Camila Cabello was the featured speaker at a Tuesday afternoon panel at Cannes Lions, the annual gathering of marketing, design and entertainment professionals in the south of France. Joined by Spotify chief content officer Dawn Ostroff, the talk, moderated by Variety editor Shirley Halperin, was centered around the theme of the golden age of sound — specifically, Spotify’s entry as the second largest podcast platform in the world.
Cabello revealed that she is herself an avid podcast listener. Among her favorites are Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop and Oprah Winfrey’s Sunday Soul Sessions. “Life is … a lot sometimes,” said Cabello. “Especially in your twenties, there’s so much learning, self discovery and self exploration.” The former Fifth Harmony singer credits podcasts as a way “to grow as a person … you’re more well-equipped to deal with whatever life throws at you. I love hearing people being vulnerable and honest and talking about the experience of being human.”
How does Cabello find the time to listen? She finds it. “You’re on a drive or brushing your teeth, it’s nice to take even 10 minutes out of your day to listen to something that’s inspiring. It kind of shifts your mood for the whole day. It really expands your mind, makes you grow and makes you have more things to talk about with your friends. It just makes you a more well-rounded person. It’s a good investment to just do that for 15 minutes of your day.”
Ostroff says audio is bigger than ever because “we’re all about multitasking these days … and audio is very intimate. Whether it’s a song or a podcast, the intimacy of the medium is what I think is really taking people by surprise. You feel like you’re a part of something or that somebody is speaking or singing directly to you. It is a personalized experience — that’s where I think [podcasts] resonate with a lot of people.”
The Spotify executive was the main driver in recruiting former President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama to the platform. “Both the President and Mrs. Obama have incredible voices in terms of what they want to say,” says Ostroff. “And the two of them, to their credit, both decided that they want to do a podcast each in addition to producing a podcast series for us. The topics have not been determined yet but we’re in discussions.” Cabello could hardly contain her excitement at the prospect of listening to the Obamas — she’s currently reading Michelle Obama’s “Becoming” book in print — but Ostroff notes that “young people aren’t reading as much as they were when I grew up; when we’d use your imagination. And what’s great about audio is it allows people to use their imagination in storytelling.”
Storytelling is a key component of Cabello’s new music, too, which is expected imminently. “I’m itching to just get back out there,” she says. “I feel like I’m pretty much done with this album and the great thing about being able to have a career in the arts is that you grow along with your craft and it teaches you so much about yourself.” Those self-discovery experiences contributed to writing new music. Says Cabello: “When I was into [my first] album, I was kind of living in my little bubble of life. I had crushes on people that I would write about from afar. I was very shy and introverted. With this album, it’s not really my imagination, it’s me writing about real things that are happening in real time. So I think that there is a level of detail and emotion that you get. I’m so excited because I feel like it’s captured my essence. … I’m ready to bare my soul.”
As for what Cabello has been listening to lately? Her Spotify consumption has mainly involved “early 2000s music,” she reveals. “Like Paramore and Coldplay. … When I’m making an album, I don’t like to listen to anything [contemporary]. I like to listen to what made you want to do this in the first place– what made you get that feeling of, ‘I need to write a song right now.’ That’s where it all started for me — early 2000s — and also sometimes Disney songs.” She then broke into song herself, revealing that “A Whole New World” from “Aladdin” was a favorite of hers “in the shower.”
Spotify has been a key partner in Cabello’s music career, helping to launch her international hit “Havana,” which broke in multiple territories beyond the U.S. The notion of music without borders is key to the platform’s popularity, and to Cabello personally.
“As an artist, it’s really inspiring because I get to discover music from all over the world that I couldn’t discover on pop radio,” she says. As for writing music for a global audience? Cabello says she doesn’t necessarily think that way. “To be honest, I just kind of write whatever feels good to me,” she says. “Because if you to try to make something for everybody, you end up making something for nobody. So I approach songwriting a little bit selfishly because for me it’s just about making something that honestly feels like whatever an experience felt like for me. That’s my favorite part of writing music. Especially with this next album, experiences in my life over the past year that are now tangible I can literally listen back to and capture how I felt at the time. So I really just make music that I like and that I’m passionate about.”