By Kevin Zimmerman
Craig Campbell Keeps It Real
As a genre, country music is known for prizing authenticity. They don’t get much more authentic than emerging troubadour Craig Campbell.
“For a good ole boy from southern Georgia to be able to put some of his songs on a CD is pretty incredible,” Campbell laughs, referring to his self-titled debut album on the Bigger Picture Group label. “My music is about real life, whether it’s about me or whoever I was co-writing with on that day. There’s nothing fake about it.”
True enough, though Campbell’s rise to the top sounds like some kind of fairy tale. Growing up in Lyons, GA (population: 4,000) and surrounded by gospel music, Campbell grew up playing piano for his church and won a local Jimmy Dean/True Value Country Showdown at the age of fifteen. Moving to Nashville in 2002, he started writing songs and landed gigs playing for Tracy Byrd and Luke Bryan.
“Luke was the one who told me to write every day,” Campbell says. “He said that worked for him, and it definitely worked for me, opening a lot of doors and introducing me to a lot of folks.”
One of those folks was Keith Stegall, who’s produced like-minded acts like Randy Travis, George Strait, and Alan Jackson. “He was someone I’d always wanted to meet, and the stars just aligned one night,” Campbell says. “He came down to see me at a club I was playing, and we ended up talking and eventually agreed to work together.”
The first result was the well-received Five Spot EP in September, which included signature tune “Family Man.” Campbell’s smooth baritone, delivering relevant lines about having to take a series of temporary jobs to feed his family, struck a chord with listeners and paved the way for the album and an appearance at the Grand Ole Opry on October 8 as part of its 85th birthday celebration.
And Campbell’s association with SESAC has proven to be another positive in the singer’s career.
“They’ve been terrific to me from the start,” he continues, turning serious. “I’ve made some really nice relationships over there, and they’ve been nothing but encouraging, helping me figure out the business part of music. Because music is what I want to do, and they’re helping me get there.”