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.
“I grew up drinking lots of Cheerwine and Sun Drop,” Campbell quipped.
The talented singer/songwriter comes home several times a year, and one of those trips is always to attend Balls Creek Campmeeting.
“I used to sing at camp meeting every year, and it’s been tough to be there since I’ve moved to Tennessee,” Campbell said. “The songwriter round is something that I do frequently in Nashville as well as on the road, so I wanted to bring that back home.”
Campbell’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.
“It means a lot for me to come back home and play the songs I’ve written for the folks I grew up with,” she said. “ I’ve been working so hard these last few years, and it’s always fun to share that music with hometown friends.
“Since I’ve lived in the middle Tennessee area for more than 12 years, it’s easy for me to feel out-of-touch with Catawba, but coming home and playing helps with connecting those lines,” she added.
Campbell’s family still owns a tent, and “we love to spend the night,” she said.
Campbell shared some of her first memories of camp meeting.
“Sunday 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,” 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 it’s said, is history. She sang gospel, country and show tunes in church and competitions.
“Once I started taking lessons and refining my gift, I hit the ground running and participated in competitions and musicals,” she said. “I honestly can’t remember when I sang my first National Anthem, but if I was guessing, I’d say a pageant, rodeo or baseball game.”
Campbell attended college and graduate school at Middle Tennessee State University outside Nashville, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in Recording Industry and a masters in Mass Communication. All the while she continued her musical journey—writing songs, recording, performing at Dollywood (Dolly Parton’s theme park), singing song demos, leading music at church and touring.
Campbell’s voice is her instrument of choice, and it’s described on her website: her voice will “definitely get your attention, shake your ears from the doldrums, harness your heart and keep you coming back again and again.”
Coupled with her voice are songs she writes herself.
“Most of the songs I write and perform are co-written,meaning that someone else joins me in the creation of the song,” she said. “It’s nice to write one by myself every now and then, but it’s more common in Nashville for people to join forces and write songs.”
Campbell’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 doesn’t go on the road with her because of high costs that comes with taking a load musicians along.
“Most of the time when I play in Nashville, I use a full band, except when I’m playing writer’s rounds,” she said.
Campbell said it’s really fun to be able to make a living creating and sharing music.
“The 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,” she said. “I’ve had some amazing opportunities as an independent artist that wouldn’t have been available several years ago.
“So far my two most enjoyable moments have been to hear someone else record a song that I’ve written, and to see my music placed in television shows,” Campbell said. “It’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.
“I think it’s really important for people to support the music they enjoy whether it’s at a live concert, buying a CD or T-shirt or sharing a video on Facebook,” she said.
Oh, and about that Cheerwine and Sun Drop ... Campbell always returns to Nashville with a supply.
“And I follow both Cheerwine and Sun Drop on Twitter. I’ve found a spot in Franklin, Tenn., that sells the selective Cherry Lemon Sundrop, so it’s always a treat to have that,” she said. “I’m also a big fan of liver mush, but it’s not very popular in Tennessee.”