Sgt. Corrin Campbell is on a Mission To Rock the World
By Jana Ritter
Corrin Campbell is truly one-of-a-kind. Not only is she among the few female active duty soldiers to have served in Iraq, she is a rising star in the rock scene and the only original musical artist to be backed by the U.S. military.
With music as her mission and pure talent as her artillery, the singer, bassist, songwriter and her band "The Election" have been touring non-stop and recording albums in between.
From Blackhawks flying her to perform at bases across Iraq, to road hard style tours of high schools across the U.S., to showcasing at major festivals such as Warped Tour and Lilith Fair or her most recent showcase at SXSW, Corrin Campbell's unique career path has become the whirlwind adventure of a rockstar with meaning.
But despite her busy schedule, booming fan base and growing buzz, Corrin was happy to make the time to chat with us about her music and her message of "keeping it all real."
What inspired you to become a musician?
I was born with a love for music and it's always been a big part of my life. My first live performance was singing Kumbaya at a talent show when I was 5 years old and I was always interested in playing music as well. I studied theory, I played the piano, the maracas and then when I was a teenager I taught myself to play bass guitar by listening to the radio and playing by ear.
What artists have influenced you the most?
I love all genres of music, but grunge rock is definitely what influenced me most as a musician. No Doubt, Nirvana, Sublime...I love that raw sound like you literally just walked into a garage band jam, I call it "organic rock."
How would you describe your music?
Its "organic rock" but bringing back the angst of classic rock with a little grunge influence as well. Our album Gilded, was produced by Pete Stewart who is a Grammy Award winning musician based in Seattle, so we definitely have that Seattle sound going on. So much of the music today is really polished and produced, it's like auto-tuned and electric drum kits have become the new industry standard. We like to display our musicianship and let our audience hear the pureness and grittiness, which is essentially what Rock 'n' Roll is. What you hear on our albums is pretty much what you hear at our live performances.
For someone who is an artist at heart, how did you end up joining the Army?
Ironically, it was my music. I was a bass player in my high school jazz band and a recruiter was at one of our performances. He came up to me after the show and told me that the Army had a band program that would allow me to pursue my music as a career. I had no idea that such a thing even existed and the more I found out about it, the more reasons I had to join. I basically came in as a bass player and lead vocalist for an Army band and we played full time, touring around the region to play for the soldiers.
It was a great experience, not only because I learned a lot about performing, but also being in a cover band gave me a lot of exposure to all kinds of music. I've also performed for a lot of the high-profile showcase events opening for major acts like Wynonna Judd, Toby Keith, Ted Nugent and even Robin Williams.
You also served as an active duty solider in Iraq. How has that experience influenced you as a person and as a musician?
I've been on active duty for ten years and, in 2004, I was deployed with the 1st Cavalry Division to Baghdad in Operation Iraqi Freedom II. You definitely experience a lot of difficult things in combat and of course there are the obvious things like seeing your fellow Soldiers deal with injury and death. But it's also really hard just being so far away from your family for such long periods of time and you have really limited phone and computer access so it's not like you can constantly communicate with everyone the way we do here.
I spent a lot of time thinking about everyone back home, especially my brother because he had been so young when I left. I wrote the song "Remember Me," which is about keeping relationships and looking forward to seeing someone again rather than focusing on the sadness of missing them.
Being in the military and an Indy rock musician are two extremely challenging careers. Have you found them to be even more challenging as a female?
I've always been the type of person that chooses the most challenging route anyways and I will always go above and beyond to make sure I don't play the "girl card" no matter what the situation is. I think the most challenging part about representing women in uniform is the outside perception of what that is. Being in the military is like having a built in family and whether it's guys or girls, we're just all really supportive of each other. I would have to say that performing out of uniform, as the lead singer of a rock band is the most difficult challenge and a stereotype that I intend to break.
You're pretty much a full-time musician now, on a very different type of Army tour. Tell us about that.
I've been touring with a music marketing team called Army Musical Outreach playing at high schools in pretty much every state across the country and believe me, it's been the best schooling as a performer. Usually you're playing for fans, people who paid to see you and when you're playing at a high school pep rally for a bunch of teenagers who are basically forced to be there, you really have to work hard and fast to win over the crowd.
Fortunately, we usually end up getting a crazy warm response and then a big line-up of students wanting to meet us after the show. Some of them are interested in music, others ask questions about the Army and many of them just want to talk. It's actually my favorite part of the tour, because when someone takes an interest in me I take an interest in them and I've kept in touch with a lot of these kids for over three years now. A lot of them ask me for advice on what to do with their life and my simple answer is always "Do what you want, but do something great."
You also do a lot of major festival tours as well.
We just had a showcase in Austin during SXSW and that is a great experience for a musician all around. Not only do you get a lot of exposure, but you also get to see a lot of other bands and meet other artists too. It's the best place to be for indie label musicians because they also have a huge interactive showcase where you can learn about all the latest tools and apps. I've also done a lot of the big summer festival tours as well like Lilith Fair and the Warped Tour.
Any big shows coming up this summer?
Yes, we just announced that we're going to be doing the Warped Tour again this year. It was such an amazing experience last time, playing for such huge audiences and people that are really into the music...I'm really excited to be invited back!
What is the primary message in your music and what do you ultimately hope to achieve as an artist?
A lot of my music speaks to young adults trying to find their place in the world today. There are so many forces trying to influence people on how to be, how to dress, how to think and my main message is to retain your individuality. Embrace who you are, express who you are and do something you love that contributes to the world in a positive way.
To find out more about Corrin Campbell, her music and upcoming performance dates go to her website: www.CorrinCampbell.com.
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