Cameron McGill tends to write quiet songs, but he and his band, What Army, play them with pure, unadulterated excitement. Like many alt-country musicians, McGill's not afraid to take a hard look at life's disappointments, but his thoughtfulness doesn't spiral into self-pity. Instead, it's uplifting.
I recently spoke with McGill about the highs and lows of the past year, which included applying to a creative writing program and releasing a new album, Warm Songs for Cold Shoulders.
Have you made a conscious effort to push your songwriting in a certain direction in the past year or so?
I have made a conscious effort to push my songwriting, not in any certain direction but toward something that is new to me. At any given time, something can feel very real or very false. Things that once felt real to you, you have trouble relating to them anymore.... I'm always trying on other shoes, hoping they fit.
What will you remember most about 2009?
Not getting into the MFA program at the Iowa Writers' Workshop.
The release of Warm Songs last April seemed to be a success. What was it like to make?
Most of the songs were learned in the studio, then recorded in 2007. It was a very natural time [and] also hellish. I was obsessing about making the record pretty, and finishing it took much longer than expected, mostly in terms of not having the money to cover studio time, mixing and mastering.
On the up, several of the folks on that record - Daniel McMahon, Darren Garvey and Rodrigo Palma - have since become great friends and joined the band full-time.
What's next for you in 2010?
The band and I started work on our next full-length this past November with Justin Perkins. We're hoping for a spring or summer release. I'm also working on a record with a string quartet that is revisiting seven songs from my second album.
Also, I've recently joined Margot & the Nuclear So and So's and have been in the studio with them last September and October. That record is close to being finished, if not already.