Gay Country Crooner busts out on his debut EP
By James Barker, Staff Writer
After debuting last year with the smash YouTube coming-out video ‘Dancing in the Living Room,’ and following it up with two more polished videos, gay country crooner Cameron Hawthorn has finally released his first EP, Mustang.
Hawthorn’s music defies simple genre categorization. With influences from Johnny Cash and Fleetwood Mac to Eric Church and Shania Twain, his music blends Americana and folk with a country-pop sensibility.
This diversity of influences is immediately obvious on listening to the EP. The provocative ‘Oh Hot Damn!,’ complete with its own line-dancing routine, will rock any country dancefloor; ‘Boys’ is a fierce queer country answer to “bro-country”, and the title track is a liberating anthem channeling the spirit of the country outlaw. Breakthrough single ‘Dancing in the Living Room’ and ‘To Break Hers’ are heartbreakingly honest and vulnerable. Hawthorn’s country storytelling is strong enough to settle the qualms of any country traditionalist, and his talents are broad enough that in a just world, country radio would be paying attention.
I got to speak to Hawthorn recently about his inspirations and hopes for the new EP.
JB: What were your main inspirations behind the EP?
CH: The ‘Mustang’ EP is a collection of songs that marks a chapter of my life all about opening the gate, letting go of the reins, and allowing the mustang to finally run free. Each song in its own way is a declaration of how happy I am to be where I’m at in life.
I’ve been drawn to horses since I was a kid and the word ‘mustang’ had been whispering to me to write a story. While most people think mustangs are wild horses, I learned that they’re actually descended from once-domesticated horses. This idea that domesticated horses transformed into mustangs fascinated me. Because for the first time in my life, I too, feel like I’m finally free. To write about what I want, to sing about what I want, and most importantly, to be who I want to be.
JB: What was the songwriting and recording process like?
CH: It was so freeing to release ‘Dancing in the Living Room’ that I wanted to continue to lean into exploring that side of me in my music. I wrote ‘Mustang’ and ‘Oh Hot Damn!’ with a production trio in LA called The Fund. They’re really down-to-earth, friendly guys and were super open to me talking about my story.
I moved to Nashville pretty quickly after that. I had been wanting to tell the story of the relationship I had been in with a woman before I came out. ‘To Break Hers’, written with Lena Stone, was the first song from start to finish that was made in Nashville. Telling this part of my story was vital to this EP because I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for going through the relationship I sing about in this song.
The last song on the EP: ‘Boys’, was written with Tim Jones and Leroy Powell, who go by Whiskey Wolves of the West. It felt like the right song to finish out the EP as a celebration of friendship during this chapter of my life.
JB: LGBTQ+ artists are largely absent from country radio and often under-appreciated within the industry. What are your hopes for how your EP will be received and how it might start to shift things within the genre?
CH: So far, I’ve had only positive experiences in the industry in regards to being a part of the LGBTQ+ community, and I hope this EP will continue to be that for me. I love that over the last couple of years we’ve seen more and more LGBTQ+ country artists making music and getting heard, and I think as a whole it will shift the genre to being more inclusive. At the end of the day, I truly believe that we’re all just telling stories – “three chords and the truth” as they say – and they all deserve to be heard because they represent not only country-lovin’ people in America, but all over the world. That’s what it’s about.
JB: Is there anything that you hope LGBTQ+ listeners will get from your EP?
CH: I hope they’ll by inspired by the music to find their cowboy/cowgirl within – I think everyone has some country within them if they allow themselves to be open to it – and let the music take them on a journey of finding freedom in their own life in whatever way – even if it’s just a little singing, dancing, or toe-tapping along.
Mustang is out now on all major platforms.