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Cam and Smokey Robinson’s Common Ground on CMT Crossroads

All-New CMT Hot 20 Countdown Previews March 28 Concert Special

CMT Crossroads is all about celebrating the common ground between two different music genres.

For Cam and Smokey Robinson’s Crossroads concert, finding the commonalities between country and classic Motown was easy. Backstage after the taping, the two artists both agreed heartbreak and timeless songs are what country and soul do best. Robinson personally curated a Spotify playlist for their special.

“On the very first day of Motown,” Robinson recalled backstage after the taping, “there were five people there. Berry Gordy, the founder who started the company, and four others of us. He said to us, ‘We are not going to make black music. We’re going to make music for everybody. We’re going to make music for the world. We’re going to always have some great stories and some great beats.’ That was the goal, and that’s what we set out to do.”

Cam added that she believes Robinson and the rest of the Motown pioneers set the standard for what good music is.

“It’s just wild even to be next to him,” Cam said sitting next to Robinson. “Then on top of it, he’s such a sweet person. He’s given me a real talking to, about keeping your head on straight and how important that is, which I appreciate. It’s just the icing on the cake that he actually likes me and my music.”

Cam and Robinson’s voices blend flawlessly on an all-new CMT Crossroads, premiering March 28 at 10 p.m. ET. Below are a few of their best quotes said onstage and backstage at their Crossroads concert. CMT Hot 20 Countdown will have exclusive highlights from the show, airing Saturday and Sunday (March 24-25).

How Robinson got his name Smokey: When I was three or four years old, my uncle Claude used to take me to see cowboy movies. He had a cowboy name for me, which was Smokey Joe. Whenever anybody asked my name from the time I was three years old, I’d tell them, “My uncle Claude said my name was Smokey Joe.” When I got to be about 12, it got to be too long and drawn out. So they dropped the Joe, and I became Smokey.

How Robinson got into country music: I had a great dose of country music growing up. My mom was playing Patsy Cline, Merle Haggard and people like that. My favorite country singers were the cowboys — Roy Rogers, Gene Autry — I loved them so much. See country music is not just country music anymore today. It’s a crossover sound in country music now. It’s like black music. Black music used to be the blues — John Lee Hooker, who my mom was also playing at my house. And so, that’s also evolved, and it’s kind of blending in now. It’s not such a great difference.

Cam on how timeless music can transcend cultural differences: Music when it’s done well, is meant to transcend the cultural bubble you live in right now, and that’s what Smokey says he tries to write for and what I try and write for. You’re trying to write for something that’s timeless and is going to hit people in their gut 50-60 years from now. And they’re going to know exactly what they were saying when they hear the lyrics. Hopefully, everybody aims to think beyond the moment they’re in, but what a gift to have songs that mean something to so many people across all different times and space.

Cam on singing the most recognizable Motown hits with the person who wrote them: I have to say I canceled another show to be here. That’s how bad I wanted to be here. I was intimidated/terrified to do this, but what can you do? You love music, and you’re not going to turn it down, you’ve got to show up and somehow find the guts to do it. And singing with him, he’s such an easy person to be around. He’s full of stories, too, so you’re hanging out and then all of a sudden, you’re like, “Oh yeah, that song, I got that as a tape from Stevie Wonder at a Christmas party one time. Marvin Gaye? He lived around the corner from me. That’s how he breaks the ice.

Robinson on singing with Cam: Not only is this woman a great songwriter, but she’s also a great singer. She’s a great person. That makes it so much easier, and I think we blend better when we feel like that about somebody.

Lauren Tingle is a Tennessean and storyteller who eats music for breakfast, lunch and dinner. When she’s not writing or rocking out, she enjoys yoga and getting lost in the great outdoors.