Camp - Live at the Station Inn
Shawn Campís album release party for his new heralded bluegrass album, Live at the Station Inn, filled the venue to standing room only at where else Ė Station Inn. The audience reveled in the music and the players as the original recording sessions were replicated.
Around the corner Ė physically and musically Ė from Music Row, Station Inn is one of the small venues in Nashville thatís serious about its music. The bluegrass regulars who show up, to "pick" or to listen, adopt it is a home place. Camp says nearly every night of his first 8 years in Nashville found him at the Station Inn.
Campís project is what many artists dream of doing. Gather some pickers you most want to work with, bring out some of the favorite songs youíve written, book a venue and Ė just do it. And Oh Boy Records (Campís label home as well as that of John Prine, Janis Ian, Kris Kristofferson and others) is proud to release the finished product.
A triple-threat performer, Camp is one of the most respected young artists in a city full of creative giants. Give him any stringed instrument and he can play it. Heís written number one hits for Garth Brooks ("Two Pina Coladas") and for Brooks and Dunn ("How Long Gone"), and has had multiple cuts with other artists. The strength of his new album lies in his excellent songwriting skills, his ability to partner with other equally extraordinary writers, the desire of outstanding musicians to participate and his strong vocal skills.
I talked with Camp the morning after we attended the release party. He called my office for the interview as he was traveling to East Tennessee.
We discussed the changes in the bluegrass genre, and the way itís reaching a wider audience today. He feels that, while there are more new young writers working within the bluegrass style, we shouldnít forget or lay aside the older more traditional songs. Three of the album cuts, co-authored with Guy Clark, are based on old fiddle tunes Ė "Sis Draper," a lively humorous ode to a traveling Arkansas fiddle woman who has "the touch;" "Magnolia Wind," a yearning entreaty to a love; "Soldierís Joy 1864, "a stunning personal-level story of war. These 3 songs, with their varied subjects, moods and musical elements, are staunch testimony to Campís wide-ranging authoring abilities. Ever since I first heard it, his engaging story of a life long relationship, "The Tune of the Twenty Dollar Bill," has been a favorite of mine. The other 9 other songs on the album are just as strong as these examples.
At the release party, Campís mother, Betty, talked with me about his early love for and involvement in music. At the age of 8, heíd sit next to the band, playing his mandolin with the big guys whoíd come to the house for a "picking," a musical gathering that might include 80 Ė 100 people. He was constantly practicing on whatever instrument was available. But she was not eager for him to have a fiddle. Camp added to the story, relating that when hew as around 12, one of the musicians left a fiddle there for him to practice on. After 2 days, mom ordered him to box it up and take it to the truck. "She just couldnít take it anymore."
He recalled having to "march that fiddle" back up to the door of its owner. Then on his 15th Christmas, after opening some new shirts, he noticed his dad had left the room. He described the awful noise that came from the next room and turning to his mother and saying, "Yaíll got me bagpipes for Christmas, didnít you?" Once the treasured fiddle was in the arm of its new owner, both were sent outside to practice. Mom recalls that he came back in not more than forty-five minutes later and he could play ever tune that he knew.
The next year, his 16th, Campís dedication to music would again be evident when he chose to apply the cash that the family had available to a Martin guitar rather than his first vehicle.
Question: Whatís the song writing process like for you Ė how do you get started on a song?
Answer: "If Iím awake or if Iím dreaming, I have songs in my head. I just canít help it?"
Another songwriter labeled that constant engagement in writing songs, "organic." Camp is a pure example of an "organic" songwriter.
Question: "Whatís the favorite song that youíve written?
Answer: "A couple of them Ė one that you mentioned, ĎThe Tune of a Twenty Dollar Billí and ĎThe Grandpa That I Know.í I was real close to my grandpa and thatís what that song is about. "
Question: "What instrument do you write on?"
Answer: "I normally write on the guitar, but I play fiddle a lot, and I play mandolin, and a ukulele that Cowboy Jack Clement loaned me, and a pump organ I just bought and I write on that a little bit. Iím just into notes and melodies. Iíd write a tune on a stick if I thought I could get any kind of tone out of it."
Question: "Cowboy Jack Clement (legendary music producer) is a friend and mentor of yours. Whatís the most important lesson youíve learned from him?"
Answer: "Heís not afraid to take risks."
"Whatís in your CD player now?"
Answer: "Tom T. Hall - Iíve got a boxed set and Iím on a Tom T. Hall jag. Heís such a great writer and a great singer. I just love his songs. I pretty much believe weíve all just been acting like weíre writing songs since "Old Dogs, Children and Watermelon Wine. Thatís about as powerful a song as Iíve ever heard. Iíll get on a jag of people and I listen to them for a month Ė Hank Williams, John Prine or Guy Clark or Merle Haggard."
Question: "Do you do any of your work on a computer? "
Answer: "Iíve just gotten a laptop. Iím recording some songs on it and writing on it. I think itís a neat tool. Itís certainly not as romantic as writing on a tablet, but itís a quick way to do it."
Question: "Do you see the internet playing a part in an artistís career? "
Answer: "If we knew how to use it, I guess you could be a star on the Internet."
Question: "I really, really want to know. How much of the Sis Draper story is fact and how much is fiction?"
Answer: "Well, Sis Draper was not the devilís daughter. She was a beautiful lady and played a great fiddle. Actually, the first autograph I ever signed was to Sis Draper; I was 9 years old. We did have "pickings" at the house. Uncle Cleve and Grandpa would always light up when we talked about her. Theyíd always put their best clothes on and tried to comb their hair just right whenever she came around."
Question: "What can we expect on your next album? "
Answer: "I have a few things already recorded. Iíve got some blue grass and some electric stuff. Iím going into the studio and try to put something together that I feel good about."
For certain, any album of Campís will treat us with remarkable songs and extraordinary musicianship. Itís good to know that another album is already in the works, but for now donít overlook this gem, Shawn Camp Live at the Station Inn.