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.
Craig Campbell is a proud reminder of one of country’s strongest creative periods, building on the early-‘90s legacy established by some of the genre’s most successful figures: Garth Brooks, Alan Jackson, Clint Black and Travis Tritt.
The Georgia-bred Campbell was introduced with a five-song EP that landed in the Top 20 on iTunes. His self-titled debut album expands on the central themes of his life—family, friends, purpose and self-determination—with a bundle of self-written songs, 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 honed his craft in bands backing Luke Bryan and Tracy Byrd, on stages where he covered Alabama and Lynyrd Skynyrd, and at an annual hometown talent contest where he won twice and eventually became the leader of the house band for other contestants.
Campbell’s abilities stood out, as Nashville decision-makers discovered. In fact, he became the subject of a moderate competition. He received an offer from one of Nashville’s major labels, but he was more intrigued by interest from songwriter-producer Keith Stegall—known for his work with Alan Jackson and Zac Brown Band. Introduced to Stegall through radio promotion executive Michael Powers, Campbell turned down the other offer to wait while Stegall and several other industry veterans developed Bigger Picture Group, an innovative artist-development company.
Once Bigger Picture was in place, Campbell headed into the studio to work on his first project, founded on his big, commanding voice and centrist-country songwriting. “When I Get It” puts a defiant spin on a tough economy, “I Bought It” revolves around sweet revenge and “My Little Cowboy” incorporates a multigenerational storyline and a Haggard-esque instrumental hook into a Southern-rock framework. “Fish” puts a bawdy spin on romance, but—in sensitive-daddy fashion, does so in a manner that’s safe for the kids to hear.
“Family Man,” set up by a sonic comma in its first reference—“It’s family, man”—brought Campbell quickly onto the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart. Still, the singer and his associates plan to go way past one single or album.
“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.’”
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