singer-songwriter guitarist Morry Campbell
Interview by Robert Urban for GAY GUITARISTS WORLDWIDE
includes photos by Jed Ryan, Jimmy Johnson and Robert Urban
Morry Campbell is a musician/actor/songwriter from North Central Montana, currently living and working in New York City.He has appeared at venues throughout New York City, including CBGBís 313 Gallery, The Vintage Cafť, Rockwood Music Hall, The C-Note, The Creek and the Cave and Donít Tell Mamaís. Morry has written and performed songs for several NYC theatre companies, including TOSOS II and Bottomís Dream Arts.
Most recently he composed and performed music for the TOSOS II production of Eisensteinís Monster at The Duplex, and contributed original music for TOSOS IIís production, The Mermaid. His song On My Own was a part of the wildly successful TOSOS II musical review, Look Askew! A grouping of his songs were featured in Jill Daltonís one woman show, Calling on God (performed at Surf Reality), and in Rabbit Aheadís production of Ranting Against Prozac.
Morry's music has been described as a cross between Melissa Etheridge and James Taylor. In addition to his own blend of Rock/Folk/Country, he covers a wide variety of music, including songs by Joni Mitchell, Fleetwood Mac, Eurythmics, The Dixie Chicks, George and Ira Gershwin, Fats Waller, Melissa Etheridge and James Taylor. Morry holds an MFA in Theatre from the University of Nevada at Las Vegas.
- What brand/model/year instrument(s) do you record and play out with?
I record with Mike (heís a Taylor 710CE), Jack (named after my dad, heís a Taylor 655CE 12-String), Betty (sheís a Rainsong WS-100 Graphite guitar), Jimi (heís a Fender American Strat, named both for the obvious Hendrix connection and also for the reference to a ďjimi thingĒ in the Dave Matthews Band song of the same name), Trixie (sheís a cheap little Danelectro electric that I use mostly for slide work as sheís got a slightly higher action than Jimi), and Bea (a pretty little Sigma classical with a nice, mellow sweet tone, named after my mom). Max is my Martin D-1, but I rarely record or play out with him, due to his lack of electronics.
Yeah, I name all my guitars. Just one of my quirks, I guess. Mike and Betty are the two I play out with the most. Jimi is seeing some action out now and again, though.
- What brand/model/year amps & effects (if any) do you use?
Most of the effects I use in recording are software, as I do most of my recording at home, with noise-sensitive neighbors, and therefore have to do most of it direct instead of using any amp. I use IK Multimediaís AMPLITUBE plug-in a lot. Iíve also used the Guitar Amp Pro plug-in that comes with Logic Pro software, and they also have a pretty cool compressor and some interesting distortion plug-ins. I also have the Waves Platinum Bundle, so lots of fun toys in there too: flanger, chorus, stereo effects, etc.
Since most of my playing out is acoustic, I usually donít use a lot of effects, just Betty or Jack and little olí me. I donít play a lot of huge venues, so if I need to bring my own amp, I have a Crate Limo (battery-powered), or a 30W Roland Cube, or a Fender Acoustisonic Jr. Though I rarely use effects, I have a Zoom 505 Effects pedal that I sometimes drag out with me. It has some fun sounds without getting too complex.- Who are your main influences as an instrumentalist? Which artists? Which bands? Instrumentalist? Which artists/bands were your favorites in your youth?
I love James Taylor and Melissa Etheridge, and oddly enough, my sound has been described as a cross between those two icons, something Iím not sure is true, but for which I am grateful, and Iím flattered by the comparison. I think they both have an influence on my sound, as do the Beatles. Those are probably the biggest direct influences on my ďsound.Ē
Other bands/musicians I listen to a lot are Dave Matthews Band, Aerosmith, The Beatles, The Goo Goo Dolls, Eurythmics, Chick Corea, Annie Lennox, Queen, and (Iím not just sucking up here) Robert Urban. I also love Katie Sawicki, Roger KuhnÖIím just getting into listening to Independent Music (I know, sad, as thatís what Iíve always been, an independent musician, and Iím just now starting to listen to independent artists.)
Growing up, I was a big fan of John Denver and Jim Croce (am I dating myself here?). Then I got into Jazz, and Al Di Meola blew my mind. All that very cool stuff he did with Return to Forever, and then the solo stuff. Cielo E Terra is an amazing album. And the Trio in San Francisco with John McLaughlin and Paco De Lucia is mind-blowing. I also listened to a lot of Earth Wind & Fire, ELO, Return to Forever.
- Tell fans about your luv for your particular style of music, as opposed to other styles - how it became your favorite style of rock, etc
I guess growing up in Montana had a lot to do with my sound. My dad was/is a big Country Music fan, and though I never listened to Country on my own, and certainly rebelled in that regard (a buddy of mine and I in the HS Jazz Band used to refer to taking a dump as ďpopping a CountryĒ), I find that itís influenced my sound more than I had ever intended. And in my old age, I have discovered that I actually like Country Music. Iíve become a big Dixie Chicks fan, and also love Dolly Parton and Emmylou Harris.
Iím not sure how my style ďhappened.Ē I think I just write whatever comes out, and some of it is more Rockish, and some of it is more Folkish or Countryish. (I can make my own works up here, right? It is MY interview, after all!)
- Do you play/compose/record only your own original music? Do you do any other work in music - e.g. teaching, recording session work, hired gun, producing, etc? Does your playing appear on recordings of any other artists?
Iíve written songs for several theatre companies here in NYC. I did some work for a fledgling Shakespearean theatre company where I took the ďsongsĒ that appear in the text and wrote the music to back it up, and usually sang the song in the show. So yeah, Iíve collaborated with William ShakespeareÖ
Iíve also written incidental music for plays. I did some music for a little cabaret evening of plays by Linda Eisenstein that was called ďEisensteinís Monster,Ē and I played an electric guitar in public for the first time in that show in a little 5-minute play called ďZombie Grrlz.Ē I was very flattered when the playwright, Linda Eisenstein herself, came up to me afterwards and told me that I had done the music exactly like sheíd heard it in her head!
I have also played guitar for some of my friends. Iíve gone out with Terry Christopher, and right now weíre rehearsing for his CD release party, which heís going to do all ďunplugged,Ē just him and me. [ADDENDUM: we did the CD Release Party, and we were FABULOUS. Hope you caught it. If you didnít you missed out!]
I would love to work as a ďhired gunĒ a lot more than I am now. Anyone looking for a guitarist to lay down some tracks or play out or whatever, drop me a line.
Iíve done some music for the LGTB Community Centerís monthly show ďOut At The Center.Ē Mostly using some loops and some actual playing, to come up with little musical things to use in the segments I produce there. Iíve done music for at least one segment in most every show since October 2005. You can watch past shows at the Centerís website, and maybe catch a little of the music Iíve done. I was also hired by the Center to create music for some ad campaigns for their annual Garden Party and for the Smoke-Free Home segment with Brini Maxwell, that you can see here: http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=7837435657622727489
And finally, Iíve just started to teach guitar myself. I enjoy teaching and I think Iím pretty good at it, and I think (I hope) some of my students would agree.
- Is there a particular favorite solo or part you played on a recording, or a certain piece of composed music you wrote, that you feel represents your finest work?
I think my best recording to date is my song ďLong Long Way HomeĒ I would hope that my recordings get better as I get more experienced as a producer, but so far this is the best Iíve been able to do. And I also think itís one of my best songs, not just best recording.
Any special thoughts on your instrument, and what it's meant to you in your life?
Playing my guitar is like food for me. I can be having a very frustrating day, or feeling down and out, and really all I have to do is pick up a guitar, and it all goes away. Thatís all I have to do.
Can you relate any special feelings or experiences about being a glbt player in the mostly straight music world... especially regarding your formative/learning years on your instrument?
I grew up in Montana, and I didnít even hear the word Gay spoken out loud unless it was the punchline to a joke. And I also grew up with a lot of fundamentalist influence (even though I also grew up CatholicÖit was the crowd I ran with), so being gay wasnít even on the radar for me when I was first learning to play.
- For a glbt player - how does the overall music scene differ today
from years ago?
I think that, as in all areas of modern life, being gay and being a musician is getting easier all the time. Thereís still a long way to go, but eventually I see a world where there are no gay musicians and no straight musicians, but only musicians, and the sexuality of said musicians is just a non-issue.
Of course, GWB and the Republican/Corporate flunkies surrounding him are no longer a threat to life on the planet as we know it in this world, so that means itís still a ways off into the futureÖ
- How is the overall music scene in your locale?
Iím not sure, as I havenít been playing out much except for open mics and things. I havenít really hustled for gigs, and Iím not sure whyÖjust going through a period ofÖwell, I just donít know. But I think that, as many opportunities as there are for musicians in this city, itís also very difficult to get started. Iíve played at CBGBís 313 gallery, and I was invited back, but I never went, because at CBGBís, and at many other venues in the city, they tell you that you have to attract a certain amount of folks, and if you donít get them, you may not be invited back, and I even heard of one venue that charges a fee if you donít attract a big enough crowd. My hope is that in finishing recording this CD, and with my new presence on the web, that Iíll be able to build enough of a following that I can begin to take some of those gigs with confidence.
- Any advice for young glbt players?
If you love guitar, keep playing it. I made a huge mistake in that after High School I basically dropped playing guitar in favor of more ďacademicĒ musical studies. I became a music major with a double emphasis in percussion and voice, and dropped the guitar, even though by the end of high school I was pretty good. But for some reason in my mind the guitar wasnít something you studied in college, it was somehow less of an instrument. It took a life-threatening accident to make me realize I wanted to play my guitar again. One of the first things I asked for after this incident was my guitar. I asked my folks to send it. I hadnít even bothered to bring a guitar with me when I moved out here. I have since began studying again and I think Iím becoming a pretty good player, but I often wonder how much further along I would be if I had never stopped playing in the first place. Keep studying. The nature of guitar is that there is always more to learn, no matter how good you get.
- What are your current and future musical projects?
The most immediate thing is Terry Christopherís CD Release Party. Iím playing for him, and heís doing all his selections with me instead of tracks. I think heís going to be brilliant. Iím working on recording a CD that I hope to have available in early 2007. Iím still working for the LGTB Center and my music will continue to turn up there frequently.
AndÖIím Gay Guitar Player of the Month for the month of December !!! Thanks, Robert, for that honor.
More on MORRY CAMPBELL at:www.morryc.com
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