Our Interview with Cam Smith of Hotel Books

Spoken-word pioneer Cam Smith took time out of his busy schedule to talk about the rise of his project Hotel Books. He talks about who has inspired him and why he is truly connected to words.

Hotel Books is predominately a spoken word project. What made you fall in love with the art of spoken word?
That’s a good question. I guess I just have always loved writing. This whole thing started as a poetry blog. The spoken-word part came when I fell in love with the band mewithoutyou. Their singer did a guest vocal on an old Norma Jean song and it inspired me to take my poems into new places. Cake was a huge influence, as well as “popular” by Nada Surf. Bradley Hathaway was a huge inspiration as well. I loved the vulnerability of talking instead of singing.

The lyrics that you pen are emotive and highly descriptive. You’re certainly a poet, when did you start writing in such a way?
Thank you so much. I started writing poems when I was in the seventh grade. For me, it was more a form of journaling. I never meant to be so personal, it was just what worked so I kept with it. It was all about growth, personal and in the entertainment industry. Looking back, I wish I would have kept some secrets, kept some details to myself. It was a desperate plea to keep moving, but it’s life.

Hotel Books began as just you and your words with the addition of your friend Matthew Walker on guitar. It must have been a big transition when you added a whole band for the making of I’m almost happy here, but I never feel at home, right?
It wasn’t too different. I mean, I’m almost happy here was basically written by two people as well. I just trusted my team and grew in ways they told me would work. There was never a big change, things just slowly changed as we tried to stay relevant. Fighting for relevancy is a dangerous game.

You’re an author too, with a book under your belt and another one under development as well as a feature film. Where do you find the time? And your muse must be fully equipped to stand the tests.
I know how to write. I feel like I’m totally comfortable in my skin when I am writing. I’m only 23, and I know that it’s hard for a 23 year old to ever feel comfortable in their skin, so when I found a home, I stuck with it. Writing the books mean the most to me, especially the new book, found footage. I am so proud of that thing. it started as an experiment and Nick Moore (Invogue Records) stood by the concept. I had always dreamed of writing a book like that. I guess the time is found because I am just so desperate to create. The film was fun to make, and I’m shooting my first hour special right now. I can’t wait to officially announce that project. I wish I could say that I’m good at time management, but I suck at it. I just constantly write and trust that my team will do the rest.

The new record Run Wild, Stay Alive is brilliant and emotive, blended with your signature style. Has the recording been any different this time around?
Thank you. This time around, we enlisted Craig Owens to help produce, which added a new element. We went into the studio empty-handed and just built up skeletons with Nick Ingram. The plan was to capture survivor’s guilt. The plan was to be honest. The plan was to share something new. Did we do that? I’m not too sure, but I’m glad we got to try.

You are clearly drawn to art and its foundations and you state that hotel books is an art collective. What do you mean by that?
Nobody is in hotel books anymore. we release books, we release videos, we write films, we release albums. I started a company called almost happy, and it is a hub for experimental art. hotel books/ almost happy has become a home for free expression, even if it’s simply a poem on paper, or a full production album. I don’t have any interest in continuing to scale the music industry, I’ve hired people to do that for me. I just like to create, write, and let hotel books be a resource center for anyone looking for expression. the way I see it, everyone who joins the ride is in hotel books, because hotel books is a community. On our last tour, we even had local poets participate in our live set. I just try to create a traveling circus of artistic expression.

You’re driven by poetry and that’s evident on your releases. Does poetry help when you’re feeling low?
I don’t really listen to poetry, or even read it, but I do love writing poetry in times of struggle. I wish I read more poetry, but I hardly indulge in anything that isn’t easy to digest. I’ve always been drawn to comedy, that’s where I find myself when I am down. In a lot of ways, I feel like the Larry Sanders show, or freaks & geeks, or Seinfeld, can be very poetic.

Are you planning on touring the UK anytime soon?
Yes. I don’t know when, but our guy at avocado is a great dude, and I know he is working hard to make it happen. We’ve done Europe, but never the UK, so I truly can’t wait to announce something over there soon.

What does the future hold for Hotel Books?
I don’t know. I have a new hour special coming out soon, we just need to find the right hub to release it through. I am still trying to find my vehicle to be exactly who I want to be. I think the new book is the best attempt I’ve made so far in my career, but I’m not sure. We plan to release new Hotel Books material later this year, but nothing is concrete. We have a pile of songs we’re sitting on. my friends Nick Ingram, Chase Huglin, and Andrew from September Stories, helped me write some new hotel books material, it’s all just a matter of waiting for the right time to share some new ideas. We’re not the same Hotel Books anymore, and we’re not writing about the same ideals anymore, but I can’t talk about all of that quite yet.

And finally, I read that you had given young poets the chance to read their work on your march 2016 tour. That’s admirable. Did you find any gems?
Thank you! Yeah, it was insane! I still can’t believe how amazing it was. When I did my solo tour with Chase Huglin, we took out a friend to open named Chris Bernstorff. Chris’s writing and energy are essential. He is a gem, not only on that tour, but in this world. He has a vinyl out called Yellow and it is a huge inspiration for me. originally, he was just going to do a few shows, as a local guest, but I could not resist getting him involved with the whole run. Before anyone else in this industry, Chris deserves the best. He and Chase have both been amazing friends to me, and I can’t brag about them enough.

Spoken-word pioneer Cam Smith took time out of his busy schedule to talk about the rise of his project Hotel Books. He talks about who has inspired him and why he is truly connected to words.

Hotel Books is predominately a spoken word project. What made you fall in love with the art of spoken word?
That’s a good question. I guess I just have always loved writing. This whole thing started as a poetry blog. The spoken-word part came when I fell in love with the band mewithoutyou. Their singer did a guest vocal on an old Norma Jean song and it inspired me to take my poems into new places. Cake was a huge influence, as well as “popular” by Nada Surf. Bradley Hathaway was a huge inspiration as well. I loved the vulnerability of talking instead of singing.

The lyrics that you pen are emotive and highly descriptive. You’re certainly a poet, when did you start writing in such a way?
Thank you so much. I started writing poems when I was in the seventh grade. For me, it was more a form of journaling. I never meant to be so personal, it was just what worked so I kept with it. It was all about growth, personal and in the entertainment industry. Looking back, I wish I would have kept some secrets, kept some details to myself. It was a desperate plea to keep moving, but it’s life.

Hotel Books began as just you and your words with the addition of your friend Matthew Walker on guitar. It must have been a big transition when you added a whole band for the making of I’m almost happy here, but I never feel at home, right?
It wasn’t too different. I mean, I’m almost happy here was basically written by two people as well. I just trusted my team and grew in ways they told me would work. There was never a big change, things just slowly changed as we tried to stay relevant. Fighting for relevancy is a dangerous game.

You’re an author too, with a book under your belt and another one under development as well as a feature film. Where do you find the time? And your muse must be fully equipped to stand the tests.
I know how to write. I feel like I’m totally comfortable in my skin when I am writing. I’m only 23, and I know that it’s hard for a 23 year old to ever feel comfortable in their skin, so when I found a home, I stuck with it. Writing the books mean the most to me, especially the new book, found footage. I am so proud of that thing. it started as an experiment and Nick Moore (Invogue Records) stood by the concept. I had always dreamed of writing a book like that. I guess the time is found because I am just so desperate to create. The film was fun to make, and I’m shooting my first hour special right now. I can’t wait to officially announce that project. I wish I could say that I’m good at time management, but I suck at it. I just constantly write and trust that my team will do the rest.

The new record Run Wild, Stay Alive is brilliant and emotive, blended with your signature style. Has the recording been any different this time around?
Thank you. This time around, we enlisted Craig Owens to help produce, which added a new element. We went into the studio empty-handed and just built up skeletons with Nick Ingram. The plan was to capture survivor’s guilt. The plan was to be honest. The plan was to share something new. Did we do that? I’m not too sure, but I’m glad we got to try.

You are clearly drawn to art and its foundations and you state that hotel books is an art collective. What do you mean by that?
Nobody is in hotel books anymore. we release books, we release videos, we write films, we release albums. I started a company called almost happy, and it is a hub for experimental art. hotel books/ almost happy has become a home for free expression, even if it’s simply a poem on paper, or a full production album. I don’t have any interest in continuing to scale the music industry, I’ve hired people to do that for me. I just like to create, write, and let hotel books be a resource center for anyone looking for expression. the way I see it, everyone who joins the ride is in hotel books, because hotel books is a community. On our last tour, we even had local poets participate in our live set. I just try to create a traveling circus of artistic expression.

You’re driven by poetry and that’s evident on your releases. Does poetry help when you’re feeling low?
I don’t really listen to poetry, or even read it, but I do love writing poetry in times of struggle. I wish I read more poetry, but I hardly indulge in anything that isn’t easy to digest. I’ve always been drawn to comedy, that’s where I find myself when I am down. In a lot of ways, I feel like the Larry Sanders show, or freaks & geeks, or Seinfeld, can be very poetic.

Are you planning on touring the UK anytime soon?
Yes. I don’t know when, but our guy at avocado is a great dude, and I know he is working hard to make it happen. We’ve done Europe, but never the UK, so I truly can’t wait to announce something over there soon.

What does the future hold for Hotel Books?
I don’t know. I have a new hour special coming out soon, we just need to find the right hub to release it through. I am still trying to find my vehicle to be exactly who I want to be. I think the new book is the best attempt I’ve made so far in my career, but I’m not sure. We plan to release new Hotel Books material later this year, but nothing is concrete. We have a pile of songs we’re sitting on. my friends Nick Ingram, Chase Huglin, and Andrew from September Stories, helped me write some new hotel books material, it’s all just a matter of waiting for the right time to share some new ideas. We’re not the same Hotel Books anymore, and we’re not writing about the same ideals anymore, but I can’t talk about all of that quite yet.

And finally, I read that you had given young poets the chance to read their work on your march 2016 tour. That’s admirable. Did you find any gems?
Thank you! Yeah, it was insane! I still can’t believe how amazing it was. When I did my solo tour with Chase Huglin, we took out a friend to open named Chris Bernstorff. Chris’s writing and energy are essential. He is a gem, not only on that tour, but in this world. He has a vinyl out called Yellow and it is a huge inspiration for me. originally, he was just going to do a few shows, as a local guest, but I could not resist getting him involved with the whole run. Before anyone else in this industry, Chris deserves the best. He and Chase have both been amazing friends to me, and I can’t brag about them enough.

Source: Music and Riots