Dove Cameron knows people have never been sure what to make of her. The 23-year-old got her start on Disney, starring in the sitcom Liv and Maddie before helming the musical film franchise Descendants, in which she played Maleficent’s daughter. While she thrived on the platform, her life and celebrity felt separate from the entertainment engine for which she was working.
“I always felt like I was an actress-for-hire rather than a brand ambassador or a ‘Disney kid,’” she says bluntly. When Descendants 3 aired earlier this summer, her final appearance in the franchise, the feeling of something being “severed” came as a shock. “When it ended, I really didn’t anticipate having any sort of emotional page turn.”
What seemed to affect her more was public perception, especially as she was in the midst of figuring out her next move. “A lot of people had more ideas about me than even I had about myself,” she says, laughing. Cameron admits that her own personal preferences and image never helped the image placed on her.
“I happen to look quite clean, and I happen to not be interested in things that we would typically call ‘inappropriate,’ like things that might be bad for the brand,” she explains, referring to the impulse by past Disney stars to be rebellious. “I just happened to be one of those people that wasn’t naturally inclined to behave like that.”
As she came close to the end of her time with the company, Cameron realized she craved creativity, something that made her feel more like a participant, more than a watcher within the industry. So, after signing with Disruptor/Columbia Records, she explored other options and began working in the studio with seasoned writers and producers like the Orphanage, Jonas Jeberg, Delacey, Carly Paige Waldrip, and Chloe Angelides. Together, they cooked up a “pretty meaty collection” of songs she’s beginning to release. Dreamy, rock-tinged love song “Waste” and the darker, synthy break-up opus “Bloodshot” — both released last week — are the long-awaited taste of the new Dove Cameron, the real Dove Cameron.
“I do get the sense that I can feel a little bit far away from even my fans I have now, and I don’t know if that’s because of a highly glossy image,” she says. “I do think this music opens up more of who I really am.”
For both, Cameron wanted to approach stereotypical coming-of-age feelings from fresh angles. On “Waste,” a song she describes as one of her absolute favorites, she wanted to step away from the “melty, dripping, sappy love songs” she tends to loathe.
“It’s more about the dire effects that happen to you when you’re massively in love with someone all of a sudden,” she explains further, “and the chemicals that get released and the feeling of suffering something so delicious.”
On the opposite end, “Bloodshot” was originally inspired by some boy problems Cameron’s co-writer Waldrip had been experiencing, but the goal was to keep the actual meaning more open-ended.
“I tend to really hate a break-up song,” she admits. “It’s more about the feeling of losing someone. It could be about a death or a friendship loss.”
For the time being, Cameron is shifting her entire focus to music. A third new song may arrive soon, she explains, and she plans on filming proper videos for each single. To help aid that plan, she’s avoiding the commitment of any television series; following her appearances in the off-Broadway adaptation Clueless: The Musical and a London production of The Light in the Piazza, she’s steering clear of her accidental detour into musical theater. Hopefully, the next time she will be on stage, she’ll be performing her original songs.
“I feel all of a sudden like I’ve come down to reality,” Cameron concludes. “I feel more grounded and human than ever.”