The Emmy Award-winner and singer/songwriter talks Jasmine Cowler through her musical inspirations, love lessons, ear crystals and her obsession with the “monster voice.”
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  • Post published:10/06/2021
  • Post last modified:10/06/2021

There is no doubt that Dove Cameron’s Nine Songs have Big Night Out energy. Yet a surprising revelation is that she doesn’t worship the club IRL at all.

“Weirdly, that’s all I listen to, but I actually don’t enjoy it very much, it’s just not my scene”. Considering access to these spaces is limited right now, this might even be a good thing? She laughs, agreeing with the sentiment, and confides, “People don’t know this – because I go to great lengths not to involve people in my daily life on social media – but I walk around like someone from The Matrix.

Truly a delight to speak to, the 25-year-old singer, songwriter and former Disney star (she played Mal in The Descendants and twins Liv and Maddie in the show of the same name) is “in flow” calling from a blanket in rainy Atlanta weather that’s no big deal Cameron says, having grown up in Seattle.

“I don’t know if you ever saw Tron: Legacy but the club in the middle of the film, that’s what my apartment looks like. That’s how I dress, the music I listen to. I don’t need to be in the club to enjoy stuff like that because I’m always in the club. It’s such a weird thing to say but that’s it!”

Currently embarking on a pop music career – last week saw the release of “Taste of You”, a collaboration with Rezz – the multi-hyphenated artist and self-described walking sci-fi movie is also the ultimate hype woman, filled with anecdotes about her life and her multi-talented friends. She constantly and irrepressibly goes into little asides, explaining inside jokes or topics in detail, as she talks through the songs she loves.

“I see and hear everything through the lens of music, so I can’t tell you specifically where I found most of these songs, because most of the time I don’t have a fucking clue! If I’m out in a restaurant I’m hearing the music over a conversation. I’m hearing the car next to me playing music. I’m not watching the commercial, I’m hearing the music. Everything is just music to me.”

Cameron is also in the middle of shooting the live action-series of CW’s The Powerpuff Girls, playing blue-loving Bubbles, who can shoot lightning from her hands, and it’s from that project that her Nine Songs selections come from.

“I have a playlist right now for Powerpuff, called ‘Chemical X.’ I always do a playlist when I start a new project and these songs are all chosen from that. This is exactly what I’m listening to every day on repeat, over and over.” It could well be the soundtrack to a cyber goth ball, filled with rock riffs and dirty drops, but these songs work just as well driving with the top-down, on your way to the mall or a friend’s house. As Cameron says, ‘Why go to the club when you’re bringing it to you!”

“Hello Hello Hello” (Polo & Pan remix) by Remi Wolf

“My friend Alexander 23 is a very talented musical artist. It’s such a love language in general between me and all my community where you share songs with each other, it’s truly the joy of my fucking life. We were driving around in my car and I was playing him what I listen to and he went, ‘I really think you would like this song.’

“It always sends a chill up my spine when someone does that, because everybody’s always wrong, right? And they always send me something that I have absolutely no interest in and I have to be like ‘Ah yeah, that’s fine…’ but when he played me this, my jaw was on the floor. The top was down, the sun was shining, and I was ready to pull over. I was like, ‘Wow, we have to run away and get married.’

“This was so accurate, and I’ve never loved a song more immediately than “Hello Hello Hello”, it’s crazy. Remi Wolf is one of my favourite artists at the moment. I honestly can’t overstate this song, the sound of this song sonically, I don’t know how they do it. I’m so obsessed. It’s going to be the song I’m buried to, that I’m married to, it’s everything, this song is everything.”

“Super Bad Mantra” by JAWNY ft. Christian Blue

“I have been a fan of JAWNY since late last year when I discovered him through “Honeypie.” I started posting that track a lot because it was something that really resonated with me. Then he followed me, I followed him and we struck up a funny back and forth, like ‘Hey, I’m a fan of you’, ‘No I’m a fan of you!’, which is what happens in the public eye. ‘Hey, I fuck with you!’, ‘Nah, I fuck with you!’

“The more that we spoke, the more I sought out his music and when I found “Super Bad Mantra” it rewrote my nervous system. It’s the sexiest, most fun song. I love a song where I know exactly which part of the soundtrack it’s going to be on in the moment that the character in the movie is doing XYZ, you know what I mean? It’s so THAT, they’re out, they’re in some seedy club, it’s the middle of the night… it’s so sexy!

“JAWNY is one of my all-time favourite artists ever. I cannot hype this man up enough; he just released a new single and I’m literally embarrassingly a fan of his. I’m posting his songs all the time. It’s the coolest thing ever that I get to text all my favourite artists and they send me their unreleased shit. That’s how I know that I’ve truly gotten to the place in my career that I want to be at.”

“Highway Tune” by Greta Van Fleet

“I listen to a lot of rock music. Everyone always tells me that the music I’ve released is so different, everybody says ‘I love that you don’t have a sound’. I think that’s a compliment (laughs), but it’s because what I listen to is so varied. I would never want to tie myself to a specific sound. I listen to everything. That’s my number one thing. I become a DJ on set, I bring my speakers with me everywhere I go and if I don’t have them everybody’s like ‘Hey, where’s the music?’ I’m always bumping tunes. I’m a psycho, it’s a problem almost, one of those weird things. Do I even have an identity outside of music?!

“I found this song on a road trip I went on in January with my best friend. Her name is Veronica, and we went to Seattle and listened to all the classics. We were listening to Led Zeppelin and she asked me, ‘Hey, do you know Greta Van Fleet?’, and I say this with so much love and respect, but I thought, ‘Here is basically Led Zeppelin!’ And when she turned it on, I swear to God, I always know I’m going to like a song when my body turns into atoms and it liquidates, and I sink into a pile of nothing.

“There’s nothing that can make me feel like this except “Renegade” by Styx and “Highway Tune”. It’s the same thing. I have a little convertible that I got in LA when I was really wanting to feel like myself again in the breakup. And I know it’s so crazy, but when I’m in LA and I put the top down and I’m blasting this so loud, its physically painful. It can get me out of any mood. This is the cure.”

“Choke” by Royal & the Serpent

“This another song I listen to when I’m driving. I’m a huge Royal & the Serpent fan. I think it started with “Overwhelmed” which is how most people find them and right now I’m in a big Royal & the Serpent mood. “Overwhelmed” still makes me cry. If I need to lay down on the floor and really sob my face off, sonically it just gets me somewhere. But I love “Choke” because I love the quality of her voice on it and the production. She’s so incredible at having big Wall of Sound quality, but also leaving so much space sonically.

“It’s something that Billie Eilish does too. It’s never underwhelming. They both succeed in striking this balance where the music is so crunchy and you have so many of these ear candies, these ear crystals, but it breathes. The song has room.

“I grew up listening to Panic at the Disco, so I grew up where everything was very heightened. My favourite song of theirs is “Nearly Witches” and this going to sound funny, but anytime I’m falling in love – which has happened a few times now – I come back to “Nearly Witches.” It’s because of that line “I only shoot up with your perfume” and all the little bells and whistles they have. All those sound effects are something that I really enjoy about Royal & the Serpent too, and they’re still not overproduced. This song is the big one for me right now.”

“Bad Things” by Cailin Russo

“Cailin is actually a friend of mine that I’ve known for a long time. There’s always a bit of a stretch to that term when you’re in the public eye. ‘Friend’ could mean a million things; it could mean you’ve known them for a decade or you’ve met them once. Cailin is somebody who I do know. I remember when she was first starting out and first playing me her stuff. She’s always been so incredible, but this one really resonates with me. This one and “Pink Sand”, those are my two favourites of hers.

“All the songs on this list have one thing in common, which is that they are so self-aware. They are all very tongue in cheek and almost all of them are told through a lens of a sense of humour. There’s a lightness and a cheekiness and a fizzle pop to every single one of these songs, even though they are all so different. That’s who I am as well and that’s why I resonate with them, so this one is no exception.

“I mean, the lyrics ‘Baby take me, don’t hesitate / With a girl like me you’ve got to activate / I’m a tidal wave coming through your grave / I wanna do bad things with you.’ Come on! That is the sexiest collection of lyrics. I’m in such a transitional time right now. I’m dating and that’s exactly what this song is. “I want to be your best friend, I want to go on adventures, I want to do bad things with you, I want to be your partner in crime…”

“It’s that feeling, like ‘We’re going on this grand adventure and it doesn’t have to be serious’. It’s so light-hearted and maybe you’re falling in love a little bit when you’re listening to it. I love the idea that love is not what we’ve been told it is, it’s not saccharine, where you have to hit everybody over the head with it. Maybe it’s ‘With a girl like me you’ve gotta activate / I wanna do bad things with you.’ Maybe it’s that, you know? I think she does such a good job of having these conversational, commonplace lyrics but making them so grand and sexy and real and lived in.”

“nuh uh” by Jades Goudreault

“This artist is really great, she’s got such a singular sound and I’m just discovering her now. It’s something I wouldn’t normally listen to, but I’m so beat, bass and drop oriented that when that beat comes in, the ‘nuh uh’ and she switches to that very rhythmic beat I was sold. I find this so hypnotic and danceable and playful – ‘Nuh uh / A ring a ding ding / He a monster”. I love that she doesn’t need to spell out the meaning for you. It’s about the intention behind the song and the rhythm and the playfulness. It’s such a fun song and so sexy.

“I listen to this when I’m stretching, when I’m trying to get into my power, get into my body. Chloe Bennet, who I’m doing Powerpuff with right now, introduced me to this song – I’m so lucky to be surrounded by people with great taste. I haven’t been able to get it out of my head.”

“Purple Hat” by SOFI TUKKER

“This is another Alexander 23 pick, I have to give him his credit! I’m a huge fan of SOFI TUKKER. You know when you’re getting to know somebody and you’re playing them all the things that made you who you are? I was playing him their Treehouse album. I think I was playing “Best Friend” or “Batshit”, which are two of my favourite songs – also “Fuck They” is a really good one – and he said, ‘Have you heard “Purple Hat?” I feel like it’s going to be your new favourite song.’

“Again, I was ‘OK, play it for me, but I’m not going to like it, you’re going to be wrong.’ I’ve learned to think that he’s never going to be wrong again, because he is such a talented musician. His ear is crazy and his ability to hear what other people like and then deliver it, I’m so impressed.

“When I first heard this song I melted into a pile of nothing onto the floor of my car. And another thing I’ll never get sick of is the pitched down – and this is not a technical term, but I will never stop calling it this – “monster voice”. I hear it in so many songs! When you pitch a voice down so low that it becomes creature-esque. Oh my God, there’s nothing better.

“When I’m at the studio, there’s somthing that I always want that my producers always roll their eyes at like, ‘We can’t put this in every fucking song’ but I’m like ‘Can we?!’ I always want a vocoder. I always want to hear my voice layered in 10 different ways, because I think it’s so sonically overwhelming. That Imogen Heap remix, “Whatcha Say” by Jason Derulo, changed the game for me in terms of the music I wanted to create – and that’s a vocoder for anybody who’s reading this that doesn’t know what that means. Ever since I heard that I’ve been wanting to put a vocoder in fucking everything, but I’ve come to accept that I can’t do that (laughs).

“When this track comes in ‘I’ve got purple hat / Cheetah print / Dancing on the people,’ Oh my God. And when the beat comes in? Forget it, I’m dead! Even that lyric ‘Everybody in the booth / Can’t tell myself apart from you / Now that we’re dancing people’, that’s such a good lyric. It fucking blows my mind, because it describes that feeling when you’re in a crowd and searching for that feeling, that high. It’s like ‘Woah where do I end and where do you begin?’ That’s so sexy, you know? It’s such a good song.”

“Call My Parents” by Jany Green

“This one I love because first of all it’s so fun, the lyrics especially. Near the end when he gets into the bridge and he goes ‘This girl got me in my feelings bro, she really got me in my feelings!’ And you hear him in the background playing and the other boys going ‘Nooo noo’ and it’s so pitched up, its just so fun, it’s so creature-esque and the lyrics are so great! ‘Let me tell my parents / I need to tell them everything about you / I don’t know if it’s fair or not / But damn, I can’t stand to be without you.’

“I think that’s such a relatable thing, the way that he was able to synthesise this into such a fun upbeat easy jam. It’s so cute because what he’s saying is ‘I’m so in love, I’m so upside down, I need to tell everybody everything about you.’ I think we all know that feeling of being so overwhelmed that you need to tell everybody in earshot, and that’s such a cute concept.”

“LazyBaby” by Dove Cameron

“I hope that this song helps people colour the narratives of their breakup in a more broad strokes way. I used this song like a medicine to help me transition from one part of the breakup to the next, when I felt like I didn’t know how to. I was banging my head against the wall; I was calling everybody, I couldn’t leave Canada, no one could come and see me and I was fully isolated.

“The break-up (with fellow Disney alumni, Thomas Doherty) was such a fucking surprise. It hit me like a bus and I was reeling, trying to process something that I thought was never ever going to happen. I was on track to marry this person and then it came out of absolutely nowhere and my brain just couldn’t deal with it, it just wasn’t computing. I was going over everything in my head and I felt crazy, I felt brainless. I was speaking to my best friend, saying the same 20 things over and over again, looking for a soft place to land and not finding anything.

“Finally, I thought ‘You know what? I need to put this away. I may not get any answers. I may not get the closure that I want. I need to define this for myself, because if I just sit around with a big question mark over this, I am going to lose my mind. I will never move on, I will never heal.’ So I decided to write a song that put that chapter behind me.

“Breakups are so complex. I keep saying, ‘Love is simple, relationships are complex and songs are three minutes long.’ Of course, I’m not gonna fit my entire experience of what happened into “LazyBaby”, but I also needed to feel comfortable with people releasing it. I needed to be able to say my peace and walk away from this, put a big stamp on it, blow a kiss and walk away.

“LazyBaby” was my statement to myself, my way of saying that I’m going to survive this, “Promised you would fuck up my life / Why my kitty still got nine? / You said you’d have me seeing stars / Boy, you got me sleepy eyed.” It was a goodbye. I had to do that, and I feel good about it. I really feel it helped me and I hope it helps my fans to do the same thing. Sometimes we have to define things for ourselves and put up a boundary and walk away. It was my little form of therapy.

“I’ve never said this before, but it’s like when you write in your diary and sometimes the diary entry is ‘What happened? Where did it all go wrong? Why am I broken?’ And then the next one’s like, ‘You know what? Fuck this shit, I am that bitch! I’m gonna go drink my fucking coffee, I’m gonna get right and tight. Here’s the plan, I am sent down from the heavens and I am my own life partner and I walk away!’ That’s “LazyBaby.” It’s that conversation you have in the mirror like, ‘You know what bitch? You’ve got this, game over. Try and remember who you are and walk away.’ And that’s what it is.”

“LazyBaby” is out now

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