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Jessica Campbell lives and works in Nashville, Tenn. now, but she was born and raised in Catawba County and still calls the small town of Catawba home.
â€śI grew up drinking lots of Cheerwine and Sun Drop,â€ť Campbell quipped.
The talented singer/songwriter comes home several times a year, and one of those trips is always to attend Balls Creek Campmeeting.
â€śI used to sing at camp meeting every year, and itâ€™s been tough to be there since Iâ€™ve moved to Tennessee,â€ť Campbell said. â€śThe songwriter round is something that I do frequently in Nashville as well as on the road, so I wanted to bring that back home.â€ť
Campbellâ€™s friend Christa Wells lives in Raleigh and has gained a few fans in the area, so Campbell thought this would be a perfect combination for a camp meeting event. The two perform Friday, Aug. 24 at 7:30 p.m.
â€śIt means a lot for me to come back home and play the songs Iâ€™ve written for the folks I grew up with,â€ť she said. â€ś Iâ€™ve been working so hard these last few years, and itâ€™s always fun to share that music with hometown friends.
â€śSince Iâ€™ve lived in the middle Tennessee area for more than 12 years, itâ€™s easy for me to feel out-of-touch with Catawba, but coming home and playing helps with connecting those lines,â€ť she added.
Campbellâ€™s family still owns a tent, and â€śwe love to spend the night,â€ť she said.
Campbell shared some of her first memories of camp meeting.
â€śSunday lunch with family, the paddle ball competition (and practicing hard for it), swinging in the swing at the tent, and getting toys and ice cream at the Shack,â€ť Campbell said.
As a youngster, Campbell began singing in church at Olivet Baptist Church. When she was 9, she ventured outside the walls of the church, and the rest, as itâ€™s said, is history. She sang gospel, country and show tunes in church and competitions.
â€śOnce I started taking lessons and refining my gift, I hit the ground running and participated in competitions and musicals,â€ť she said. â€śI honestly canâ€™t remember when I sang my first National Anthem, but if I was guessing, Iâ€™d say a pageant, rodeo or baseball game.â€ť
Campbell attended college and graduate school at Middle Tennessee State University outside Nashville, where she earned a bachelorâ€™s degree in Recording Industry and a masters in Mass Communication. All the while she continued her musical journeyâ€”writing songs, recording, performing at Dollywood (Dolly Partonâ€™s theme park), singing song demos, leading music at church and touring.
Campbellâ€™s voice is her instrument of choice, and itâ€™s described on her website: her voice will â€śdefinitely get your attention, shake your ears from the doldrums, harness your heart and keep you coming back again and again.â€ť
Coupled with her voice are songs she writes herself.
â€śMost of the songs I write and perform are co-written,meaning that someone else joins me in the creation of the song,â€ť she said. â€śItâ€™s nice to write one by myself every now and then, but itâ€™s more common in Nashville for people to join forces and write songs.â€ť
Campbellâ€™s songs are three-minute lyrical vignettes of love and loss, dreams and divisions and wrapped in stirring melodies.
Campbell has a band, but the full band doesnâ€™t go on the road with her because of high costs that comes with taking a load musicians along.
â€śMost of the time when I play in Nashville, I use a full band, except when Iâ€™m playing writerâ€™s rounds,â€ť she said.
Campbell said itâ€™s really fun to be able to make a living creating and sharing music.
â€śThe music business is a tough one to be in, especially since the digital age has taken over and recording companies have unfortunately gotten caught behind the curve, our industry is suffering,â€ť she said. â€śIâ€™ve had some amazing opportunities as an independent artist that wouldnâ€™t have been available several years ago.
â€śSo far my two most enjoyable moments have been to hear someone else record a song that Iâ€™ve written, and to see my music placed in television shows,â€ť Campbell said. â€śItâ€™s really neat to see the scenes my songs have been paired with.
Campbell said that each person that supports her has an impact on her career.
â€śI think itâ€™s really important for people to support the music they enjoy whether itâ€™s at a live concert, buying a CD or T-shirt or sharing a video on Facebook,â€ť she said.
Oh, and about that Cheerwine and Sun Drop ... Campbell always returns to Nashville with a supply.
â€śAnd I follow both Cheerwine and Sun Drop on Twitter. Iâ€™ve found a spot in Franklin, Tenn., that sells the selective Cherry Lemon Sundrop, so itâ€™s always a treat to have that,â€ť she said. â€śIâ€™m also a big fan of liver mush, but itâ€™s not very popular in Tennessee.â€ť