Queensland singer-songwriter Camille Trail made quite an impact with her debut single, ‘Humming Chain’, released last year. Now she’s heading for her first visit to the Tamworth Country Music Festival, not just as a performer but as a spectator. She is, she says, ‘trying to block out all the expectations and just go there and enjoy it. I kind of put a lot of pressure on myself, so I’m just telling myself just enjoy it.’
Trail will be playing on these dates:
Saturday 18 January – The Albert Hotel (w/ Allison Forbes) – The Press (12 p.m.)
Wednesday 22 January – The Press (3 p.m. – 4 p.m.)
Friday 24 January – The Press (5 p.m. – 6 p.m.)
Sunday 26 January – The Press (8 p.m. – 9 p.m.)
Trail first started playing music at the age of eight, when she began piano lessons. She grew up in a household that embraced music.
‘When I was little, every time I would wake up I’d always go out into lounge room and my dad would be sitting in the lounge room, stacks of CDs around him,’ she says. ‘Every morning those CDs were piled everywhere and it was always Fleetwood Mac and Creedence and all like the 60s to 80s music playing.’
While Trail would go on to study piano for 12 years, initially her singing was ‘around the house and in the shower. I didn’t really start singing lessons until I went to high school.
‘As soon as I hit the Grade 10 mark, I realised, Oh, you can actually do [music] as a career. That would be really cool.
‘My family, my parents, are very big supporters of following your dreams, so just do whatever you want to do, just be happy. They’ve always pushed my brother and me to just do what we want.’
Trail now also plays guitar, although, she says with a laugh, ‘I’m still slightly hopeless. I found piano so easy, but with guitar, maybe it’s that I don’t click with it. But we’re getting there. It’s definitely a lot easier to carry around than a piano.’
Her songwriting started at such an early age that she doesn’t remember exactly when it began.
‘The other day I was cleaning out my house and I found a songwriting book from when I was 11 years old. They were absolutely horrible songs,’ she says, laughing. ‘ I think I’ve always been writing and I don’t think I even realised that I had been, but I didn’t really take writing seriously until high school.’
Trail studied a Bachelor of Music, and she says that her education helped her hone in on her instincts as a songwriter, which she says she’s in tune with all the time.
‘I guess you know if it’s going to be a good song or a bad song within the first – well, for me, the first 30 minutes that I’m writing it. But I guess the training taught me how to make it even better.
‘Sometimes you just have a feeling that this could be something so you work at it. But then I’ve written some songs when I think, This is the most stupid song I’ve ever written. And in the bin it goes!
‘That was the big thing that I learnt at uni, because we were writing songs all the time: probably for every ten songs I wrote maybe two were good and the rest were crap,’ she says with a laugh.
In case she needs a second opinion, Trail has a test audience close to home.
‘I always play my new songs to Mum and Dad because they’re really honest,’ she says. ‘I wrote a song the other day and I thought, Oh, this is a really cool song. And they listened [to it] and it was kind of quiet afterwards. I thought, Okay, this will either go really well or it’s going to go bad. And Dad said, ‘Yep, it’s not your best.’ Thanks, Dad!’
Trail also faced a test audience at university, where songs were workshopped. On one occasion, she remembers, ‘else’s songs were, “Oh yeah, this is good. You can kind of tweak it like this.” And I brought a song and it was absolutely pulled to bits. So you learn to not be so sensitive about it.’
When asked if she has any advice for budding songwriters, she says, ‘You’ve just got to write lots. You can’t expect to write good songs all the time because you’ve got to get all the crap out of the way first before you find the little gems.’
Trail has other practices and habits that support and enhance her creative work.
‘I find that I have to write for probably two to two or three hours every day just to keep on that creative path,’ she says. ‘I do a lot of streams of consciousness where I set a timer for five minutes and I won’t stop writing. It gets it all out and then you go back through and there might be something in there and there might not be. I was doing [that] a lot at uni and when I finished uni I wanted to implement that into my daily routine.’
When she wrote ‘Humming Chain’, ‘it didn’t take too long. I think I wrote it in about an hour. Some of the songs just flow. I was writing it for one of my uni assessment songs and the criterion was to write something about history. I’ve always been really fascinated with gospel music and African-American slavery. I wanted to write a song that was actually about something and that meant something. And everyone loves love songs. I love love songs. I like to write sappy, cheesy songs,’ she says with a laugh. ‘But it was nice to write about something that actually was important and then maybe it might spark a bit more interest than people who don’t know much about it.’
‘Humming Chain’ was recorded for an album, which is ready and waiting to be released later this year. The album was produced by Shane Nicholson, whose music Trail has been listening to for years. She chose him because, she says, ‘I was still at uni and doing some research on producers, and all the albums I liked Shane produced them.’
She emailed him in August 2018 to see if he’d be interested in producing her album, but ‘I thought, Oh, that’s never going to happen. But I’ll just send him an email with some demos and see how it goes. Then he replied and said, “We’d love to work with you.” And I mentioned February and he said, “Yep, lock it in.”
‘When I first got the email from him – I’d been thinking, I’ve listened to this guy since I was eight years old. I’m not going to hear back anyway. Then I got a little email notification. I saw it and I think for about 10 or 15 minutes I just screamed and ran around my apartment.’
Trail could chose Nicholson as her producer because she’s an independent artist. Of her independence she says, ‘I definitely do like having the freedom. Obviously with first release it was a little bit overwhelming because I’d never done it before. And when you have to do it by yourself, you think, Oh my goodness, what am I doing? But I had a lot of help from Shane and my publicist, Jules.’
Trail’s post-Tamworth plans include the release of a couple more singles from the album, then the album itself. She’d like to make music her career, ‘but for the moment I’m just focusing on the next releases and then hopefully a tour. I really just want to enjoy that process because it’s so much fun releasing music.’