Interview with Jessica Campbell; on her music and the signifiance of III

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Singer/songwriter Jessica Campbell is set to release her third album, appropriately titled III, on October 7. It’s been described as one of her “poppiest” albums to date, but Campbell insists that she wrote it the old-fashioned way – with an acoustic guitar.

Campbell has an impressive catalog of prime time TV and promo placements with songs at Crate & Barrel, Delta Airlines, hit TV shows Ugly Betty, Hart of Dixie, Heartland, Melissa & Tye, and Tough Love New Orleans. She was also awarded “Best Song” from the USA Songwriting Competition.

Campbell is very much hands-on in the handling of her music affairs and does a great job of it. We had the opportunity to learn more about her musical inspirations, her gear, how she juggles the business side of the music industry with the creative side of writing, and the significance behind the number three which was the inspiration behind the name of her upcoming album, III.

GGM:  III, your third album, is due out October 7. What’s the significance behind the name?  

JC:  Well, there’s actually more significance than you want to hear, so I’ll keep it simple! When we were recording I was nonchalantly calling the album “three” simply because it is my third album. When I started seriously thinking about the album title there wasn’t a song title popping out to me, so I started digging into the significance of the number “3” in my life. Here are a few of the things I came up with: This is my third album. When the album releases, I’ll be 33. My husband and I just celebrated our three-year anniversary. I was one of three siblings. Three producers contributed to the creation of this album. I also found a lot of significance with the development of creative skills at the age of three. Since the album is about this time in my life, I found the title “III” to be very fitting.

GGM:  Sounds like it was meant to be! What can fans expect to hear on your new album?  

JC:  Musically, there a little more edge to this album. Since I mainly worked with the same producer and some of the same musicians as my last album, I think we all wanted to push the envelope a little bit. There’s also some lyrical struggle going on in this album that I haven’t really dealt with before. Songs like “Losing Your Mind” and “My Heart Says Go” specifically. For the first time I used a trumpet as a main instrument in one of the songs titled “With You.”

GGM:  How does III differ from your previous work?  

JC:  Other than the new songs and musical choices we made, I think the variety in this album makes it different.

GGM:  You’ve worked with Cason Cooley in the past and he’s also producing III. You also brought in Kyle Lee and Aaron Espe to work on the album. Can you describe a typical day in the studio collaborating on III?  

JC:  Each producer has their own way of working and being creative, so it’s very different with each of them. Aaron and I spread out our recording time over the span of a few months, so we’d get together and focus on one song at a time. Cason and I worked 8-10 hour days for consecutive 4 weeks. We like to work up the songs in the studio before bringing the band in to track and then piece back parts that we originally had or create new ones to support what we came up with in tracking. For this album, my vocals and overdub electric guitars were the final pieces.

GGM:  Is there any one particular song on III that is special to you and, if so, why?

JC:  Yes! “Everlasting Shore” is a special one for me because it takes me back to my roots in NC. I grew up in church and that’s where I started singing, how to hear harmonies, and became encouraged and invited to sing in front of people. I’m a spiritual person and I believe in heaven so this song reflects my thoughts about death. I feel like there’s a longing in all of us to reconnect with those who have gone before us and it also touches on that idea.

GGM:  You’ve played a great deal of house shows. What’s your favorite thing about playing to small, intimate crowds in a house setting?  

JC:  The audience LISTENS!! Haha! It’s special for me to get to talk about my songs and tell the stories behind them, so this environment lends itself to those moments. It’s a pleasant playing and listening atmosphere. Venues are tough because typically you are competing with the crowd noise and whatever is on the TV at the bar.

GGM:  How long have you been playing guitar and do you play any other instruments?  

JC:  I was a late bloomer on the guitar. I dabbled with it until I was ready to get serious after college. I actually don’t know many cover songs because of that very thing! I had to get on the fast track to learning my own songs to perform. I also play ukulele and some percussion.

GGM:  Can you tell us a little about your gear?  

JC:  I play a 314c Taylor acoustic guitar and a Cordoba ukulele. I use an Asterope quarter inch cable, which I think is one of the best cables I’ve used.

GGM:  Who are some of your musical influences?  

JC:  I grew up singing in church, so I have a strong connection with hymns and gospel songs. I also did a lot of music theatre as a child, so those songs were part of my early influences as well. When I moved to Nashville I learned a lot about the craft of songwriting and really dug into artists like Patty Griffin and Mac McAnally, in addition to other songwriters around town. Of course, I’m a big fan of pop music as well!

GGM:  Is there a difference between writing songs for other artists and writing for yourself, and how do you approach the writing process – for yourself or other artists?  

JC:  When I write I really try and focus more on the idea than on who the song is for. Crafting a song that is relatable and speaks some kind of story is what I strive for. Obviously, if we’re targeting an artist that day then we’ll listen back to songs they have recorded and stuff like that, but a lot of the “sound alike” stuff can happen in producing a demo with the right singer and the instrumentation for pitching. So, I try to focus on writing a good song and believe that’s what makes a song stand out.

GGM:  I read where you run almost every aspect of your business. How do you manage your time between the business aspect and the artistic side of writing and performing?

JC:  I learned pretty early on that being organized is key for a DIY artist to survive. Since I am spinning so many plates, it’s tough for me to not feel like I’m always working. I’m good with making lists and trying to keep focused on knocking out the business stuff in the mornings so I have enough mental space to be creative while writing, recording, and practicing. There’s no doubt that it’s a juggling act!

GGM:  Other than music, what other hobbies do you have?  

JC:  I love cooking and reading recipes, I also love to travel and we enjoy walking our dog London at the park every day!

GGM:  That’s great! We like to do a holiday recipe article from some of our favorite artists every year, so we’ll definitely need one of your favorite holiday recipes. Thanks for your time.

JC:  Definitely.You’re welcome.

For more on Jessica Campbell, visit her sites below: | | @jcampbellmusic

Five fun facts about Jessica Campbell:

Top 3 songs on my playlist are:
“Most People” Dawes
“Blue Jean Sky” Over The Rhine
“Great Rejoicing” Thad Cockrell

My dream performance would be with Dolly Parton.

In one word, music to me meansOverflow.

My favorite pastime is cooking and thrift shopping.

One thing my fans don’t know about me is I ride the unicycle.

Cover Photo Credit:  Fairlight Hubbard

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