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(Photos by Nick Mckk)

WE ALL HAVE A DOPPELGANGER OUT THERE, apparently. Sometimes doing the same shit, sometimes doing that shit worse, sometimes doing it better but in another language. Can we learn anything from them? Hell, would we want to?

For Hannah Cameron, Melbourne singer/songwriter of rhythmic, intense-but-low-key rock – often these days done on her beloved Gretsch Electromatic Jet Baritone guitar that brings a deep complementary tone to her lower vocal register – and an in-demand touring and session guitarist, that question is more pressing today as she arrives thinking we’re only here to talk about her third album, Holding Pattern, and maybe a bit about how post-breakup therapy freed her mind from unhealthy patterns.

A while back, digging for some minor detail about her previous two albums, I came across a Hannah Cameron, director of content marketing at some online company, who was giving advice on leading teams and managing creatives. Marketing Hannah said “great content leaders need to see themselves more as strategists than writers. Find the best strategist and logical thinker. Find the person who knows how to structure and plan and get the best out of people.”

Ok, singing Hannah, you’re both a leader and a support worker. You’re a solo artist sometimes with a band, but always with people you need to do things around/for you, and then someone who, as a musician in other people’s bands (for Missy Higgins, Paper Kites, Grand Salvo, among others), you’re an artist working for someone else’s vision. I’ve got two questions.

1. Does she think she is a strategist and logical thinker and someone who should be leading the Hannah Cameron musical enterprise?

2. Whether she is or not, can she enjoy one because has the outlet of the other?

“I think the latter is definitely true for me,” she says. “I think I enjoy doing session work and playing with other bands feels like such a relief sometimes because I get to just play music and focus on music and not have to think about strategising or social media, or anything like that. I just turn up and play shows, and that’s really nice. And you get paid, and you go home.

“But after a while doing that, seeing other people doing a really good job of that, then it makes me hungrier for it, makes me feel that drive to try and do that for my project.”

More than replenishing her bank balance, it replenishes her spirit and her strength? Possibly even her inspiration?

“It’s definitely super inspiring. All the people that I play with, I look up to hugely. Everybody I play with, whether or not they are people who are higher up in the industry or more like my peers, I am definitely ingesting heaps along the way. I’m probably ripping them off without realising it half the time,” she laughs.

“I love all the different facets of accompanying and playing in a sessional capacity. If I wasn’t doing that, I think I would find it harder to just focus on my own career: it would feel too insular or something.”

And without relief from thinking about me me me.

“Yes, definitely.”

When she’s worked with people at a level or two above her station in the industry, has she looked at it and thought, that’s not what I want?

“Not really. I see Missy [Higgins] dealing with people actually really knowing who she is and coming up to her at the airport when she’s exhausted, and wanting a selfie, and I’m like, would I really enjoy that? I’m not sure. But the performance side of things, and the touring side of things, is definitely something I would like for my own career.”

That “other” Hannah Cameron did bring into focus a couple of other things from “this” Hannah’s past (look, while I was on the interwebs I kept looking ok?). In 2015 in a story introducing new artists as part of an Australian Music Week showcase she was asked what was the hardest thing about being a musician and her response was: “Being an independent musician means there’s a lot of time dedicated to doing things that have nothing to do with making music.”

Today Cameron nods ruefully as I read this out, saying “that’s still true”, so I wonder has she reconciled herself to the fact that so much of her life is not the moments of creativity of writing, recording or performing?

“I don’t think I have … I don’t think I’m at peace with it yet, actually,” she says. “I think especially at the moment when it’s just the releasing part of things and there’s so little space to be creative in this part of the process. I was actually looking back – trying to find content to post – over the process of making the album and writing the album, and seeing all these videos and photos reminded me how that party is so fun, and I love that part so much.

“This part [releasing the album] it’s rewarding in its own way, for sure, but I do just wish I could spend 99% of my time making music and 1% doing the other stuff.”

Is part of the solution trying to find ways to be creative with this part of the process and other non-writing/recording aspects? She, for example, has much more input and control over her photos and filmclips, but can she find ways to be creative in the functional/business side of her craft?

“Yeah, I think so. I’m definitely trying to find ways that feel like they keep me focused on the musical aspect of it. I would feel like if I do have to be creating content, then it’s an excuse to practice playing the song, or playing the song, or doing something in that respect,” says Cameron. “I think for me, I’m a big perfectionist, so I find that it’s more the process of finding something that I’m happy sharing that can get exhausting. That’s the balance that I’m trying to strike at the moment.”

Is she someone who can hear a bum note and go, yeah, but it feels okay and I’m prepared to let that go because overall the point is there?

“I think making this album made me better at that. I used to be even more of a perfectionist but because we recorded this whole album live, in terms of the band, and even the approach to the vocals was more about the feeling and trying to get a more complete take where possible, I think that …,” her voice trails off as she rethinks. “I know that all the music that I listen to I love hearing little moments of honesty, little moments of flaws. So I’m trying to get better at just accepting those things in myself.”

You can hear on this new record that this is someone who maybe could have written these songs five or six years ago but not made them with the ease of someone who understands she doesn’t have to be in minute control of everything.

“That’s how it feels to me. That was the place I was at when we were making it: I was probably in a better place to be at ease with the mistakes and the flaws. And Matt [Redlich] who produced it, definitely helped bring that out of me.”

How? By secretly singing Let It Go into her subconsciousness?

“I think that he is a real big picture guy and the process of recording would be that we would play these takes and sometimes we wouldn’t really have much perspective on how they went, because you are getting to the end of a long day,” she explains. “And Matt would be like, that’s the one, we’ve got it, and I think just being able to trust [mattered].”

If habits like fixating on too many small things and losing creative momentum, or letting relationships roll through at someone else’s pace and demands – the holding pattern of the album title – have been problems, they have not been debilitating. It’s worth noting just how few of the people featured in that 2015 article are visible and accomplishing in the way she is eight years later.

“Maybe I’m just stupidly persistent,” she laughs. “Possibly to a fault. But I think I just really like music and I don’t think I can really imagine not doing music, so I’ll just keep doing it till I drop probably.”

With that kind of attitude maybe she could be in the advice business. What would she tell Hannah Cameron, director of content marketing, about doing life and work better?

“That’s a really hard one. I think, engage with whatever it is you’re doing to the best of your ability, and to work with people who inspire you and excite you and make you feel valued. Everyone that I’ve worked with has been really kind and really generous, in terms of supporting me and my music, and maybe that’s another thing that has helped me keep going, knowing that think highly enough of me to work with me.”

Wait, everybody she’s worked with in her career so far has been nice? Bloody hell, a genuine unicorn moment happening before us.

So, boiling it down, from one Hannah Cameron to the other, and to us: make sure everyone you work with is a good person. Easy!

Holding Pattern is out now.

Hannah Cameron plays:

Corner Hotel, Melbourne – September 27 (supporting Hiss Golden Messenger)

Northcote Social Club, Melbourne – November 25

Low302, Sydney – December 1

Stranded Bar, Brisbane – December 2


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