Photo: Sara KaussPutting out a sophomore release after a critically acclaimed debut can be a nerve-wracking experience for most artists, but Craig Campbell has little to worry about. First of all, he wisely prepared himself by naming his second album Never Regret, a philosophy he lives by--and also, more concretely, the set is already receiving glowing reviews from both fans and critics alike.
Campbell--who won hearts in 2010 with the adorable video for "Family Man" starring his own young daughter--keeps up the traditional country sound on Never Regret, as well as the focus on family. He collaborates with his wife, singer-songwriter Mindy Ellis, on one track...and daughter Preslee makes a welcome return singing a precious intro on another. Fans of Campbell's debut will doubtlessly be charmed by his new material, which expands on his style without compromising its solidly country roots.
We at Our Country had the opportunity to chat with Campbell about the new album, as well as a few other things he's been brewing under his cowboy hat these days. Enjoy!
Our Country: Lots of people have been eagerly anticipating your sophomore set. How has fan response been to the new music so far?
Craig Campbell: Everything seems to be positive, I guess everyone's practicing their whole "if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all"!
One of the cool standouts on the new album--you wrote a song, "Topless," with your wife! Have you always written with her, or is this a new thing?
She's really, really good. We used to write together at the house; then it got to be where we were distracted by the kids and the TV and whatnot, so we decided if we were going to write we had to make it a job. So we started making appointments in downtown Nashville. And ["Topless"] was one of them! We wrote that song with [songwriter] Blair Daly. He threw the title out, and I said "Man, that's AWESOME."
The lyrics are kind of awesome--and a little racy---too, especially considering your wife helped write them!
In retrospect I'm really glad she was there that day, and we were able to write this song together--because she said "you know, you're probably going to get girls throwing their bras up on stage." And I said, "well I hope so--and you can't get mad about it 'cause you wrote the song!"
Do you plan to do more songwriting collaborations with her?
Definitely, that's just the only song that made the record. We have a bunch of songs that we've written. We just have fun with it.
Your wife is not the only family member on your new album. You have an adorable contribution from one of your little daughters as well, on the song "When She Grows Up."
I recorded that on my computer a couple years ago. When we recorded this song I just thought it'd be kind of cool to have her actually introduce the song singing "Jesus Loves Me." Because the song is actually about her, and her sister. That's just something I wanted to have on this record.
How old was she when you captured the recording?
She was just around 3 years old. She spends most of her day singing.
Oh boy--think she's destined for show business too?!
I don't know…I'm going to try to talk her out of it!
You did quite a bit of songwriting on this new set. Was that a priority for you?
No doubt about it, that's a big part of me and my creative side--we scoured the town looking for hit songs, and I got lucky. Out of the 12 songs we found, six of them were songs that I wrote. I'll always write, being a songwriter is something I enjoy doing. I would love to write songs for other people if they'll have them.
You're on the road a lot these days; are you able to write while you're touring, or do you need to be in a more structured atmosphere in order to get songs down?
My creative process has to be structured. I'll have ideas for songs; they'll pop up and I'll write them in my phone, but I have to really just make myself sit down. Because I have just a touch of ADD and I can't focus just randomly. I have to have an appointment to do it.
Your debut album was praised for its traditional country sound. Do you think you carried this quality over into your new record?
I think so. I have no doubt that the fans I have now that bought the first record are going to be very pleased with this new album. Production-wise, the way it sounds is a little different. My goal was to make a new record, not the same record--so I brought in a new bass player, new drummer, new steel guitar player, and brought the energy up. The tempo of it was important to me. I think we nailed it, but it is still a traditional country record.
Looking back, now that you are on your sophomore release, is there anything you wish you'd done on the first album and didn't?
No, hence the title of my new album. I don't regret anything. I think that first record is a classic. If the good Lord willing, I can break out and be half of a star, I think people can go back and buy that album and really dig it.
Do you have a personal favorite song off Never Regret?
If I had to pick one? It was hard enough to pick those 12! "When She Grows Up" is pretty special to me. "When Ends Don't Meet"--it just reminds me of me and my wife back when we first got together. We struggled--and we still do sometimes--but having each other is what's most important. That's all we had, and that's what that song is about.
You recently played a couple of shows in Gstaad, Switzerland. What's the country music scene like in Europe?
Man! They love country music over there, and they love a more traditional sound which is kinda cool. I have a song on my first album called "You Probably Ain't" which is one of the most country songs I've ever heard, much less recorded. And I had so many requests for that thing when I got there! It was not in my setlist, but by the time we did the second show the following night, I told the boys in the band: "We gotta put this song in the show, guys!"
Sounds like fun! Who would have thought country music would be so popular over there?
There were stages all over town of Swiss bands--the funny thing is, if you tried to talk to them, they couldn't speak English, but they could sing American English songs. It was the weirdest thing! They love it.