Cam Discusses Bold New Song 'Diane,' Gun Control Debate

Singer, who opens two shows for George Strait in December, talks about her new music and spending time with survivors of Las Vegas shootings

Cam, who performed at the recent Vegas Strong event, has released "Diane," the first song from her forthcoming album. Credit: Ethan Miller/Getty Images

When Cam, the Grammy-nominated singer and co-writer of the 2015 breakthrough single "Burning House," released that starkly intense tune about a failed relationship, it set off a chain reaction she was initially unprepared to deal with. She was soon hearing what she recalls were some "really heavy" personal stories from fans about how they could relate to its metaphorical message, which equated a home engulfed in flames with a couple who have been burned and scarred by their experiences with one another.

"At first I got a little freaked out because I didn't quite know… I'm like, 'I'm just a kid, I don't have the answer!" she tells Rolling Stone Country. "And then you realize people are just sharing because you shared, and you opened up this floodgate, you know, and they just want a hug. It's an amazing thing."

The personal feedback from that tune, she notes, helped prepare her for yet another flood of response as she released "Diane," the exhilarating first taste of her upcoming second LP. The confessional tale from the perspective of a remorseful woman as she reveals to her ex's wife that she was unaware he was married while they were involved, "Diane" bounces along to a carefree beat – think vintage ABBA/Fleetwood Mac – but at its darker heart is an earnest plea for understanding, forgiveness and female solidarity. Flipping the script on Dolly Parton's auburn-haired temptress, "Jolene," "Diane" – which, like "Burning House," was penned by the singer with Jeff Bhasker and Tyler Johnson – is the victim of indiscretion, and the earnestness in Cam's remarkable vocal comes not from a place of self-pity or fear, but from the knowledge that the truth will, with any luck, set you free.

"This song came from me thinking about one of my good friends whose parents went through a rough divorce," says the California-born performer. "One of my other good friends right now is going through a rough divorce. Infidelity is obviously, if it's not happening to you, it's happening to your best friend. It's something that happens all the time and people just don’t want to talk about. So, this is kind of taking the lid off and letting people talk about it."

While clandestine meetings, inappropriate photo-sharing and secret marriages are just a few of the details that have emerged from tales she's heard, Cam says the search for truth is the one constant thread in all of them. "Everyone deserves the truth," she says. "There's not a story that says, 'I wish I never knew.' It's not OK to act like it's polite to hide the truth from people. Yes, it’s gonna be hard, it’s gonna be a difficult conversation. You need to know what your motives are, about how you’re telling someone and when you’re telling someone, but everyone deserves the truth."

Cam notes that the hotly anticipated follow-up to her Untamed album is "90 percent there," adding that there are a few songs that need more production, and there are some that are still in contention for inclusion on the project, which will be released sometime next year. "We all like tweaking up until the last minute," she explains, "when someone literally pries it out of our hands and says, 'It's going. You have to let go.' Otherwise it feels weird to stop and say, 'Oh, it's in the can for a few months.' We don't let you do that. It's almost done, but we will continue tweaking until the last day, I assure you."

On November 28th, Cam will head back to her home state for the Best Coast Tour, and in between stops on that California trek, will play the final two shows opening for George Strait as his 2017 Las Vegas residency comes to a close.

"Every time someone actually says that out loud, I kind of, like, can't believe it," she says with a laugh. "People come in from all over. Most of them buy tickets for two nights to hear the first 30 Number Ones and the second 30 Number Ones. They're dancing to their wedding songs, crying to their first love songs. It's just like a whole lifetime soundtrack that he's playing; people have just lived their whole lives with him."

In the wake of last month's mass shooting in Las Vegas, Cam returned to the city for the Vegas Strong concert and has also visited survivors who remain hospitalized there. "I got to meet with the ER staff, got to hang out at the radio stations… and one girl said, 'Before this, I never was really proud to be from Las Vegas, there wasn't really anything….' Now, after we watched how everyone came together, she's so proud. She'll be proud for the rest of her life, to be from Las Vegas. Because even though I know the headlines were like this horrible moment in time, all the good completely outweighs it, when you actually go hear all the stories."

As the conversation about not only concert security but also gun control has escalated in the weeks since the tragedy, Cam says she has been comforted and impressed by the country music community's reaction and notes that the conversation needs to continue. "We think of fans as family," she says. "I think the next step that you think of is how concerned everyone is for security. [T]hen the next part is gun control and talking about what that means. I think people are realizing the divisiveness over, like, when people are trying to make it like someone's trying to take away your guns. Nobody's trying to take away guns. Eighty percent of gun owners believe that there should be background checks."

As one of a very small group of country musicians who signed an open letter to Congress in 2016, Cam joined the Dixie Chicks and Rosanne Cash, along with nearly 200 artists and executives, in an effort to address gun violence and a need for reform after the mass killings at Orlando's Pulse nightclub that June. Billboard, which printed the initial letter, reran it after the events at the Route 91 Harvest Festival.

"People wanted to come on Twitter and come at me for backing background checks," the singer recalls. "And the thing is, the overall narrative becomes 'which side are you on?' As if there's a side to a completely multifaceted thing. I hope that people can start seeing through that. What you realize is that there is something we can all agree on, and it's just that nobody should be able to walk in and buy that many guns. We do it for Sudafed! We can come up with a couple basic things, and it's not anti-guns. I'm coming from a household that has guns. I think not letting politics divide everyone is hopefully where we're headed."

Next week, Cam participates in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, airing at 9 a.m. on NBC.