Country singer Craig Campbell releases his self-titled debut album April 5.
It’s been family all along for Campbell; family that inspired and guided him, put him on a musical path and kept him firmly there through pain and joy. So, it’s fitting that the title of his touching and memorable first hit single is “Family Man”. The sleeper hit is in the Top 15 on Billboard’s Country chart, still climbing steadily after 35 weeks, and gaining new momentum as one of the few country songs on the all-genre Heatseekers chart.
The old cliché of the overnight success that was actually years in the making certainly applies in Campbell’s case. After an initially broken home left him estranged from his biological father who died when Campbell was 11, his stepfather became a great role model, instilling values like perseverance and a strong work ethic that have served Campbell well. A native of small town Lyons, Georgia, and raised on Southern Gospel music, Campbell played piano and sang in church three times a week from age seven until he graduated high school. While mom worked, Campbell’s older sister Lynn helped raised him and his other three siblings.
When Campbell was 15, Lynn got him to enter a local singing showdown, and even chose Travis Tritt and John Michael Montgomery songs (as well as an outfit) for him. Campbell won that contest and the crowd’s enthusiastic response got him hooked on performing. Tragically, Lynn was killed in a car accident just a few months later, leaving Campbell at a crossroads but pointed in the right direction. He won the contest again when he was 18, and, after briefly working at the Georgia Department of Corrections, committed full time to music
By 1999, Campbell was in a local house band and a touring cover band where he mastered crowd pleasers by Garth, Hank, Alabama, Buffett, and Skynyrd. When a friend in Nashville needed a roommate, Campbell made the move, working apartment maintenance to support himself. Over the next few years, he played piano around town, backed Luke Bryan (who encouraged him to write his own songs,) and became one of the most in-demand demo singers in Nashville.
In 2005, he married Mindy Ellis, also a country singer, and toured as pianist in Tracy Byrd’s band. Once Campbell got a residency at the well-known Nashville venue called The Stage and performed his own music, he built a solid reputation, a following, and most importantly, industry attention. He turned down an offer by a major label to wait for the formation of Bigger Picture Group, a new artist development and songwriting partnership put together in 2009 by famed songwriter-producer Keith Stegall and others. Stegall, known for his work with Alan Jackson, Kenny Rogers, Randy Travis, George Strait, Joey and Rory, and Zac Brown Band, produced a five-song EP for Campbell which went Top 20 on iTunes. On his first full album, Campbell co-wrote nine of eleven songs, which, in his words are just about “real life” — traditional but clever.
In the earnest ballad “Family Man,” written when he and his wife were expecting their first child and had money concerns, he sings of working different jobs, and being grateful his “buy here, pay here” truck fires up and gets him from A to B so he can feed his family in hard times. His calloused hands are made bearable, even honorable, by the rewards and smallest of joys that family provides, like figuring out a kid’s math homework (his daughters Kinni, eight months, and Preslee, three, are seen in the video). With the characteristic rich production by Stegall (who co-wrote two songs), the music firmly establishes Campbell as a credible, authentic artist with an irresistible big, warm, soulful voice.
With the success of the first single, his Opry debut last fall, and now going full steam ahead with the album’s release, Campbell says he really “hit the jackpot” with the invitation to be part of Willie Nelson’s Country Throwdown Tour, which starts in May. The tour will have him joining and hopefully writing new material with his friends Randy Houser and Lee Brice (who co-wrote on “All Night to Get There.” on Campbell’s album), as well as Jamey Johnson and Brantley Gilbert.
As Campbell experiences growing success, he is sharing it with other families. When he saw a YouTube video scrapbook set to done by a fireman and father of quintuplets born the day “Family Man” was released, Campbell set up for the parents of seven a surprise limo ride to his concert, a meet and greet , plus gifts for the kids. The singer considers himself making only the first step toward a long and productive career, and has many good reasons to think so; he’s real, has talent, is certainly no stranger to hard work, and the “sacred piece of solid ground” of family is for him a driving force, not just a lyric.
- I Bought It
- Family Man
- When I Get It
- My Little Cowboy
- Makes You Wanna Sang
- That Going Away Look [About Her]
- That’s Music to Me
- You Probably Ain’t
- All Night to Get There