Camille Bloom was a high school English teacher and aspiring singer-songwriter about eight years ago when an avid fan made her an offer she couldn’t refuse.
After months of negotiation, the fan agreed to provide more than $30,000 in seed money so that Bloom could pursue her dream of becoming a professional musician.
So Bloom applied for a one-year leave of absence from the Shoreline School District and had an entertainment attorney draw up a contract. But when she arrived at a local Starbucks to meet with the would-be financial suitor and sign the contract, the woman and her partner didn’t show up.
“I had already left my job and I was finishing up that school year, but I would be going on an unpaid leave the following year,” Bloom said.
“I was calling every day and emailing her and freaking out. And the next year I ended up with $26,000 in credit card debt, just trying to live. Because if I took any work for pay, I would lose my leave status with the district. It was terrible.”
But things worked out quite well, and Bloom has since recorded several albums, toured the U.S. and Europe and secured licensing deals with such channels as MTV, E! and Oxygen. She also has an endorsement from Gibson Guitars, which provides support and equipment.
“So after that, I said, ‘OK, this is what I have to do. I’ve got to go out and embark on my very first tour.’ I had no idea what I was doing. I booked a tour from San Diego to Seattle. I just drove straight to San Diego and then came back, and I made $6 and a sandwich,” she said with a laugh.
“And I remember being so excited about the sandwich because I could eat the sandwich for dinner that night — and the next morning have enough for breakfast!
“But on my way home, I played a last-minute show in Los Angeles and that evening the sound tech happened to be a booking agent who was filling in for one of her artists. And she saw my set and signed me. And within a couple of weeks we had a contract. And she started helping me book my national tours. So that was eight years ago. And I never looked back. But it did take me a long time to get all that debt paid off!”
Her last album was “Never Out of Time,” produced by Martin Feveyear, who has produced albums for Brandi Carlile, R.E.M., The Presidents of the United States of America and others.
Her new album is an acoustic, six-song EP, “Big Dreams.” She’ll celebrate the release with a performance Saturday night at the Columbia City Theater. Nicole Torres, a singer-songwriter from San Francisco, will open the show at 6 p.m. Tickets are $12 in advance, $15 at the door. Get all the details here.
Bloom decided on an EP just to get some new acoustic songs out there.
“The last time I was in Europe – I tour there each spring – the audience was requesting some acoustic recordings,” she said. “When I do a full-length album, I usually incorporate my band. But I had some acoustic songs that I felt really belonged in the acoustic world. As opposed to the full band world. And also because I’m heading there in a few months and I knew I would be touring in the fall in the U.S., I felt I didn’t have the time to wait until I wrote another four songs and made it a full-length.
“It was quicker in the studio as well, and I could have EPs in my hands before I toured. That’s really the only reason. I’ve got more songs in the works and I’ll probably do a full-length at some point, but I just wanted to get some acoustic recordings in the hands of both my fans and the licensing folks.”
Singing in a sweet, rich, clear voice, Bloom tackles a range of subjects on the new EP, from the imbalance between rich and poor, the distractions of the Internet and smart phones, and the dreams of children.
The opening song is “This System Is Broken,” a somber tune about the state of the U.S. economy.
“When I travel to Europe and to the Netherlands, Germany and Belgium, they do not have the homeless population that we have here and the disparity between the haves and the have-nots,” she said.
“I just didn’t realize how intense it is here in the states with our poverty. I read ‘The Hunger Games’ series and it really impacted me. They have the extraordinarily wealthy and they have the incredibly poverty stricken. So that movie, the books and also my experience traveling in Europe helped inspire the song.”
“The Zombie Song” also carries a message, but it’s tinged with humor.
“When I take a walk in my neighborhood and I’m looking to make contact with people, and try to make eye contact and connect and have a conversation, everyone is staring at their phones and they’re texting and tweeting,” she said.” People are at the ocean tweeting pictures instead of just enjoying the ocean. I feel like it’s a real problem in our culture and even though the Internet is amazing, I feel like we’ve become drones and too dependent on our phones.”
The sweetest tune is the title track, “Big Dreams.” It’s autobiographical.
“I was once a little girl with scabby knees and big dreams, and one day I just had that visual of me as a little kid and I was thinking about all the little kids who, when they’re 4 and 5 years old, you ask them what they want to do and they say something like, ‘I want to be Superman. I want to be an Olympic star!’
“We have big dreams as little kids, but pretty soon out of fear, parents say, ‘No, no, you should do something more practical.’ Or, ‘You won’t make any money if you play music for a living and you want to be a rock star.’ And we subtly beat the dreams out of the kids. And then the kids almost have to relearn as they get older, that they do have a right to pursue those dreams. And, in fact, they’re unhappy if they don’t. So I guess it’s a coming-of age-story of our common kid growing up and having big dreams and then saying, ‘Well, I guess I’ll do something my parents would think is more stable.’ And then just saying, ‘You know what, I may only live once, I may live multiple times, but either way I’m going to do what I’m really passionate about.’ “
The EP includes a hidden track, “The Self Righteous Pedestrian,” a humorous song that’s also somewhat autobiographical.
“When I’m in a crosswalk, I feel like, ‘C’mon now, people, I’m going to step out now.’ It was a joke song and I hoped it might be part of skit someday.”
Bloom never went back to teaching English for the school district, but she teaches songwriting and voice at Rock School.
“It’s a really, really cool program for teens. I love being active with teens and teaching them the business side as well as the music. And I do outreach at youth centers and do workshops with kids.”
On Jan. 24, Bloom will showcase her music at the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) convention in Anaheim, Calif.
I’m very excited. It’s a very music-filled weekend,” she said. “It’s a time to create new relationships and possible new partnerships or endorsements.”
Watch a video of Bloom performing “Big Dreams” from the new EP here.