Memphis Music Feature: Cameron Bethany
Contributor Baylee Less attended his album release party and has a recap here, along with a Q&A with Cameron.
Cameron Bethany and the YOUMAKEMENERVOUS Album Release Party
We were there for local singer Cameron Bethany’s album release party for his first full-length release, and while I’ve heard him perform live before, I had a feeling this night would be different. Rather than just an album release or a simple performance, Cameron and his team created an experience for us.
YOUMAKEMENERVOUS stands as the product of two lengthy years of work. The music reflects Cameron’s experiences and identities, with elements of gospel, R&B, electronic, and singer-songwriter. His performance included both inventive covers and original songs such as “Lillian from the Valley” and “Brand New,” both of which appear on YOUMAKEMENERVOUS.
Cameron’s record label UNAPOLOGETIC graciously offered us to use the videos they created from last Saturday. View a snippet of Cameron’s opening song, a remake of “Master Blaster” by Stevie Wonder, below:
Video by Brittany Butler
Cameron explained that this project signified his release of negative emotions and insecurities that had been holding him back. The pursuit of his music freed him from self-consciousness, and he hoped that the audience would find comfort in the 8-track early Christmas present he gifted us.
Cameron has a refreshing, sincere voice that can silence a crowd. On Saturday, he did just that. The venue is expansive, but once Cameron took the stage, the space felt full and energetic. Unfortunately, technical difficulties cut Cameron’s set short in time – but not in quality.
Another local musician, IMAKEMADBEATS, was in the crowd as well. This is what he had to say about the performance: “Cameron Bethany started singing, then he turned into a Phoenix, a bird on fire, and levitated above the stage into the sky. This caused massive power outages.”
Cameron finished off his set with a fully a capella performance of “Creep” by Radiohead. The crowd moved in close to hear, enraptured. We closed the party by joining together to burn a large paper crane. Cameron encouraged us to write on the crane anything we needed to let go of. We circled around the sculpture and watched as the artist who brought us all together let go of our joined fears, insecurities, and frustrations.
Video by IMAKEMADBEATS
I also had the chance to catch up with Cameron and ask a few questions about his newest project, artistic identity, and involvement with UNAPOLOGETIC.
Baylee: What’s it like being an artist in the Memphis music community?
Cameron: It’s an honor, really. Being an artist from Memphis carries a certain type of pride that I can’t really explain. We’ve always been the place to go for natural, raw talent, but for some reason, we’ve become underdogs in a sense. I think that’s what’s kept me true to the craft. It didn’t start off paying the bills, so I never attached to it as a job. I pursued music because it became a love of mine.
Baylee: How did you get involved with UNAPOLOGETIC?
Cameron: I contacted IMAKEMADBEATS in 2014 looking for help on a new single. He created a melody that I fell in love with, so I ran with it. After we had finished that one, I knew I had to continue this relationship. Lucky me, MADBEATS was feeling the same way. He approached me about being a part of UNAPOLOGETIC after a few weeks of working together, and I immediately connected with the idea. I’ve not regretted this decision yet, and I can’t say I ever will. This team of people is unmatched when it comes to dedication, drive, and the yearning to be individuals. They’ve become family.
Baylee: This is your first full-length release. What were some of the challenges that accompanied a full-length release?
Cameron: Lots of days in and out of the studio, working on music that you like one date, hate the next, and love a week from that. A lot of days I second- guessed myself, I battled with the idea of vulnerability almost on a daily basis, along with a lot of other things. The biggest challenge was not knowing the process at ALL. It was almost like being at job orientation for 2 1/2 years? Kind of learning as I went. I’m grateful for the help of IMAKEMADBEATS, as he was a vital part in me being able to navigate the process as a whole.
Baylee: What’s your favorite track off the project? Why and what’s the story behind it?
Cameron: If I must pick, I’d have to say “Lillian (LFTV)”. Lillian derived from the flower “Lilly of the valley”, as it has been known as a symbol of purity, and some even refer to God as the “Lilly of the Valley” in Christian culture, because it is a tall majestic flower, but its head hangs low in a humble manner. On the other side of that, it is also highly poisonous. I decided to personify the flower, as if it were a person who you may be in love with, who seems to be the source of your happiness, but is also killing you emotionally. Funny thing is, even with that, it doesn’t change how you feel for them.
The UNAPOLOGETIC Movement
You can’t mention Cameron Bethany without also giving credit to his exceptional support team, UNAPOLOGETIC. The Memphis-based record label and production company carry a unique story. IMAKEMADBEATS, known by his family and friends as James Dukes, started UNAPOLOGETIC in order to provide the creatives of Memphis a platform to unapologetically express themselves. After working in the New York music industry for several years, Dukes returned home to pursue this idea.
Intrigued by everything that is UNAPOLOGETIC, I asked the team for a mission statement and expected a quick three sentence email response. They responded with a visual, audio, and written collection of their values and accomplishments. I shouldn’t have been surprised; when UNAPOLOGETIC shows up, they come out full force.
Unfortunately, we can’t upload the full PDF to the blog, but I’ll do my best to summarize the highlights. They wrote:
“UNAPOLOGETIC is a clarion call to those with a vision outside of the norm. By empowering the odd, harvesting the unusual, and fostering the eccentric, UNAPOLOGETIC aims to propel Memphis down the Mississippi towards a future as striking as its distinguished past while simultaneously adding to the definition internally and internationally of what it means to be from this city. The underrepresented demand representation, unapologetically.”
They emphasize individuality above all else, which I think is what draws many artists into this unique company.
Currently, they have three artists signed to their label: IMAKEMADBEATS, Cameron Bethany, and A Weirdo From Memphis (AWFM). They’ve put out several collaboration albums as well featuring MonoNeon, Don Lifted, Aaron James, Kid Maestro, and other movers and shakers within the Memphis music community. While always remembering the music roots of Memphis, this collection of artists are building a new, vibrant sound to continue the legacy and contribute to the community.
UNAPOLOGETIC has 4 facets of creative output: U. Sound, U. Visual, U. Events, and Garments. UNAPOLOGETIC aims for that to be a heavy part in redefining the kind of creative content that comes from Memphis to the rest of the world. For more information, go to their website.
How to Listen and Support
Connect with UNAPOLOGETIC on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or their Website. Download the UNAPOLOGETIC World App to gain first-access and unique extras. Purchase merchandise through the UNAPOLOGETIC store.
About The Author
A born and raised Memphian, Baylee Less recently returned to her roots after her four-year hiatus at the University of Maryland. A contributor to ILoveMemphis and Memphis Travel, she is excited to share the reasons she’s always loved Memphis. She enjoys live music, Asian food, and being outdoors. Follow @bayleeless on Twitter for updates about being vegan in the land of barbecue.