ARTIST FEATURE: Camila Meza from ‘Overcome’

As we continue our campaign to put the album Overcome on vinyl, we’re shining a light on all of the musicians who contributed to the recording.

Vocalist / guitarist Camila Meza originates from Chile, where she began a flourishing career before moving to New York City at the age of 23. She studied with Peter Bernstein and Steve Cardenas at The New School, and since graduating, she has developed a unique vision as a vocalist and guitarist. She has performed internationally with artists including Sachal Vasandani, Fabian Almazan, Ryan Keberle, Tom Harrell, and Paquito D’Rivera.

As a bandleader, Meza has recorded a number of albums, including Skylark (2007), Retrato (2009), Prisma (2013), and Traces (2016). Her latest recording, Ámbar (2019) on Sony Masterworks features The Nectar Orchestra, an eight-piece ensemble that includes a string quartet, featuring her compositions and an earthy, acoustic sound.

What are the projects most dear to you during this time of separation? Any special musical experiences you’ve encountered?

Aside from collaborating with friend musicians on some of their remote recordings and videos, which like Dave’s record, has been a great source of inspiration and music resilience during this time, working with Carnegie Hall’s Lullaby Project has been really special. I’ve been working with them for a while now but at this time this project seems more important than ever. We work with moms that are about to give birth and help them create a song for their upcoming child. They usually come from underserved communities so their stories are always full of a deep sense of strength and they come out as really powerful music creations.

What adaptations did you have to make to record yourself?

Since I’ve been moving a bit this year I’ve become extremely resourceful to be able to record myself in different scenarios. One of the latest iterations was making a “booth” with thick blankets around me being held by very unstable poles … that was a sweaty recording! Haha! But overall it’s been a chance to learn more about DAW (Digital Audio Workstation), mixing, editing, and navigating technology a bit better.

What contributions do music and the arts make to your life and to the life of our culture and society?

I think the contributions are endless and so essential in my life that it feels very difficult to enumerate. What I can say is that during this time although politics have responded to the need for music & arts as “non essential,” it’s becoming more and more clear that people look for it beyond “entertainment.” Music has the ability to contain you during the hardest moments, accompany you when loneliness creeps in, cheer you up, make you move, relax, go to sleep, remember your loved ones, guide a social revolution … I can go on. I consider those capabilities quite healing. I don’t think it’s too crazy to say that music might have brought some sanity and saved lives this year.

Does the unity of purpose we felt in making Overcome during a time of widespread social justice movements and a crucial election carry on in this new period of transition?

Definitely! There’s so much to be done still and the flame is to be kept alive. I was so ecstatic to realize during this recording how music is like this unstoppable flow, that regardless of the circumstances, it will find its way to manifest.

What is your latest project either in development or recently emerged?

I’m preparing to record my next album Portal which is a piece commissioned by The Jazz Gallery in New York in 2019. Although it’s been two years, it feels very relevant as it depicts a world gone apocalyptic and how slowly our collective consciousness ‘rewilds’ and restores the connectivity to our essence lost in a dark dream of greed and materialism. I’ve also been commissioned by Jazz Coalition to write a piece reflecting these times, so I’m developing a solo voice/guitar composition. With The Nectar Orchestra we’re working on new material for another album and finally I’m experimenting on “remote creation” with a pianist friend – we compose subsequently after a short idea the other one sends, eventually we’ll make a song. We’ll see how that works!

Dave Douglas had the following to say about Meza’s contribution to the Overcome album:

Camila was struggling on the lyric for one of these pieces, and when I pointed to the written melody I realized she was not reading the score I had sent. Everything came through so naturally. But given access to the written melody (and me doing some humbling singing on her voice mail), her lyric and infection snapped wright in. Camila chose the verse ‘We Are Not Afraid,’ and after everything we’ve been through I’ll always be grateful to her for that.

Support the campaign for the Overcome LP here.