I have two full-time jobs—or more accurately defined, passions—that have become my livelihood. During most seasons, especially the busy ones, the hours tend to consume everything else, but it honestly doesn’t feel like work most of the time. On the south hill of Spokane, WA sits my little house. Residing inside are four animals and a husband who I love desperately. All of my creatures (and many more residing outside those walls) serve as inspiration for my work.
My formative years and everything I have encountered has been immersed with music. My entire family is musical and is my biggest fan. I remember often sitting for hours at a time playing the piano and singing my heart out while my dad sat on the basement stairs, quietly listening. Both of my parents challenged me to grow and explore my creativity, supporting me in every way possible. I never knew music to be work because it was always fun. Music is a part of my make up, oozing from every fiber of my being— it helps me relate to people, express my deepest fears, and forces me to feel on levels mere spoken words cannot reach.
I had a great childhood that primarily involved song. My dad was the worship pastor at our church so I would sit and watch over the talented musicians, soaking up everything I could. Music was also intertwined into my schooling, my friends, my youth group and my extracurricular activities, etc.
My parents also instilled in my great work ethic. They remodeled houses while working full-time ministry jobs, which allowed me to witness hard work on so many fronts. I watched them work with their hands, building and creating often late into the night, running a team of volunteers and staff members with care and concern, as well as, deal with conflict in the most loving of ways. I watched them fight for what they believed in, and create and inspire others—especially the next generation. So, it was only natural that I wanted to work just as hard as them. In fact, I wanted to be just like them. They included me in their work from the beginning.If I wanted to help, I could. If I had questions, they answered. If I didn’t understand, it was explained. They cultivated creativity and hard work deeply within me and made me whoI am today.
Music universally communicates into our often complex and messy lives and finds a way to make us seen—to make us known. From a single first note, a person can quickly identify if that song frees them to dance, makes them sit in silence, or conjures up tears.
My whole life is built around my businesses now. I am lucky enough to have a husband who shares in and pushes my dreams and businesses forward with me. While having a full-time job of his own, he finds time to travel with me for music, records/engineers for me, photographs beside me and much more. When I am in my busiest of seasons, this man literally cooks all my meals for me so I can just keep my nose down instead of stopping to shop or cook. My business isOUR business; we are a team, even ifI’m the face of it.
Eric and I have been married twelve years now, and several years into our marriage, his way of planning starting seeping into my psyche. I am very calculated in most of the areas of my life. I want the plan, the whole plan, and it better be a dang good one if you want me to consider it. Like me, Eric has a plan, but his plan usually comes at the last second, typically spontaneous and almost always profound. He has changed how I view my ideas, my dreams and the risk they involve.
When I hear the word “entrepreneur,” I envision a creative person who is willing to take risks. I wasn’t always that person. It isn’t that I wasn’t aware of my own ideas and dreams, but most of them remained un-attemptable in my mind. Though, all of a sudden, I was starting a photography business and running it like I had been doing it for years. I was presented with opportunities I wasn’t qualified for and throwing myself at them with full confidence. I was performing on a TV show watched by nine million people. I have always had people around that believed in me, but this man did more than believe; Eric made me actually DO what I had only contemplated. I can confidently say I am now an entrepreneur. I have a constant flow of ideas to expand and grow my businesses. I’m no longer afraid to risk (often throwing myself into situations I previously would have said no to), and I believe in myself enough to fail AND succeed.
And now, being fearless is my greatest accomplishment. I have stood on a stage, on live TV with nine million people watching me pour my heart into the music. I joined a duo with someone from the other side of the states, and we had twenty-four million streams last year on Spotify alone. Those things didn’t happen because I worked harder— they happened because I was willing to risk and try in the fi rst place. Did I work hard once engulfed within it all? Absolutely.
I’ve learned new skills, spent hours watching videos, reading/researching, and countless nights imagining new ideas and ways to grow. But, ultimately, I had to risk and have faith in myself…forcing my abilities to match the dream in my head.
My music career, indeed, has been one of luck and timing. I was scouted for America’s Got Talent in 2013 and introduced to the world and music industry in the rush of one single summer. I happened to meet my future duo partner because his wife saw me on the show, and the rest fell into my lap. That luck, of course, was only the catalyst, then the hard work began. The music industry is far more than singing pretty or having a good song; you dip your toes in marketing, PR, paperwork, social media, recording, producing, strategic planning etc. I found myself learning a new language in this industry requiring much research. I became adept at handling my face. I know that sounds odd, but there were so many times where people were saying things I had no knowledge of, and I learned to hold my face and composure, not allowing it to shake my confidence. I would then research the heck out of it and learn on the fl y. It taught me to prepare when I could, and be honest when I knew I was too far out of my lane.
I have been so blessed because both my businesses have been thriving beyond my scope of time availability. Lack of time is my biggest challenge in business. I have done very little promotion and people keep coming, and the business keeps growing. I can’t physically be in the studio for twelve hours, on tour for three weeks and also at every wedding I book. I have a problem saying no as I want to do it all, although I have been getting better at it.
There is a strategy behind every business, but something far more important than strategy is real authenticity. My businesses thrive off of real relationships—my photography with my kick-ass clients and my music through the inspiration of people and their stories that surround me each day. The more real I am, the more open I am, the more honest I am, and the more ME I am, and the more people want to work with me.
And in music, like anything else, you can tell when it comes from a place of genuineness. You don’t even have to watch an artist to know if it’s real—you can feel it from the moment a note comes out of their lips. I want people to feel that from me. When I write, I write lyrics about real things, about people in my life, fears we face, observations of our world, along with my own wrestlings and feelings. When you look at an image of mine, I want you to see what is within someone’s eyes—laugh with and cry with them.
On a typical day, you will find me in my office or in my living room, with music filling the air. My fingers gently playing each key and my voice complimenting what I feel in the moment. I write for my duo, “The Sweeplings,” and my solo project, “Carmen Jane”. Both projects are ones I am deeply proud of and wish could be heard through the written page. But for now, since magazines don’t have speakers, I hope to convey the heart behind the music.
When I write melodies, I know every song can’t touch or reach someone every time, but I want there to be intention with every one I write. I am not chasing a hit or a radio play. I am chasing the feeling of deep connection that we all share. Music evokes. My music business is based on this concept. At the end of the day, if you felt something real when you listen, I am running this business right. My only hope is that I get to continue to share it with those who have yet to hear it. Would I still write and sing if no one was listening? You bet I would because it’s a part of me in the truest form. This is the reason my music has been successful as there is no fabrication—it comes from deep within and infuses my everyday artistry and business alike.
Artists have an ability to paint a brushstroke of humanity, identifying what lies deep within all of us, yet often difficult to articulate.
Cami’s Sound Advice
- SAY YES. Say yes to things right on the cusp of what you’re ready for—sometimes even beyond the cusp of what you’re ready for. There is only so much preparation and learning you can do before you have to jump. Don’t do things you weren’t created to do but be bold
SUBMIT TO BLOGS/MAGAZINES. It is a way to get your name out there without paying to do so, but also a way to keep your eye sharp.
DON’T BUY THINGS YOU DON’T NEED. You don’t need the newest thing to be better. You don’t need the most expensive machine to be more productive. Sometimes you need to do your very best with what you currently have. Build towards those things—don’t use them to do the progressing for you.
MAKE RELATIONSHIPS. You hear this a lot in the music business, “It’s all about networking.” While this is true, I think it is much deeper. Make real relationships with the people who are around you now.
ASK FOR FEEDBACK. This is something I rarely see amidst the industry of artists. People hold their art and images close, and they don’t want to know what you think; they just want you to applaud what they do. I think that’s ridiculously ignorant and an untapped resource. Feedback is important. You won’t grow with your only feedback being your own. Corporations do this with studies, product assessments, group testing and more. We should be doing it as creatives too.
STOP WORRYING ABOUT IMPRESSING THE IMPORTANT PERSON. Build momentum by getting the supporting staff on your side. Build good vibes in the room as that carries over to the big fi sh. Stop worrying so much about the attention of the investors, the producers, the managers or the big wigs. Start with who’s around you, supporting you in what you do.
BE WILLING TO CHANGE EVEN IF WHAT YOU’RE DOING IS WORKING. I see good businesses die in a short time because they don’t change. Their business model was solid when it started, and it may have even grown them for a bit. But, as the world changes, strategies change, and you must not sit by stagnantly.