Courtesy of Myles Cameron

When Myles Cameron ’20 was 14 years old, Frank Ocean’s debut album “Channel Orange” rocked his entire world. While he had taken piano and singing lessons and dabbled in songwriting, the vividness of Ocean’s music was what inspired him to pursue songwriting seriously.

“His songwriting is really vivid, it makes you feel like you’re watching a movie of the song rather than just listening,” Cameron said. “For me that was huge — like, maybe I will try to do that. And I haven’t stopped trying.”

On Oct. 15, Cameron released his latest single “Prettysoon.” The single follows Cameron’s debut EP “Lonely Suburban Blackboy,” which was released in May 2019.

After his junior year, Cameron took a gap semester in the fall of 2018 to work on music professionally. Cameron said that while Yale has been an amazing experience, it is often difficult to get into a “creative head space” within a stressful environment.

“My personal belief is that you can’t be great at something unless you’re fully investing yourself into it,” Cameron said.

Because he has realized that topics that he feels in his heart also impact listeners the most, he said he tries to make honesty a priority in his songwriting.

Cameron noted the huge influence of African American writers on his songwriting. His most popular song “Caged Bird” — with over 3 million streams on Spotify — references Maya Angelou’s autobiography “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.” In his second-most played song “Picket Fences,” Cameron sings about “feel[ing] the most black against those picket fences” — a line inspired by novelist Zora Neale Hurston’s famous quote, “I feel most colored when I am thrown against a sharp white background.”

Cameron was a member of the a cappella group Shades of Yale, which primarily sings the music of the African diaspora and African American tradition. Cameron said singing with the group has been the most important thing he has done at Yale.

Cami Arboles ’20, former musical director of Shades, said that Cameron contributed many high-quality arrangements to the group’s repertoire. She highlighted his arrangement of “Adorn” by Miguel, which was soloed by Xavier Washington ’21 during the 2017 Shades Valentine’s Day Jam. The video of the performance remains the group’s most-watched video on YouTube, with more than 12,000 views.

Cameron said that in addition to helping him improve his singing skills, being a part of Shades also made him a “better listener and better friend.” He said that he appreciated the sense of community that the group offered.

According to Arboles, Shades is incredibly supportive of its members’ individual endeavors. She admires Cameron’s decision to take a gap semester to “wholeheartedly immerse himself” in music production, Arboles added.

In an interview with the News, Cameron recalled feeling music’s various impacts while touring with Shades. He felt the “spiritual, ethereal quality and power” of music while performing at churches and a rehabilitation facility, he explained. At high schools in Baltimore, the group inspired students underrepresented in higher education.

“A lot of kids who look like most of the members in the group don’t have a lot of role models who go to college or even know how to apply,” Cameron said. “Symbolizing that possibility for those kids, and also being a resource to answer their questions and to be contactable if they want to continue the conversation, was really cool.”

Another member of Shades, Dhruv Sharma ’21, said that beyond being musically gifted, Cameron is also a kind and helpful person who is passionate about cultivating a love for music and songwriting. Sharma said he has appreciated Cameron’s advice about writing music and is inspired by Cameron’s songwriting talent.

“He thinks really fast, and comes up with really catchy melodies and amazing lyrical concepts,” Sharma said.

Although Cameron has been writing music since ninth grade, he said that he didn’t consider music an attainable professional career until the summer of his sophomore year, when he worked at a record company and began to understand the workings of the music industry. The positive reception of his 2018 mixtape “everwanted” and the attention it received from record labels also encouraged him to pursue music professionally. Still, he is not considering signing to a record label at the moment because he wants to maintain control of creative decision-making and ownership, Cameron said.

At Yale, Cameron majors in Ethics, Politics and Economics. Understanding social issues and how the world works gives Cameron perspective on how to use an artist’s influence responsibly, he said.

“The thinker that Yale has turned me into is the same person who is writing the songs,” Cameron said.

Cameron performed at Spring Fling in 2018.

Carrie Zhou | pinyi.zhou@yale.edu