Interview: Campbell Harrison
What got you into music, and if you had not gotten into music what would you be doing today?
I come from a family of true music lovers and they raised me to appreciate it in the same way. We were always listening to something, no matter the occasion, and when I was about 11 my parents got me piano lessons. That was the first time I had the ability to express myself musically and I knew then that it was something I would carry with me forever. If I wasn’t playing music right now I would probably be traveling. That’s stimulating in a different way and I find it very rewarding.
What do you like to do when you are not playing music and how does that influence your creativity?
I honestly don’t get a ton of free time because I’m always working in some capacity. However, I do try to exercise daily and also take some down time to sit on my front porch, often with a beer in hand. I’ve found that a healthy balance of exercise and fun in my down time helps me cultivate a mental state favorable for creating.
How long has music been your career?
I’ve been performing for money since I was in college, although it really didn’t become a career path until about four years ago. It’s getting harder and harder to make a living even in conventional career paths nowadays, and so building a music career is something that really takes a long time. You have to be patient and be willing to work side hustles indefinitely until you are in a place where you can truly support yourself with the guitar.
Where are you based out of and how did that influence your music?
Originally I’m from middle Georgia. I was lucky enough to grow up in one of the richest musical regions in the country and that kind of musical heritage really sticks with you. They call this region the Bible Belt but honestly I think it’s more appropriate to call it the Music Belt because that really might be our greatest contribution. When you grow up listening to (once) local legends like the Allman Brothers or Otis Redding, you can’t help but absorb and reincorporate their inspiration into your own.
Tell me about the best and worst shows you have played.
Well I’ve certainly got plenty of experience on both ends of that spectrum. I’ve played shows in biker bars where they refused to pay me at the end of the night and I’ve also played in private theaters for people who came specifically to see me. Both kinds of experiences are necessary because it seasons you and reminds you how far you’ve come and how far you still have to go. To quote a Sturgill Simpson song, “It ain’t all flowers, sometimes you gotta feel the thorns”. I think that kind of perspective is key.
Tell me about your favorite venue to play at, and do you have any places you want to play that you have not already?
It’s hard to say what my favorite venue is because everything can change on any given night. However, I’ve always wanted to play at the Ryman in Nashville and I have no doubt that it’ll happen eventually.
If you could play any show with any lineup, who would be on the ticket?
That’s a tough question and my answer would probably change on any given day. However, at this moment I can’t think of a better lineup than: Charlie Starr, Tyler Childers, Hiss Golden Messenger, Railroad Earth, Paul McCartney, and maybe Bob Marley. If you ask me tomorrow I’ll probably give you a different answer.
What is some advice that you would give to someone who is just getting into music?
I’d say that you should think really hard about what you want and what you’re willing to do to get it. If you’re doing it for the wrong reasons then you’ll never have the grit required to make it. Being a musician is oftentimes romanticized but the reality is that it’s an incredibly tough way to live. You’ve got to really love what you do and take pleasure in the journey even more so than the destination. It’s got to be one of those things where you can’t imagine yourself doing anything else because you may struggle for years and there’s never any guarantee of breaking through, or even making a living frankly. In a corporate job you can always just start at entry level and if you do a decent job for long enough then you’ll eventually climb the ladder and improve your situation. In music that’s not the case at all. There’s no boss, no HR department, no one doing employee evaluations, and no one to recognize your effort and promote you when the time is right. So you’d better make sure that you’re playing the game for the right reasons because it’s a long one.
If you could go back in time and give yourself advice, what would it be?
Practice more, party less.
Of your songs which one means the most to you and why?
Picking a favorite song is kind of like picking a favorite child. I love them all in different ways and I wrote each of them for a reason. My newer songs tend to be higher up on my list because they’re fresh and I’m more excited about them. However, some of the first songs I ever wrote are still some of my favorites because they’re so honest and innocent. Words on a Page is one that I’ve never recorded but will always be a favorite because I think it was the first song I ever finished.
Which songs are your favorite to play and which get requested the most?
My lyrical ballads get requested the most but I really like some of my silly and snarky tunes. I have lots of cheeky little quips in my songs and I love it when I play them and someone in the audience picks up on the joke and becomes part of it with me.
What is the creative process for you, and what inspires you to write your music?
I’m inspired by what I see and feel on a daily basis. It starts with a feeling and I tease that into a cogent thought or observation and then begin a narrative from there. You could say that everything is an inspiration in that sense. As far as my process, I do my best writing when I’m completely alone and have no distractions. I will sit on my porch and just play with melodies until the right one hits me and then attach the appropriate idea/feeling to that. Sometimes though it’s the other way around and I’ll have lyrics that I then have to put an appropriate melody to.
What kinds of messages do you like to get across in your music?
I try to be as honest as I can in my writing. I’ve never been one to write kichy songs about riding tractors on a dirt road or my dog named “Blue” or anything like that. I’m not on any Applebee’s playlist and I like it that way. I feel like honesty and vulnerability are qualities that are increasingly scarce in the cultural ghetto that we’ve created and it’s important for songwriters to sing from the heart. That being said, I try to keep my music positive, or at the very least with hopeful undertones. I’m a generally positive and happy guy and so I want others to feel the same way when they hear my music. If I wanted people to feel angry or sad when they listen to me then I’d just send them a link to Fox News or CNN and skip the whole music part of it.
Do you ever have disagreements when collaborating and how do you get past them?
Of course I do. You don’t always see eye to eye with a co-writer and sometimes that’s frustrating but it’s part of the game. It’s also part of the beauty of collaboration. Sometimes you get caught in patterns of repetition and you need an outside party to help shake things up and show you things in a different way. If I do reach a creative impasse with someone, I’ll usually defer to them and then just write a new song by myself when I get home.
What are your plans for the future, and do you have anything that you want to spotlight that is coming up?
I just released a new record called “Dig the Motion” in April and I’m really proud of it. This new album sounds more like “me” than anything I’ve created to date and I’m excited for people to hear it. I’ve got a good crew of people around me and this thing has really started to grow legs. In 2023 I plan to travel both domestically as well as overseas and try to get my message to anyone and everyone who will hear it.