Big blonde hair, rosy cheeks, and an adorable little frame ... folk-pop songstress Camaron Ochs -- who'll be performing Wed/17 at Cafe Du Nord -- is a doll. Coincidentally, she is also being stalked by one— the Oakland singer-songwriter has seen quite a lot of Barbie in the past year, the long plastic limbs have been spotted at two East Bay venues where Ochs took the stage: the Stork Club, where the bar is decorated with stacks of cased holiday Barbies and Mama Buzz, the coffee shop/art gallery that hosted an art exhibit of the dolls in adult-style dioramas.
“There’s a Bat Girl Barbie at the Stork Club and I want it,” she says with a warm smile. “And I really liked the Barbie on the unicorn at Mama Buzz.”
Besides the constant grin, Ochs has nothing in common with her 11.5-inch stalker. An extensive travel record and a day job as a lab manager for emotion research means this pretty lady’s personality is far from plastic. Ochs’ brand of folk-pop is light and sweet, with genuine lyrics that ask listeners to live with their “heartforward”; a term Ochs coins as her philosophy on life and the title of her debut album.
“I came up with the term when I was living in Nepal. I was learning all about the seven chakras— the heart is the fourth,” she explains at a coffee shop in her sunny Temescal neighborhood. Skipping a few details, Ochs summarizes that being ‘heart forward’ literally means setting yourself up to take in the endless possibilities that surround us. “It’s about putting yourself out there, not just in a romantic sense, but in a life-sense.”
Bright guitar strums and a beautiful, rich voice flutter throughout Ochs’ songs, lyrics exploring relationships and offering insightful snapshots into lessons she’s learned while visiting cities around the world. Inspiration stems from other indie-folk blends, like The Weepies and yet also carry a more country tone, like that of her other favorite artist, Patsy Cline. There’s an audible optimistic bliss in her music and an honest indication that the woman behind the strings is a solid, well-rounded being.
Born a California girl, Ochs grew up with an interest in music, taking notes from her grandparent’s love of classic country and learning to sing in multiple languages. In college Ochs started her own A Cappella group, but it wasn’t until her study abroad experience in the Netherlands that she picked up a guitar.
“I decided to do the college thing— get a guitar. But I wasn’t any good at it. I would play on the streets of Amsterdam and then I even tried to sell it on the street, but no one wanted it.”
Eventually she gave it to a boyfriend and headed back home. A few months later, Ochs realized she missed her box of strings.
“So I borrowed a backpacker, basically just the neck of a guitar without the body, and brought it with me into the mountains of Nepal.” The trip included a flight over Kathmandu, a six-hour bus ride, five hours in a taxi and a ten-hour walk straight up into the mountain to where she would take residency for the next six weeks.
A girl on her own in a foreign land, Ochs had no choice but to keep an open mind and her ‘heartforward.’
“The first two weeks, I cried and cried. All I could focus on was how much different everything was there,” she says recalling the trip. “And then I realized that when you strip away everything you’ve ever had in your entire life, that’s when you see what you really are and who you really want to be.”
She met a couple of traveling Canadians and together they would play music, battling the inconsistent electricity with late night guitar parties. Building on that experience and developing her own relationship with the instrument once she returned home, Ochs is now playing confidently and taking on stages across the Bay with a full band. She couldn’t have been happier when her CD release party sold out.
“I think I’m really lucky. But I’m working really hard, so I guess it’s really not luck afterall.”
Wed/17, 8:30pm, $12
Café Du Nord
2170 Market, SF