Craig Campbell

The Center for the Arts presents
Tuesday, December 6
7:30, $22 members, $25 non-member

 “An unapologetic heir to the buttoned-down neo-traditionalism of Jackson and Strait, Campbell sings in a rich, unhurried baritone and favors gimmick-free arrangements that feature swinging twin fiddles and careening steel guitar.” – Washington Post

The voice is straight-forward and powerful. The songs are down-to-earth portraits of real people from the American heartland. The sound is traditional, unapologetic country.Campbell\’s unique style is inspired by a blend influences. Growing up,Campbell\’s house was filled with the sound of gospel groupsthe Cathedrals, the Inspirations, the McKameysand the from-the-gut approach of those acts resonates in his delivery today. However, magnetized by the quality of performers during one of the genre\’s golden radio eras, he instinctively gravitated towards country music. He\’s drawn comparisons to Alan Jackson – understandable since they\’re both Georgian singers with a similar range and accent. But it was Travis Tritt, embodied with a fierce vocal style similarly informed by gospel singers, who most influenced Campbell.

The Georgia-bred Campbell has certainly made his mark with the April 2011 release of his self-titled debut album, which holds the title for the highest first week sales for any new male country artist this year. The record, and lead single Family Man, garnered rave reviews from the country\’s toughest critics – including USA Today, Associated Press, Washington Post and People – for its clever lyrics and authenticity.

The 11 song bundle of self-written tunes explore the central themes of Campbell\’s lifefamily, friends, purpose and self-determination all delivered with the force and conviction of someone who\’s lived every sentiment in every word.  I have to believe every one of my songs, Campbell says matter-of-factly.

It\’s a simple premise learned through years of touring at the club level, writing songs in Nashville and playing the bars on Lower Broadway in Music City.

Campbell moved to Nashville in 2002 and wasted no time ingraining himself in the music community, quickly becoming one of the in-demand singers on Nashville’s underground demo circuit.

Luke Bryan, fellow Georgian and singer/songwriter, counseled Campbell to write his own songs. If he could sing and write, he\’d be more valuable. And he\’d have an identity of his own.

At first it was a job,Campbell admits. I wasn\’t used to it, but then I started writing songs that I thought were kind of cool and I\’d play em live and people would applaud, and then it started getting to where people were requesting em. It takes on a completely different meaning whenever you can stand up and say, Here\’s a song I wrote.\’ As opposed to, Here\’s a song I like.\’ While playing piano in Mindy Ellis\’ band (Campbell and Mindy are now married with two daughters) he landed a career-defining gig: a 15 month job touring with Tracy Byrd\’s band, giving  Campbell his first opportunity to play mid-sized venues.

He eventually scored a weekly performance slot at Nashville honky-tonk The Stage, where his band consisted of musicians who also played with Big & Rich, Chris Young, Mark Chesnutt and Joe Diffie.

Campbell\’s talent soon created a wealth of opportunities. He received an offer from one of Nashville’s major labels but he was more intrigued by interest from songwriter-producer Keith Stegall, who was led to work with Campbell after seeing his set at The Stage.Campbell turned down the other offer to wait while Stegall and several other industry veterans developed Bigger Picture Group. The one word Keith has used a lot with me is iconic,Campbell notes. He says, We don\’t want to do a one-song project, we\’re gonna shoot for 20 years.\’

Campbell headed into the studio with Stegall to work on his first project, founded on his big, commanding voice and centrist-country songwriting. The company introduced him with the 2010 single Family Man, a song that incorporates the centerpiece of his life, the source of his emotional strength and the reason he wakes up in the morning.

His self-titled debut album blends Campbell’s masculine, no-nonsense vocal style with solid, salt-of-the-earth songs about America’s working class and a classic sense of wordplay. The project\’s songs, eleven of which are co-written by Campbell, expand on the central themes of his lifefamily, friends, purpose and self-determinationall delivered with the force and conviction of someone who\’s lived every sentiment in every word.

It\’s traditional, back-to-basics, true country music,Campbell says. It\’s what I am. I can\’t be anything else.

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