the artist, Brandy Turner (@b.loved_ on instagram) brought that idea to a whole 'nother level. Her art already featured beautiful, liberated woman of color so she was a perfect fit to bring my loose idea to life.
I'm also completely enamored by human behavior, astrology, and spirituality. Much of the album, artwork, the title, and the story the album tells, all intertwine with the energy I've been given in this lifetime. I'm a Taurus, which means I am ruled by the planet/the goddess of love Venus, thus the title To You From Venus. Taurus is exalted in (secondary influence) the moon which carries the energy of emotion. The cover of the woman dripping over the moon can be interpreted as a woman submitting herself to that emotion, which coincides with the story and message of the album, the Aries constellation can also be found in the top right of the cover. Aries being my cusp thus another energy I emit into the universe that shapes my experience.
As a writer, what's something you want listeners to walk with?
To You From Venus is organized in the sequence of a love story. I mostly want to convey how self discovery and love can force you to look inward. I want listeners to be able to find themselves somewhere in that process. I want listeners to realize how much growth is still left for them as they progress through the sequence of emotions. Ultimately, I'd like for my music to help others feel less alienated and alone.
You can follow Cameo Adele on Instagram and Twitter @Cameeohh