A rising tide carries all boats; that’s as true for musicians as it is for the national economy. The old template of establishing a career and a following is forever changed with major network talent competitions and social media; well, at least certain aspects have changed. When California’s Chayce Beckham won Season 19 of American Idol, his vault into instant stardom carried along with it the required band of stellar musicians to back him up.
Australian guitarist Cameron Mee may not have the pedigree for a country music artist like Beckham but Cameron revels in proving that “trying something different” can often lead to surprising and magnificent outcomes. After moving to the US to study at the internationally prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston, Mee did a complete about face and immersed himself in the country music Mecca of Nashville Tennessee.
Constructing a reputation as an extraordinary player who was equally committed to playing Country music with the respect it deserved, Cameron was pegged to be the guitarist and lap steel player for Beckham, without an audition! As the band prepares to embark on a tour with CMA Entertainer of the Year Like Combs and his band in some of the largest music venues in America, Cameron Mee relates what this wild ride feels like and how he came to be part of one of the biggest upcoming tours.
Cameron humbly concedes that landing the gig with Chayce Beckham seemed fated yet unexpected for him. Beckham is arguably the hottest new artist in Country music with millions of fans following him from American Idol (The AI season final which declared Beckham as the overall winner beat out all other competitors, including NBC’s 2021 Billboard Music Awards). Chayce’s number one single “23” topped the iTunes US all genres charts and country charts, even beating out such established artists as Dua Lipa and Luke Bryan.
One might expect an industry insider with decades of connections to fill the guitar position for Chayce’s band, so when Cameron received a call about it, he was pleasantly surprised. He recalls, “I got a call from Tom Samulak, who plays for Tim Montana, and all he said was to say ‘yes’ to a call I was about to receive. Within the hour, I received a call from Chayce’s management asking if I wanted to play for him. And suddenly, it all pieced together.” Based on the word of mouth about his immense talent, Cameron was brought on as guitarist immediately.
In what seemed like days, he found himself out with Chayce and the band on a tour with Grammy Nominated band Three Doors Down. Cameron adds, “The first time I stepped on stage with the band at a gig in Michigan was incredible. You couldn’t see the back of the room, the venue was so big! It was just an amazing feeling as we began, knowing I knew all the music and performing with such a tight and musically incredible band.
I knew all the parts on lead guitar and rhythm and was given the opportunity to put my own spin on it. The biggest challenge was overcoming my own insecurities regarding playing on such a big stage but after the first gig, it’s all I wanted and all I want to do in life. Of course, the music is the center of it all and even when we’re performing at more intimate shows. The investment of the crowd brings something special out.”
Before Chayce and band head out on the stadium tour supporting Luke Combs, Beckham and Mee will cross Arizona, Kansas, Arkansas, and Texas on a stripped down duo tour. These venues and the “two-man band” set up offers Mee the chance to stretch out musically on pedal steel as well as acoustic; scratching the improvisational itch he was so fond of in much of his previous work. Cameron notes, “I really thought of myself as a jazz player before.
I think I fell into a trap of thinking I had to play certain things, but really wasn’t following my heart like I am now. I still wouldn’t call myself an authentic country guitarist but I am definitely working towards it. I think on a musical level, it was my dedication to the sound, perseverance, and work towards being the best I could for the group that got me this gig. Of course you can’t overlook being easy going. When you spend that much time on the road with someone, you want to enjoy it. Looking back, I was a somewhat of an oddball choice for the guitar spot, but luckily I fit in perfect.”
Writer: Coleman Haan