While for most of us, the time we’ve spent in lockdown feels like stasis—a gap in our timeline—for busking musician Cam Cole, it has been more of a metamorphosis. The rock & blues singer felt much of the same pain that we all did, but used it to create something new for his audience. We caught up with Cole to learn about COVID-19’s impact on his livelihood and hear about the upcomingFrom the Street to the Stage tour.
Sounds from the van
Over the course of the pandemic, Cole continued rehearsing his music. During that time, he thought of an idea—a way to connect with his audience beyond the unforgettable intimacy of busking shows in the urban jungle of London: a YouTube series featuring tips, tricks, and jamming sessions. Named Sounds From the Van, the introspective series began on 4 May 2020, with 23 episodes thus far.
“It was more to keep the interaction going with my online following. I have a lot of people who listen to my content all around the world and I need to interact with them,” Cole said. “Beforehand I would be busking and people would film it and put it online. Sometimes I’d film myself and stick it up on my YouTube channel.
“There were no busking gigs [after lockdown] but what I could do is show a little sneak peek into my practices. People were asking if I could help them learn how to play songs like ‘Mama’, ‘New Age Blues’, and some of these other tunes so I gave some tutorials and some covers, too.”
That’s not all Cole has been up to during his time in lockdown. In between working to get by when busking wasn’t an option, the musician worked on his newest album Crooked Hill. The album was released on 30 July to favorable reviews from critics and fans alike.
“It’s a heavier sounding album than I usually do, that’s for sure,” Cole said. “I was brought up with nu-metal, so I’ve always liked heavier sounds, but I also like the sounds of classic rock and the blues. It’s a mixture of that.”
From the streets to the stage
Cole is to play various tracks from Crooked Hill during his From the Street to the Stage tour. He’ll be on the road from 1-30 September, after the tour was pushed back several times due to COVID-19. Now, with tour dates set in stone, Cole is raring to bring his fans the best show he can give.
“We tried to set it up a couple of times and it got cancelled. It’s just been a bit of a waiting game, to be honest, trying to figure out when the best time is to set up all the gigs, trying to set it up around the restrictions. We’ve put it in September and it looks like it’s going to be okay,” Cole said.
“It’s been a pain. I’m really hoping we don’t get restricted again, I don’t think we should,” Cole continued. “I’m excited about it. I like to live in the present, I don’t like to worry about what’s ahead because life happens and you make other plans. We’ve seen that over the last few years, you plan for things and they don’t happen. I just do what I do, if things happen, then they happen.”
Getting back to it
It’s with this kind of mentality that Cole was able to withstand the pandemic’s tidal wave of inconveniences. For a while, it seemed as though the serenity of lockdown was something he could enjoy. However, as the months passed, things began to change, as he mentions: “I’ve actually quite enjoyed the space, really. There’s been nothing to do so I used that time constructively and tried new rhythms and beats that I’ve had in my head.
“I tried working on new ideas and questioned whether they would work on a foot drum. Some of them did, some of them didn’t, but it opened a doorway for all these new songs that I had in my head,” he added. “I enjoyed working on motorcycles and mechanics. I just used my time to do things, I’ve kept active, but now I’ve played with all my toys, I’ve done all this and all that, now I’m starting to get a little bored and I want to get out there.”
Out of the splendor of the limelight or the grandeur of the stage, Cole truly misses the busking life more than anything. “I really want to start busking again, I was thinking about going busking this weekend. I just want interactions with crowds and with people. You just need something new after a while, don’t you?”
The draw of busking for Cole comes mainly from its uniqueness. There’s nothing quite like the feeling of a one-man band soaking in the atmosphere. “I find doing the same things every day, even if you vary it slightly, to be rough. If you repeat the same week, again and again, it can be like ‘is this really all there is to life?’ You need to have some interaction, even some drama,” he said.
Despite the understandable frustration of feeling as though life itself was on pause, Cole pursued any means necessary towards continuing a lifestyle he holds dearly. Even against the unimaginable odds that we’ve all felt over the past year and a half, Cole never stopped. Truly, his time as a musician is a staunch representation of what the human mind can really accomplish even through such hardship.
Tickets for the From The Streets To The Stage tour are available at camcole.com
Words by Amelia Hansford
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