For a songwriter, there’s no greater accomplishment than writing a track for one of the most recognized names in music. Songland provides writers the opportunity for just that.
Ryan Cam’s fate was in the hands of global superstar Usher, when he chose to record Cam’s song “California”- ultimately declaring him as season 2’s finale winner.
"California"- Ryan Cam
Hosted by singer/songwriter/producers Ryan Tedder (One Republic), Ester Dean, and Shane McAnally, the reality show chooses three of the top auditioning songwriters and pairs them up with three producers to help them fully develop their tracks.
Each episode, a universally known celebrity guest hosts the show looking for their next hit. They join the panel of judges to determine which songwriter’s track best aligns with the artist’s musical style, lyrical message, and all-around vibe. Once a winner is chosen, the artist records and releases the completed single, giving the songwriter the opportunity of a lifetime.
When talking about what makes Songland so monumental compared to reality shows like American Idol and The Voice, Joe Vitagliano from American Songwriter states, ”Songland gives air-time to the more underrated and underrepresented side of the music industry.” The show celebrates the hard work and rollercoaster of a process that goes into actually creating a song, inspiring writers alike to keep shooting for the stars.
Now re-directing our attention back to Ryan Cam… a “hip-hop, but with singing” artist from Northern Virginia, Cam takes inspiration from Post Malone, Chance the Rapper, and a number of underground musicians. While working as a professional model for Wilhelmina in New York, he found the time to focus on his real passion- showcasing his artistry through music.
By releasing his own written and produced tracks and EPs on SoundCloud, he grew a fanbase and eventually caught the attention of Songland producers.
In an interview with American Songwriter, Cam shares, “Songland actually reached out to me about two months before I even wrote the song that eventually got chosen. They were like ‘we like your music, send us some songs.’ I sent them one song and then they asked me two more times ‘hey can you send us another song?’ I ended up sending two more songs and then I went to my family’s hometown in Greece, where I wrote what would become ‘California.’ Then, they were like ‘hey, do you have any songs for someone like Usher?’ I thought of the one I had written in Greece and felt that it was perfect.”
Originally titled “Staying Over”, the winning song was written about a long-distance relationship that Cam was trying to make work. The lyrics had to be modified in order to make it relatable to Usher, so with the help of Ester Dean, “California” came to life.
“It was incredible working with Ester,” Cam said. “We had the session that they show on the show and then we had another session at her studio. It was like a seven-hour session or something —we basically reformatted and reassembled the song together. That experience was unreal. She knows how to paint a picture, she knows how every word will feel for the listener. I learned so much working with her. Even now, whenever I write I try to imagine that Ester is in the room with me because I feel like I know what she would say. The experience of working with her was very impressionable on me. I think it really directed me in the right way.”
Songland is doing a phenomenal job at shining light on the making of a song. The opportunities they’re providing for aspiring songwriters are endless, and the way these writers and producers come together to create magic is truly iconic.
There hasn’t been an official release date for a season 3, and we can imagine how difficult it would be to shoot the show amidst the ongoing pandemic.
We’re crossing our fingers in hopes that Songland will make a return to TV in 2021!