More than a decade after being stood up by a potential investor, Seattle-based singer-songwriter Camille Bloom admits “it still chaps my hide” to think about the bizarre experience. Ultimately, though, she says it turned out to be the biggest curse and the biggest blessing in her path to becoming a full-time musician.
That direction really began to take shape in the preceding few years, when Bloom was a high school teacher at Shorewood High School in Shoreline, Washington. With time on her hands after relinquishing her role as head coach of the girls’ basketball team, she began playing some gigs and landed a paid weekly spot as an opener on a songwriter night. She built her schedule up to three or four shows per week, and along the way, Bloom recorded her first album, 2003’s Within Me.
“I felt myself becoming less of a teacher who happened to play music and more like a musician who happened to teach high school,” she says. “I can’t even believe I survived those late nights and early mornings. Luckily, I wasn’t a drinker, so I was just a tired teacher instead of a tired and hungover teacher.”
She eventually became a teacher on hiatus. Bloom put in for a yearlong sabbatical when she was on the verge of signing with an investor who offered to provide up to $50,000 in seed money.
“I had been meeting with her and her partner for nine months, discussing financial needs and building a team of support — a publicist, an attorney, a booking agent,” Bloom recalls. “I hired an entertainment attorney to write up the contract. Then I headed to Starbucks on 15th Avenue in Seattle [for the meeting].”
The appointment was set for 4 p.m. Bloom waited there until about 4:30, then began calling the investor’s home, office and cell numbers. Thinking maybe she had the wrong day and time, Bloom gave up at 5 p.m.
She tried calling that night and several times the next day. After a few days passed with no contact, Bloom began to panic.
“I had already been placed on leave for the following school year, and my replacement was set,” she says. “Also, under the constraints of leave, I was not allowed to seek any paid work. I didn’t have a penny in savings.”
Once she realized the investor was out of the picture, Bloom did what she originally set out to do: book her first tour down the West Coast.
“I drove to San Diego and played the first of about 12 dates,” she recalls. “I remember making $6 and a sandwich before heading to L.A. for the next show.”
In her first year playing music full-time, Bloom says she racked up $26,000 in credit card debt. To supplement her income, she would return home for a few weeks and do “whatever I needed to do to make ends meet” — and that included being a substitute teacher, doing chocolate tastings and working at a friend’s mailbox business.
It took five years of touring before Bloom started to gain traction and attract media attention.
“In the end, I wouldn’t change a thing,” she says. “I think that without the encouragement of that investor, I might never have left my job and taken a leap in this direction. I have remained my own boss and have earned every last penny the hard way — and I am finally debt-free and living comfortably on my music.”
New studio, new album
That level of comfort was recently disturbed by a stretch of difficulty. With the help of a crowdfunding campaign, Bloom built a recording studio in a repurposed grain silo on her farm (“the second hardest thing I have ever done musically,” she says).
That’s where Bloom recorded her latest album, the self-produced Pieces of Me, due Sept. 9.
“When working with a producer in another studio,” she says, “you are constantly watching the clock and trying to stay on schedule and under budget. When we built the studio, the most exciting part was that we could record whenever we wanted, for however long we wanted. We could get inspired and jump into the studio at 2 a.m. in our pajamas, or just take the afternoon off if we weren’t feeling productive.”
Instead of having tour-tested material all ready to record, Bloom entered her new studio with a fresh batch of songs she had never performed in public.
“It was a completely different method for me — and a lot more cerebral,” she says. “I had a lot to say on this record, and I am very happy with the way it turned out. It differs from previous albums a lot because in the past, we did our best to create a fluid album, relying on consistent stylings and instrumentation so that I might fit into a pre-set genre. But with this record, I stopped trying so hard to fit into one style of music. I let each song speak for itself.”
— By Chris M. Junior
Camille Bloom on tour (schedule subject to change):
• Sept. 9: Lucky Dog Tavern — Boise, Idaho
• Sept. 15: Avogadro’s Number — Fort Collins, Colorado
• Sept. 18: Blackboard Café — Prescott Valley, Arizona
• Sept. 22: Uptown Billiards — Flagstaff, Arizona
• Sept. 24: The Gallery — Phoenix
• Sept. 25: Bar Lubitsch — Los Angeles
• Sept. 29: Lestat’s West — San Diego