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Illness sets a family on the road together
Island musician Cami Lundeen and her husband Erik are preparing for a journey of a lifetime. They’ve sold all their worldly goods, bought a small pop-up trailer and this weekend will hit the highway with their four young children to launch Cami’s nationwide tour.
Sitting at a narrow Formica table under the canvas roof of her new home, Cami talked last week about a perfect storm of events that led to this radical decision. Her voice is husky, reminiscent of pop singer Adele, and her green eyes sparkled beneath a fringe of dark bangs streaked with purple.
“Now that all this has come to pass, I need to wear the T-shirt that says ‘Be the difference you want to see,’” she said with a laugh.“
Indeed, Cami is doing more than walking her talk. She is singing her way out of a nightmare that began in 2010, shortly after the birth of her fourth child. Fatigued and plagued with a chronic malaise, Cami was admitted to the hospital and learned she has a rare, incurable and progressive liver disease. A mother with four small children, Cami had not yet seen her 30th birthday.
Fast-forward to early this year when the Lundeen’s perfect storm began to build. Erik lost his job with Bethel Church, and with that went their home, also owned by Bethel. Two deaths in the family followed. Cami traveled out of state for the funerals and returned with a question that would change their lives.
“She asked me, how do we want to go out?” Erik said. “This could be us, any one of us any day, so what do we want to be doing with our lives when we die? If we don’t do anything, we’ll regret it.”
Death is a foe Cami learned to befriend in the past four years through the healing power of music. The singer/songwriter came late to music, learning guitar in college, only to put it down when she had her first child. But after her diagnosis, she found her way back to music performance with a band at Bethel Church, where her father is the pastor.
“I was dealing with the fear of dying. The music was so healing,” Cami said. “I loved it and wanted to write my own stuff. I sat down and started writing. It felt like I’d been doing it my whole life.”
Depressed and afraid of leaving her children, Cami penned “Not Be Afraid.” The lyrics are a testament to how she wrestled with her demons. “We could be here forever or be gone in the moment. Will I die a thousand deaths in the fear of the one, or will I not be afraid? Will I choose to live life? … I will not be afraid.”
Embracing her new life, Cami crafted her signature song “Run Free” in the spring of 2012. From there, the pace quickened. Cami wanted to sing for other people, so she contacted music promoter Pete Welch. In less than a month, she played her first public show at the Farmers Market. She calls the response she got at that first performance “crazy.”
“I knew nothing about the music industry, but people listened. It felt like my calling. I decided to keep going.”
Several events later — from the Strawberry Festival to The Triple Door in Seattle — Cami decided to record an album. That fall she met Ryan McAllister from Five Acres Studio in Abbotsford, British Columbia, who would produce her CD. But she needed seed money. Undaunted, Cami launched a Kickstarter campaign and to her amazement more than met her $15,000 goal.
“I didn’t have a huge fan base. I hadn’t been playing for even a year. I didn’t even know two-thirds of the donors.”
By May last year, Cami had a CD and music video filmed on Vashon, both called “Run Free.” She launched the CD in August. And then the feedback started rolling in.
“At shows people would tell her that her music, her lyrics, were the only thing that got them out of bed,” said Erik, who at 37 has an infectious grin and an armload of tattoos. “She’s got an inspirational story, and the more she can be heard the better. It’s the reason for the tour.”
The “Run Free” tour is ambitious: down the California coast, over to Colorado, up the East Coast, hitting 42 states along the way. Cami and Erik plan to homeschool the children while booking house concerts and any live music venue, pub, winery or college. Children’s hospitals also made the list, as Cami feels passionately about bringing music to sick children.
“Kids are so helpless, and my music is hopeful, encouraging. It tells them not to be afraid. And it’s something my kids can be part of.”
For his part, Erik will accompany Cami on the box drum. He’s also a photographer with ambitions to take nature photographs during the trip with an eye toward publishing the collection.
But before they wave goodbye to Vashon, the family plans to throw not just a farewell party but a musical extravaganza this Friday at the Open Space for Arts & Community.
The farewell bash is also a benefit to help get the family on the road. Joining Cami on stage will be a talented crew of musicians — V. Contreras, Danny Newcomb and Mark Pickeral. A live auction with donations from renowned artists and businesses will be held, and on display will be the Lundeens’ traveling home with a map of their proposed route on the Formica table.
Both parents are clear that the children’s needs will come first on this adventure they’re calling the Lundeen Roadshow. Erik says the kids — who are ages 4 to 11 — will be their barometers. If it doesn’t work for them and they don’t make it past Bellingham, he said, then at least they’ll know they tried.
Still, Cami says she has a burning desire to share her message of hope and inspiration for others to follow their dreams.
“As terrible as the diagnosis was, music came out of it, and I am thankful,” she said. “I’ve found out what I was made to be by overcoming fear, taking risks, getting out there. I have to share it. I believe it is a God-given gift, and it’s about people as a whole in the world. That is what we are trying to do, to get out there and make a difference.”
Cami Lundeen’s Run Free tour launch and benefit will be at 7 p.m. Friday at the Open Space for Arts & Community. Admission is by donation. Cami will release her latest single “How Do We Want To Go Out” on iTunes after her Friday night show.