Chicago’s Cam Be is a true artist in the purest sense. The musician/filmmaker/interview/photographer who won Volume 4 of our Glassetonbury tournament series knows many ways to express himself creatively. The Emmy winner who has interviewed legends from Maya Angelou to Questlove took some time to discuss his artistic avenues of expression, his tournament-winning song “Right Now,” and more.
Do you view yourself as a filmmaker who makes music, a musician who makes films, or do you identify with all of your outlets of artistic expression equally?
I get asked that question a lot. I’ve come to accept myself as an artist, and these art forms are the means in which I communicate. Some days I feel inspired to write a song, or work on a script, or produce a documentary. I am passionate about all of those projects, so for me I am simply just an artist.
Which medium inspired you first: film, photography, music? What and who sparked your interest in each?
Film, I think, captivated me first. And with film, music is often there with it side-by-side. My mom loves musicals, so I watched those growing up. Spike Lee films were what first sparked my interest in making movies, followed by John Singleton and the Hughes Brothers. I also loved music videos; Hype Williams was my favorite director along with Spike Jonze.
What do you consider to be your biggest artistic accomplishment?
I think my biggest artistic accomplishment is still being here. I quit my job thirteen years ago and became a full-time artist, and I haven’t looked back. Since that point, I’ve travelled all over the world shooting films, photos, and performing music. I’ve worked with some amazing artists, and my work has been recognized all over the world. And I get to wake up tomorrow and do it again. I feel blessed by that.
Let’s talk about “Summer in September.” What was your headspace like going into making the album, and what were you hoping to express on the record?
With “Summer in September,” I wanted to create a feeling. I didn’t want to be so direct; I’ve learned it’s great to leave some space for interpretation. Each listener brings their own experiences to the music. It was about making room for that and just creating a vibe.
A good portion of the music was created during quarantine. So many things were happening in our country, everything happening certainly influenced the album. I think songs like LEAD, Fade Away and Right Now all have a strong voice on the socio-political front. Then there are moments (that are) much more personal to me, like Lately and the title track.
I’ve always written from the heart and how I felt, but on this album I expanded what voices got to speak.
What is your songwriting process like? Is it consistent, or does it vary from song to song?
Songwriting really goes by inspiration. I wrote this album in two months. I was in a good flow. I often just freestyle or scat over songs and fill in the words later.
How did “Right Now” come together, and what can you tell us about working with Neak and Sam Trump?
Right Now was a song that sparked this album. I was working on another project tentatively called “Afro,” which was a lot more funky blues and less hip-hop. Then COVID-19 happened and a producer I work with, INTL MC, sent me a few beats. One of them was the track that became “Right Now.” I did the hook first and about a week later wrote a verse. The song pushed the vibe in a different direction — more soulful and hip-hop — and I began riding that wave.
Two months later, I was playing tracks for Neak, who was chopping up drums for my song “Lately,” and he said, “Man, brother, you gotta let me get on this,” and he blessed the track! I’ve known Neak for 10 years both from doing shows and a few of his music videos. I love working with him and am so glad we finally collaborated on a song.
Sam Trump is another brother I’ve known for 10 years; time flies. We’ve done music, and I’ve (also) shot music videos for him. He played trumpet on most of the tracks on “Summer in September.” I wanted him to sing the lead to the chorus, but he liked what I did and sung back up and came up with a bridge, which was the icing on the cake.
What’s your favorite memory from the studio during the creation of the album?
Due to quarantine, I didn’t have as many people come by the studio, with a lot of the instruments being played and sent via WeTransfer. I think my favorite (memory) was recording my family doing back-up claps and crowd noise for Fade Away. You can feel the energy on that song.
What have you been working on since the album release? I’ve read about a documentary in the works, what can you tell us about it?
I’m working on some music videos for “Summer in September” that I am starting to roll out, and I’m preparing for a vinyl release for the album. As far as my feature documentary “Project: Building Hope,” it’s a film about two women on a mission to overcome their trauma and build a school and mural in Rwanda in the process. (It’s) a very powerful film (that) I am in the rough cuts stages of right now. This will be my second feature-length documentary; my first was “The Exchange” in 2015.
Where can people go if they want to know more or follow for more updates?
@camovement on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook as well as my website camovement.com. Find me on Apple Music, Spotify and all streaming services at Cam Be.
Don’t forget to listen to “Right Now” and the rest of “Summer in September” below!