Craig Campbell has lived on both the “Outskirts of Heaven” and the outskirts of big radio success during his career, but that may be where he fits best.
The Lyons, Georgia Native has produced his fair share of fan favorite hits since his debut album was released in 2011, but it has been five years since he has released a full-length album. However, his most recent single, “Outskirts of Heaven,” has received rave reviews from both fans and critics alike, leaving them chomping at the bit to see what Campbell releases next.
Campbell, who has released seven singles to country radio in his career, has been certified with one top 10 hit to go along with two more top 15 hits.
What people may not know about Campbell, though, is that his musical career stretches much further back than his self-titled debut in 2011.
Campbell has been hard at work in Nashville since 2002.
However, he hasn’t been at work alone. Campbell previously played piano in Tracy Byrd and Luke Bryan’s bands before launching a career of his own.
Campbell always had his sights set on a solo career, though.
“I have always wanted to be a solo artist,” says Campbell. “Playing piano for Luke, Tracy Byrd, and several other “unsigned” acts on lower Broadway was a means of survival.”
Campbell would eventually be given that chance, but not before receiving advice from Bryan.
Bryan told Campbell that he should be writing his own songs, perfecting his craft, so that he could get his own record deal.
And that meant leaving Bryan’s band.
“Ultimately, Luke told me I shouldn’t be a sideman and that I’d thank him later,” Campbell told CMT. “I can trace every bit of my success back to him.”
Campbell would land a recording contract with Bigger Picture Music Group, which was the culmination of a couple of dreams for him.
“I always dreamed of working with Keith Stegall, (who has produced albums for Alan Jackson, Zac Brown Band and Clay Walker) who was a partner at BPG,” says Campbell. “Michael Powers was a huge believer in me and he was also a member of BPG. These things were reasons why I wanted to sign with BPG over all other record companies.”
Campbell’s self-titled album was released in April of 2011, after the song “Family Man” was released in 2010 as part of his debut EP “Five Spot.”
Although the song fell just short of the top 10, it provided Campbell with a lifelong memory.
“I was in the car heading home with my label rep and a band member between Atlanta and Chattanooga. We had travelled far enough from Atlanta to lose the signal, so we switched over to US101 (Chattanooga iHeart station) and within 5 minutes, “Family Man” came on,” says Campbell. “I turned the radio up so loud and we sang along like a bunch of hyenas! It was a great moment I’ll never forget.”
The album’s second single, “Fish,” although falling short of the top 20, would become one of the most popular songs among Campbell’s fan base. The album’s third single, “When I Get It” would peak at number 38.
In all, Campbell had a hand in writing 9 of the 11 songs on his debut album, and 1 of the 2 bonus tracks released to iTunes, which was reaffirming to him.
“It was very important that my team believed in not only me, but the songs that I had written,” says Campbell. “There’s no one that can tell my story better than me, so for me to be able to introduce myself to the world with my songs was important to me.”
Campbell would follow up his debut just under two years later with his sophomore effort, “Never Regret.” This album would see Campbell achieve his greatest chart success to date, but would also produce some trying times where he would define himself.
The album’s first single, “Outta My Head” would see Campbell return to the top 15, but it was his next single, “Keep Them Kisses Comin'” that would give Campbell his first, and so far his only, top 10 hit, peaking at number 9 on the Billboard charts.
The success of the album’s first two singles gave Campbell validation that he was meant to do this and that he had developed a solid fanbase.
“Any time you have success in this business there’s always a since of ‘validation,'” says Campbell. “This town is so competitive, so to be able to have your name and songs on the chart is a good thing.”
But while Campbell was achieving this great success, his label, Bigger Picture Music Group, would close just after “Keep Them Kisses Comin'” reached the top 10.
After settling from the initial shock of his label’s closure, Campbell was determined to keep his music career going.
“The first couple of days after finding out BPG was closing was a time of head-scratching and ‘what now?'” says Campbell. “But I never doubted my abilities and relationships combined with the momentum of having a current Top 10 song. These were the ingredients I needed to go out and get another record deal.”
Campbell wouldn’t be without a label long, as he would soon sign with his current home, Broken Bow Records, just a few months after Bigger Picture closed.
“I was looking around and seeing what might be the best fit for me, and BBR checked all my boxes,” says Campbell. “They were having great success with up-and-coming artists, and I knew Benny Brown (owner) loved a more traditional country sound. I made a few phone calls to set up a few meetings and the rest is history.”
Campbell’s first release with his new label was the single “Tomorrow Tonight,” which peaked at number 39 on the Billboard charts, his lowest charting single to date.
However, Campbell was preparing a new song that would cement him as a staple in modern traditional country music. That song would turn out to be his most recent release, “Outskirts of Heaven.” And although the song only peaked at number 24 on the charts, it is currently his second highest streamed song on Spotify, only behind “Keep Them Kisses Comin.'”
“This song was an idea I had about what I look forward to when I get to Heaven,” says Campbell. “When Dave Turnbull and I wrote this song, we weren’t thinking of radio, downloads, streams, any of that. We just wanted to write this song for me because of what I wanted to say. I don’t think chart success was as important as it was that I wasn’t afraid to put my lifestyle and faith in a song that the world was gonna hear.”
Campbell was so confident in the song that he told Billboard he was willing to gamble his entire career on it.
“I believed the song was special,” says Campbell. “There were too many ‘signs’ pointing to the fact that this song needed to be heard. I would do it all over again too.”
While Campbell has not released a new full-length album since “Never Regret,” he has still been on the road, and he has not forgotten the lessons Byrd and Bryan taught him along the way.
“I learned a lot from both guys,” says Campbell. “I learned from Tracy how to treat fans. I learned from Luke how to be an entertainer.”
And while much has changed in country music, even in the seven plus years since his debut, Campbell sees no problem with it.
“I think we are in a great spot,” says Campbell. “Our reach is larger now than it has ever been. We, as a genre, have grown exponentially over the last few years so I’d say we are in a great spot.”
Campbell has also taken to Facebook to show his appreciation for women in music and the songs he loves with his weekly Woman Cover Wednesday (#wcw) segment. The series has seen Campbell cover “If I Die Young” by The Band Perry, “Jesus Take the Wheel” by Carrie Underwood, and even “What’s Love Got to Do With It” by Tina Turner, among many others.
Campbell’s “Jesus Take the Wheel” cover received praise from Underwood herself, who, in turn, praised “Outskirts of Heaven.”
The segment is all about fun and appreciation of music for Campbell.
“I am just doing something that no one else is doing and having fun with songs that I love that were made famous by female singers,” says Campbell.
Campbell is content with the way his career has turned out to this point, but he does have one small thing he would change if he could.
“The only thing I would change is my timing,” says Campbell. “I only wish I would have moved to Nashville a bit sooner. Other than that, I would do everything the same.”
Campbell says he has high hopes for 2018 as he prepares to release new music.
“Next for me is getting back on the radio with a new song,” says Campbell. “Goal wise, I would love to have a number 1 song in 2018. I am aiming for the top!”
Even with his eyes set on the future, Campbell is always willing to look back and see how far his fans have come with him.
“It is a huge compliment for the fans to have your back no matter what and come to the shows to have a good time and sing along,” says Campbell. “To me, that’s the reason to keep trucking along. It means everything. Without the fans, I wouldn’t have a job that I love!”