Jeff Campbell is a songwriter’s songwriter. His new release, The Kitchen Sink, showcases the breadth of his influences and the creative spirit that they give rise to. His roots run far and wide, spanning from Louisiana blues to California swagger. What results is a collection of great songs that could find a home in any genre.
From the noisy, unfettered “Reposado” to the quiet, understated “So Down On,” Campbell’s songs don’t rely on gimmicks or flash to be good. They don’t need a massive production backing to get the listener’s attention. They count on our desire to find a connection, and they reward us for taking the time to listen.
NYMM: The album just came out. What feedback have you had so far?
JC: The feedback has been good. I’ve had a lot of good compliments and responses to it. I mean, we started it in January and finished it in March, so we’ve been sitting on it for a while. We wanted to do press and release it the right way. It’s tough to sit on a record for that long, but you’ve got to do it right. It’s nice to take these songs, most of which are from older ideas that I’ve been working on for a while, and finally get them out.
NYMM: How is it different from the last one?
JC: The last EP we did was produced by John Shanks, who is a bad-ass, Grammy-winning, hit-making producer. I decided when I went into the project to just listen to him. The result was a really big, fully produced set of songs that had layer upon layer of sounds. When we tried to play those live, the songs just didn’t sound like the recordings. So on this one, we decided to take all the great things we learned from John, but apply them to a new record that was as true to the live performance as possible.
NYMM: Tell me about “Fill the Spaces.” It is one of the stand-out tracks on the album.
JC: That was one of the few brand new songs on the album. The music came to me a while back, but I could never find a topic that would match it. When my niece was born, the whole family told me I should write a song about the baby. I always say that being the resident songwriter is better than being the resident accountant and having to do my family’s taxes. When I thought about writing a song for her, I envisioned a more intimate ballad. I tried to write a song specifically about the baby, but it more or less became me talking to her about what I think is important. “Fill the spaces” is about being in a world where everyone is living in their devices and is worried about what’s going on everywhere else. It’s about remembering to stop and fill the spaces with what is around you. It’s a meditative practice that I’ve tried to employ and really helps me. My family is so scattered all over the country that it’s important to remember where we come from and that we’re loved.
NYMM: How did you achieve that?
JC: Before we would add another guitar or another vocal, we stopped and asked ourselves if we really needed it. If the answer was not absolutely “Yes,” then we just didn’t do it. When I write, I try to keep in mind the idea that a song really isn’t that good if you can’t sit and play it by yourself and still get the point across. There’s a song on the new record called “Finger Pictures” that is tough to do by myself because there’s a two-minute guitar jam at the end, but we mostly avoided that.
JC: Yes, I have had the good fortune to share the stage with a number of really talented people. It was pretty killer to get to stand on stage and just perform with John Mayer. I got to sing on his stuff, he played guitar on my stuff, and it was a real treat. John Mayer has a penchant for popping in on local shows. He’s been a household name since he was a kid basically, playing festivals and arenas. The difference between playing a giant stage and a small room is that you don’t see the audience, you can’t hear the room, and you can’t really have conversation with the audience. I think he just wants to not lose sight of where we all come from, and that is about actually connecting with an audience.
You can find more Jeff Campbell here:
You can catch him at Rockwood Music Hall on 10/17. You can RSVP by clicking here.
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