As much as I don’t love the idea of labeling certain music under strict genres, it is a useful and necessary tool. The listeners of the world need to know or at least get an idea of what kind of music someone is making before they decide they want to dive in.
While some artists do in fact fit snug into particular genres, others do not. One such artist who possesses a style all his own is Nashville songwriter Campbell Harrison.
Harrison’s songs undulate between Americana, roots rock, folk, and singer-songwriter, yet have the magnetic and sticky qualities of pop music. And today, March 4th, Harrison dropped his first single of 2022, “Sleeping In Kathmandu,” which is the lead track from his upcoming album, Dig The Motion, set for an April Fool’s Day release.
The intro to “Sleeping In Kathmandu” initially reminded me a bit of The Band’s “Atlantic City” with the mandolin prominently infused in the instrumentation. The track overall has a stellar acoustic rock groove to it that’s easy on the ears, and Harrison’s radiant vocals captivate throughout. It’s a breezy summer-feeling tune with catchy hooks, and I’ll be damned if I didn’t have the recurring “woah-oh-ohs” stuck in my head.
“Cause there’s just too many people inside this room / Floors are weak and we’ll fall right through / Wind up sleeping in Kathmandu / Would you remember me if I do,” Harrison sings. The combination of genuine soul, strong vocals, melodic instrumentation, and an overall sonic magnetism make for a song that can be enjoyed by a wide audience.
We got the chance to ask Harrison about the new single, his upcoming album, and his plans post-album release.
So last time we chatted, you had released your EP, Lyin Cheatin Gettin By, and now you’re gearing up for your latest EP release come April. How might this new album compare and contrast to the previous?
My new album, Dig the Motion, was really fun to make because it’s a completely different approach than my previous records including Lyin Cheatin Gettin By. In the past, I’ve had a very organic approach to recording and I’ve really left a lot of space for my band to interpret the songs in their own way. The people I’ve worked with have been very talented, and I picked them specifically because I liked their styles and I wanted the collective sound to showcase their individualism rather than having everything scripted down to a “T.”
For this new record, I took a polar opposite approach. This time around I was very intentional about every musical moment and I had a much more controlled, hands-on approach because I was trying to create an extremely stylized record that had absolutely no fat on it. Control and restraint was the intention behind this one rather than the organic and slightly “jammy” feel that I’ve cultivated with in the past. It was a fun exercise for me as a producer and I’m proud of the results.
What do you feel you’ve learned since then that you’ve taken into account with this new album, whether it be tweaks to your songwriting, production values, etc?
Every time you go into the studio you grow and learn. You try things, you experiment, and you learn what processes do and don’t work for you personally. Dig the Motion is my second album recorded at Welcome to 1979 studio, and at this point I’ve been able to refine and streamline my process by taking into account all the mistakes (and happy accidents) that were part of my previous records. I’ve also had the good fortune to work with Jeremy Bernstein, an outstanding recording engineer over the past two projects, so I feel like he really knows my style and musical vision at this point. Combine that with better songwriting, and I think it’s a pretty good recipe.
And you have your new single, “Sleeping in Kathmandu,” dropping today March 4th. What’s the influence and backstory behind this track?
“Sleeping in Kathmandu” is very much “on brand” for me as a songwriter, and it sums up my style in a neat package. Thematically, much of my music is loose commentary about my personal experiences and those events swirling around me. Needless to say, the past two years have given me a ton of material to work with. Although much of my music is introspective, I’m often tempted to write satirical lyrics.
“Sleeping In Kathmandu” is right in that vein and pretty on-the-nose with its message. It takes a lighthearted poke at the constant and overwhelming chatter that bombards us through “anti-social” media. Maybe it’s my message to the masses that if “things just don’t feel quite right anymore,” perhaps it’s because too many folks are talking and no one is listening. I tried to make “Sleeping In Kathmandu” both poignant and hopeful, setting the tone for the rest of the album while addressing the difficulty of being a thinking individual in a social media world.
What made you want this song to be the lead single from the upcoming album?
This song was actually the wildcard of the recording, and I wasn’t quite sure how it was going to turn out. It was a brand new tune, but I was really stoked about it, so I decided to bring it to my band. They loved it as much as I did, and that excitement really came through in the recording. It’s an up-tempo and lyrically driven tune, full of hooks with a chorus that begs for a sing-along. It’s probably the most commercially viable track on the album, so it just made sense to release it first. I’m very proud of it.
Was there a particular song or few songs on the new album that were the most challenging to write or record whether it be emotionally or otherwise?
The title track, “Dig the Motion,” was by far the most difficult song to write, but it’s also the one I’m most emotionally connected to. I wrote it in 2018 when I first moved to Nashville, and my whole world was turned upside down. It’s really nostalgic for me, and has a vulnerability to it that I personally treasure, maybe because it highlights the resilience of the human spirit in the face of change, loss, and adversity. However, the toughest song to record was the album’s ballad “Me, Myself, and I.” It’s a simple waltz, so I had to exercise enormous restraint to keep from over-producing it with instrumentation and vocals. Less is definitely more when you’re creating a folk record, and I learned a lot about what that means while recording this project.
Where do you typically draw inspiration for your songs?
I draw inspiration from the world around me and how it makes me feel. I start with a feeling, and then I try to tease out what that feeling is trying to teach me about myself. Then I do my best to put it into poetry and melody. I usually write from the heart rather than from the brain, which I guess is good for a folk artist.
What messages or feelings do you try to convey in your music?
I just want people to feel how I’m feeling. Sometimes I’m confused. Sometimes I’m frustrated. Sometimes I’m critical, but try not to be “preachy.” But no matter what I’m feeling at any given moment, I always keep that hopeful optimism on the back burner and I never let it get cold. I think that shows through on most of my songs.
Come April 1st, how do you plan to celebrate your album release?
I’ve got an album release party lined up at Dee’s Country Cocktail Lounge on April 14th in Madison, TN. It’s one of my favorite places and a hotbed for up-and-coming original artists. Since it’s a local show, I’ve invited several friends and special guests to sit in. It’s sure to be a bash and I’m stoked to share my new work with the world.
How about any touring or other regional gigs folks can catch you at?
Other than regular gigs in Nashville, I’ll be in south Georgia at the Swamptown Getdown on March 12 and headlining a block party on May 18 in Olde Town Conyers, a cool little historical town close to where I grew up in Georgia. Then I’ll be bopping around the southeast for the next few months, supporting the record. I’m excited to bring this batch of tunes to new markets, so I’ll also be touring Ireland this summer. Shows are being added regularly, so check out my social media for the latest.