Craig Campbell Is Living the Dream With Release of Debut Album
The world of country music quickly fell in love with Craig Campbell over the past several months as his debut single, 'Family Man,' continued its steady climb up the country singles chart. His honesty and the simplicity of his music and songwriting has made him a staple in today's music scene. Today, April 5, Campbell releases his debut self-titled album on Bigger Picture Group. The accomplishment of completing his first full-length album has been a dream of the Georgia native's for many years.
As if releasing his first album isn't enough to keep him smiling, Campbell is also gearing up to hit the road in May with Willie Nelson for the 2011 Country Throwdown Tour, also starring Jamey Johnson, Randy Houser, Lee Brice, Brantley Gilbert, Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real and others.
Taste of Country was lucky enough to sit down with the star on the rise to discuss the time spent in the studio working on his album, his songwriting and much more.
So you’ve just released your debut self-titled album. Can you tell us a little about your experience working in the studio?
One of the coolest things was just being able to make it with Keith Stegall. He’s one of the best, if not the best, country music producers in town. I was very fortunate for him to be a part of this project … I mean, he’s written and/or produced 50 or some crazy amount of No. 1 hits! We started making the record back in 2009 … picking out the songs and that kind of stuff. Working with Keith was easy. Making this record was a dream come true for me. I have a finished product, and I can hold it in my hands. [Now it’s] in stores. It’s what I’ve worked hard to have.
Did you find yourself pretty comfortable in the studio?
There was a little bit of pressure, but Keith made it really laid back. One of the coolest things was when we went in to track the vocals, he went on the talk-back microphone and said, ‘I don’t want to put you on the spot, but that’s the same microphone that Alan Jackson used to sing all of his big ol' hits.’ I said, ‘OK … no worries!’ [laughs].
When did you start compiling songs for this album?
I’ve been compiling ever since I’ve been [in Nashville]. I’ve been [here] since 2002. The good thing about not having a record deal or not having a publishing deal up to this point is I had all of my songs [and they] were my songs. I kept them, and when we went to pick songs for the record, I had a really big catalog of songs to choose from. Fortunately for me, I was able to have 11 out of 13 songs on the album be mine.
Was it really important for you to have a lot of your own songs on the record?
It wasn’t. When me and Keith first got together, he told me that the best songs were going to win no matter who wrote them. For us to sit down and start picking songs and having Keith approve of my songs, that was pretty big for me. He was saying these songs are as good, if not better, than every song out there. To have that many songs on my first record was kind of something I had wished for, but at the same time I worked really hard for it. I’m proud to say that I’ve got a bunch of songs on there.
When did you first start songwriting?
I kind of messed around with it before I moved to Nashville, but it wasn’t until I got here that I took it seriously. I became good buddies with Luke Bryan, and something he told me one day kind of stuck with me. He said, 'I can’t tell you exactly how to get to where you want to be,' but something that helped him out was his songwriting. He said a lot of doors opened for him to get a record deal and to get some of his songs cut and have some success. He said there’s no right way of doing it and there’s no wrong way. That was some advice he wanted to give me: Start songwriting. I did, and he was totally right.
Is it an easier process now that you’re in Nashville and able to collaborate with some of the best of the best?
Absolutely! I sometimes I feel like I’m the luckiest guy in the world. I’ve got some really good friends in town that are established and are pretty big songwriters that have kind of helped me out and showed me the ropes and showed me how to craft a song and showed me how they did it. I learned a lot. Just being in town and being around these guys has made me step my game up on the songwriting side.
It shows in your songs, because they are all so real and that’s what country music should be.
Well that’s [why] I fell in love with country music. It is real life and it is stories. Sometimes it’s funny and sometimes it’s about heartbreak. There’s a little bit of me in every one of those songs that I’ve written.
Your first single, 'Family Man,' is the perfect example of that.
I wrote that song with a couple of friends of mine. Joel Shewmake actually had the idea, and he told me about it. Coincidentally, it was the same time I found out that I was going to be a dad for the first time. I just started thinking about things differently, so when he brought that idea to me, that was me. That was who I wanted to be. That’s what I wanted everybody in the world to know about me. So we started writing it, and we almost finished it. Then we brought in Jon Henderson to kind of tighten it up and finish it up. That was three or four years ago. To this day, not just because it’s my first single, it’s one of my favorite songs that I’ve ever written.
And now your oldest daughter, Preslee, just turned three!
Yeah! One thing she got for her birthday was a purple dress that flares from the top down to the bottom. She was spinning around all day long. She immediately took all of her clothes off right there in front of everybody, just to put that dress on. It was the funniest thing. She sleeps in it. I don’t think she’s taken it off [since the party].
What has been one of the biggest surprises with your new role as a country music star?
It’s something I’ve always wanted, and I’m seeing it happen the higher the song goes up on the charts. When I go to a city I’ve never been to before and I’m singing in front of a crowd that I’ve never met, having them sing back to me -- that’s the best.
What goes through your mind when that happens?
I’m thinking, ‘Really?! Are you kidding me?! I’m in the middle of New York, and these people have heard my song and they’re singing it? I don’t have to sing it because they’re singing it back to me?’ It just blows my mind every time.
Watch the Craig Campbell 'Family Man' Video