CATAWBA NC -- Jessica Campbell remembers singing at Olivet Baptist Church in Sherrills Ford when she was about 4. She especially loved to sing the solo to “Do Lord,” and she was content to do that over and over until a certain someone gave her guidance.
“My choir director eventually told me I had to sing something else,” Campbell said.
She has spent the rest of her life doing exactly that.
Today, Campbell writes her own songs. The same Catawba native who once sang the national anthem at Charlotte Knights stadiums and Bandys football games now has a publishing deal in Nashville and performs around the country. Many of her songs have been featured on TV shows on VH-1, CMT, ABC and other networks.
She’s been ecstatic about their response to her latest album, “The Anchor & The Sail,” released in April.
“It’s been really overwhelming,” she said. “We’ve had some really big media outlets covering the album, like USA Today.”
However, it’s only been after years of blood, sweat and tears that her career finally took off. Campbell jokes that she has spent “illegal amounts of time” on her music.
By her side today is her husband, Douglas, who is also a songwriter and music journalist. She met him in 2005 when she interned at American Songwriter, a magazine he owned and served as editor.
“I felt bad for him and all the work he had to do,” Campbell said.
She then lost touch with him for about 4 years. Then, as fate would have it, they ran into each other at a coffee shop and went on their first date a month later. They’ve now been married two years.
Forget your idea of an expensive wardrobe. She has a lot in common with rapper Macklemore in that she shops dirt cheap.
“I’m a discount shopper at its best,” Campbell said. “A lot of my clothes on the road are thrifted, consigned, and Goodwilled.”
A lot of Campbell’s gigs aren’t in actual venues. Rather, they’re right in your backyard, so to speak.
“We play and stay in a lot of different homes,” Campbell said. “We meet a lot of different people that I never would cross paths with.”
Occasionally, when it comes to concertgoers, different can mean strange. There was one person in Santa Fe, N.M., who had something in mind for Campbell’s music.
“She was wanting to use my music on her website about aliens and angels, which is really kind of weird,” Campbell said.
But Campbell doesn’t mind the occasional odd request if she still gets to meet great people.
“I love that people relate to my songs with their own stories,” Campbell said.
Campbell said she does her best to stay connected to her hometown, where her family still lives.
“I come back for Balls Creek Camp Meeting every year,” Campbell said. “I was a speaker at Bandy’s High School graduation a few years back.”
Campbell’s mother played piano, too.
“That’s all the musical genetics I have,” Campbell said.
Folks in Catawba are probably happy to know Campbell hasn’t entirely let go of her inner country girl.
“I’ve done some deer hunting in my day,” Campbell said. “That’s something most people wouldn’t know about me.”
The hardest part of her job is the isolation from friends and family.
“I’ve always traveling,” Campbell said. “I’m always out of town. I sometimes feel disconnected from my friend group.”
But the passion for music that drove her to Nashville keeps her going.
“This is the land of opportunity. If this is what I’m going to do, this is where I have to do it. At the end of the day, I’m the gasoline in the car.”
Campbell says that many of songs on the new album are inspired by childhood memories. Her mother was a schoolteacher, so Campbell spent a good bit of time at Balls Creek Elementary.
Her song “My Patchwork Heart” was partly inspired by a quilt that hung in one of the offices there. Campbell thought real hard about what her piece of clothing said about her.
“The song is about having pieces of your life that are broken and scattered and having someone love you that puts them back together,” Campbell said.
Campbell said that “Gone” is her favorite song off “The Anchor & The Sail” because it connected with her and moved her so much.
“I really cried because the guitars and cello parts worked so well,” Campbell said.
The song can be streamed at www.hickoryrecord.com.
While Jessica Campbell’s heart is still anchored in Catawba, her fire for music compels her to sail on.
On the web: To listen to Campbell’s music, go to http://jessicacampbellmusic.com/
If you go:
- Concert in Charlotte
- When: Sept. 21, 7 p.m.
- For details, email email@example.com