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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.
Before you went in the studio to start recording music, what did you envision your music sounding like? And how do you feel you achieved what you imagined?
Funny enough, my taste in music has always been relatively the same. I’ve been listening to Sleigh Bells since I was 13, classic rock since I was born, Lana [Del Rey] since I was 14, and musical scores and sonatas all my life. I have always had a highly stylized, romantic and dramatic taste in production, whether it was super minimal, or creatively placed bells and whistles, I love music that doesn’t sound like the rest. But, I never heard my own music — I could never project my taste into my own personal sound. So finding it for the first time was definitely a blind effort. I felt like I had all my senses removed and I had to re-learn my taste. Though, I did always know whatever I created would be different than what I personally listened to and liked. I wouldn’t ever be so arrogant or silly as to say that I’ve “found my sound” this early on, but I would say, I never dreamed that my music would make me feel as specifically me, as concentrated or vulnerable and as exposed as some of my first few releases have made me feel. So, I assume I’m on the path.
What are the stories behind “Waste” and “Bloodshot”?
“Waste” is very much about that feeling of being so fucked-up over someone that you just want to waste yourself on them, bleed out every ounce of you and live inside them. That kind of agonizing, pain/pleasure, mad love is what we all either know personally, or want. Obviously, I am in a very public relationship [with Descendants costar Thomas Doherty], so it’s safe to assume most love songs are about him.
“Bloodshot,” on the other hand, is less specific. I am very known by my label to say ‘I hate a breakup song,’ which I don’t anticipate changing anytime soon. To me, they’re boring and they make me itchy. What I love about “Bloodshot” is that it’s not necessarily about a breakup, but it is definitely about a loss of some kind. For me, it’s about loss, which I am always trying to put to lyrics.
What made you want to release both songs at the same time? Did it have to do with their contrasting takes on love?
I wanted to release them together because, just as you said, they’re very contrasted, and so am I, and so are my fans. “Bloodshot” is definitely the softest and most intimate of all the songs I’ve done, and “Waste” is one of my favorites. “Bloodshot” is vulnerable, and “Waste” is a bit sexy. I’ve waited so long to release my music, I didn’t want to start with [only] one. I wanted my fans to have a bit more to start with, and hopefully if you don’t hear yourself in one song, you hear yourself in the other.
How long have you been writing your own music?
I’ve been writing music all my life. My mom is a poet, and my dad was a pianist, so music and writing was always a part of the deal. I doubt any of my earlier stuff will ever see the light of day, as I have changed so drastically as a person, even just in the last few months, and my feelings about the world, love and myself are changing every day. I may listen to the same kind of things, but my writing is light years apart and I’m very grateful for that. It is part of the joys of being an artist.
Dove Cameron was interviewed by Gabe Bergado for Teen Vogue and talked about her two original songs:
“These songs highlight two very different sides of me which I thought was important in my new music. I have been growing and changing a lot over the past few months and I needed my music to reflect that. It’s not only representative of who I am, but it also allows my fans to connect to the music more,” Dove tells Teen Vogue. “‘Waste’ is one of my all-time favorites; it is so intense and sexy. It is about an all-consuming love. ‘Bloodshot’ is more intimate and vulnerable. ‘Bloodshot’ is about loss, whatever form that takes for you, whether that’s a breakup, a friendship that ended, or a death. A universal feeling, loss, that I’m always trying to put it into words. One that I think we need to talk about more.”