Prog rock instrumentals and pop melodies. Tender lyricism and searing guitar riffs. These seemingly disparate elements come together in harmony in the songs of Melbourne artist Cammi Kol.
Kol’s debut single ‘Right as Rain’ came out in May, displaying a fondness for the extroverted guitar bands of the 1970s and the Seattle sound of the 1990s. Kol burrows deeper into her musical influences on her second single, ‘Tiger’, a power ballad of vast proportions.
Kol’s heroes include the likes of Queen, Soundgarden, Oasis and Keane, as well as Israeli superstar Ninet Tayeb and UK prog luminary Steven Wilson. These artists have not only influenced the choices she makes as a songwriter, but also how she envisions her artistry.
“I’ve always been drawn to the ultimate rock persona, but not completely in the ways that one might think,” Kol says. “All of those artists seem to channel a true musical integrity. They sing with their heart and they write music that’s forever timeless.
“Whether they fall into a category of prog, pop, rock or even metal, opera, or jazz, I don’t pick them apart in that way. They just seem so down to earth in their musical journey and the only music I want to write is the sort that never lies.”
Kol’s songwriting journey began at the age of 15. She spent a number of years playing in bands and experimenting with various writing styles. The decision to launch a solo project coincided with a vow to take a more honest approach to her writing.
“Writing these songs reminded me of the roots I seemed to forget about while in my previous band,” she says. “There was too much noise and not enough unity. I doubted my songwriting capabilities, but then, like a sudden a-ha moment, I realised that I was the one holding myself back this whole time.”
‘Right as Rain’ and ‘Tiger’ occupy similar thematic terrain, with the former delving into the conversations we struggle to have with our loved ones about our mental health.
“‘Tiger’ is really the sequel to that,” says Kol. “My songwriting has turned inward and become autobiographical in nature. Tonnes of music is, really, but I like to tie my experiences into relatable themes and topics.”
The new single concerns someone who experiences crippling self-doubt, although the song’s narrator knows there’s a “tiger underneath” the fear. Kol wrote the song about her closest life companion – someone she knows like the back of her hand.
“He stood by me through the worst of times and he never saw my problems with tunnel vision,” she says. “He reminded me of the good parts that were there. When I think of this person, I see love and abundance. I see how he tries and how when he thinks he’s failed, he hurts.
“He is ‘a tiger underneath’ because he’s fierce, strong, capable and he protects what he loves.”
While the arrangement of ‘Tiger’ reflects Kol’s interest in heavier rock music, it’s the vocal melodies that stand out above all. They’re finely sculpted for maximum impact.
“I’d never release something that didn’t feel just right,” says Kol. “Whether that means sitting on a song for a few weeks or giving myself time to craft it into the story that I want it to be, I’m dedicated to that final product not feeling like it became some filler track. I tend to also wait until I get into the studio to consider other melodies or harmonies that fit nicely.
“When I sing, I’m straight in with raw emotion. I think that it’s just my pure love for music becoming my way of expression and counteracting any doubt. Emotion always tends to lead the way for an optimal vocal take.”
This emphasis on emotion is crucial. Despite combining what, on paper, seems like a bunch of ill-suited stylistic elements – prog and pop rock, metal and Britpop – it’s all united by Kol’s passionate investment.
“I don’t have a genre preference and I think that’s why I feel so limitless when I sit down at a keyboard and write. I say, do away with the conformity and write whatever your heart tells you to. Music shifts with you, so why not create a style or a sound that makes you proud to feel unique?”
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