If you were familiar with Cam Thompson during his upbringing, the idea of the 21-year-old pursuing a music career may come as a surprise.
“I’ve always been a huge sports guy,” he said. “When I was little, I played (a bunch) of sports (every) year.”
Born in Evansville, Thompson and his family moved to Owensboro when he was 5. And while he said he would sing in the car, when his parents attempted to enroll him in piano and vocal lessons, he didn’t budge.
“…I refused to do it because I didn’t think music was very cool,” he said.
But when he got to Owensboro High School, things started to take a turn.
“I was playing football for (the high school), and throughout my junior and senior year … I was in between going to college to play football or if it was time to hang up the cleats,” he said. “I started going to concerts quite a bit ….”
Thompson recalls the first concert he went to at 17, when his friend brought him along to a Country Music Association event in Nashville.
Seeing the likes of Darius Rucker, Keith Urban and Brad Paisley performing on stage ended up getting Thompson’s gears turning.
“I saw them play, and I was like, ‘You know, that would be really cool to be able to play at Nissan Stadium for a crowd of 60,000,’ ” he said. “Right then and there, I was kind of like, ‘If I’m able to sing, why not use it?’
“..I’ve always kind of been able to sing and stuff; and then finally I realized that being a country musician would be pretty cool, so I think I should try to pursue it, at least.”
Soon after, Thompson started learning how to play, with instruction from Tim Hicks. However, Thompson said he became “frustrated” and believed it not to be his “thing” before stopping all together.
But it was during the height of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020 that Thompson gave it another try when he wrote lyrics for a song without having any music.
“…I took what Tim taught me and kind of taught myself the rest,” he said. “After that, I released that song … in July 2020, and it kind of took off from there.”
When Thompson was about 18, he made his first appearance at PorchFest OBKY when he was invited to sing one song with friend and fellow local musician Elliott Sublett.
The performance solidified the path he wanted to take.
“After that, I was like, ‘Yeah, this is something I want to do,’ ” he said.
After graduating from OHS in 2020, Thompson went off to the University of Kentucky, still uncertain if music was going to be the end goal.
But after releasing his first full-length album “Dreamer” that November with producer Matt Gray of Gray Sky Music, Thompson took the leap and moved to the Music City to attend Belmont University to study music business and get his name out in the scene.
Currently, Thompson is enrolled with Murray State University through online courses while making a living as a musician in Nashville.
“…I figured the best thing I could do for myself is give myself enough time to travel as much as I can and play as many gigs and in as many different cities that I can, and play in Nashville as much as I can,” he said. “When you’re going to school five days a week, it’s really hard to do; so I figured online school was the better route.”
Since then, Thompson has been able to secure shows at The Ainsworth — Nashville in Midtown while also playing throughout the Owensboro area at Brasher’s Lil’ Nashville, Trunnell’s Farm Market & Experience, and even at places in Henderson and Louisville in the past three years.
He has eyes set on playing on Broadway in Nashville at the Florida Georgia Line (FGL) House, Luke Bryan’s establishment Luke’s 32 Bridge and Jason Aldean’s Kitchen + Rooftop Bar.
He’s also written close to 30 to 40 songs, with some of them being mixed into his live performances. He plans to release two new tunes in November.
Being new to Nashville can be challenging, but Thompson sees the benefits of being able to immerse himself into the environment.
“Honestly, one of the hardest parts about Nashville is actually getting into places and playing, just because they have hundreds of people coming to them every day asking for a spot,” he said. “…It’s been three years now, and I’ve lived in Nashville for a year, but I would say that I’m still very inexperienced compared to most of the people I surround myself with, which I think is a good thing; you want to surround yourself with people that are better than you because that will make yourself better ….”
Thompson said the journey has been worth it.
“…I made the jump, and I couldn’t be more happy that I did,” he said. “It’s been awesome so far.”
He’s also found guidance from Sublett and musician Andy Brasher helping him throughout his career, while also saying his parents help with setting up at shows, traveling and being there for a majority of his performances.
“I really attribute everything that has made (it all) possible is because of my parents,” he said. “I can’t imagine having a 21-year-old pursuing music and it’s not a guaranteed-type thing. …(It can) be a little bit scary not knowing exactly what I was going to do. Hopefully the music thing works out, but my parents are the most supportive parents I could have ever asked for.”
While Thompson didn’t think music would have been where he ended up, he isn’t looking back.
“…One song can change my mood in a matter of seconds, and it just makes me feel something that not a lot of things do,” he said. “Generally, it makes me happy — playing music, listening to music. I think music is just who I am as a person. It’s part of my personality now ….”