Mandala, the moniker of the musical project started by London’s Cameron McLain, is set to release the debut record The Visitation in October via The Odes Records. The Visitation is a unique musical statement, which manages to draw on different musical styles while creating a unified musical world where humor, tragedy, and sensuality are all equally present. Cameron’s warm and soulful voice narrates this world and carries us through it by the hand.
Cameron McClain grew up in London, going to high school alongside many now-famous UK folk musicians, including Winston from Mumford & Sons, Charlie Fink and Tom Hobden of Noah & The Whale, and even had a band with Andrew Davie of Cherbourg. Cameron was around at the beginning stages of this now world-famous UK folk scene, performing at some of the early country nights at The Bosun’s Locker.
Instead of pursuing the musician’s life, however, at the age of 18, Cameron felt another calling, and packed his bags to cross the ocean to study Religion and Philosophy at Princeton University. He wrote an award-winning thesis that explored the connection between Mahayana Buddhism and the work of Nathaniel Dorsky, Jack Kerouac and John Cage. During his time at Princeton, Cameron would come to study the art of songwriting with Pulitzer Prize winning poet Paul Muldoon and composition with Paul Lansky, a famous music professor whose musical works have been sampled by Radiohead. Cameron was a regular attendee of a community music night (The Beginning and the End) hosted by his friend Nicole Velasco and it was at these weekly late night communions that his songwriting really began to take shape.
“The whole experience at Princeton, certain things going on in my life at the time, and everything I was reading left me feeling a bit isolated. I became very interested in Buddhism. To be honest, I was just confused and needed to put it down on paper. I wasn’t performing, just writing a lot of songs and poems, and not really expecting anyone to hear them.” Cameron, who has always composed music and written songs for others, one night, found himself an unexpected performer. “Nicole got me to sing something one night at The Beginning and the End and it all kind of began from there.” In August 2010, Cameron recorded a live EP, The Grace and the Grit, with his friends from the Princeton Jazz Ensemble.
Following graduation, he returned home to London and spent his days studying composition and writing songs: “I had all these things I wanted to say about the world and I felt that they were best said through words and music so I tried to learn as much as I could about both. I just needed some time to sit down and let it all take shape.” In the fall of 2010, Cameron returned to New York where he met Charles Newman (Magnetic Fields, Soko) out at a gig one night. Becoming quick friends they spent the winter months holed up in Charles’ studio tweaking arrangements, adding harmonies and instruments over Cameron’s songs, which then grew into his debut album, The Visitation.