Yet another star performer at this month’s Wingham Akoostik Festival, Tracey Campbell describes the sound of her trio as a unique blend of Latin, Jazz, Pop, Fusion and Classical.
You are a local girl. Where did you grow up, and what was the best thing about growing up in the area?
I grew up in Taree, right on the river. The best thing for me was water skiing most mornings before school with Dad and my sister Jo-anne. What a great way to start the day … can’t imagine I would have been able to do that in the city!
As well as that, I had a beautiful pony at the local show ground; I could ride and explore the country around Taree in a very spectacular fashion. My dad used to accompany me on lots of trail rides. I have fond memories of those days living in Taree.
How old were you when you decided a career in music was for you?
I think my mum would tell you I was about 5 or 6 when I started dressing up and imitating the black and white minstrel show and then progressed to my very own rendition of Wuthering Heights. I loved entertaining family and friends, and I still do – they’re used to my antics now!
Who are your biggest musical influences?
I’ve had so many influences. I studied at the convent in Taree while I was growing up with a Saint Joseph’s nun, Sister Cecily. Sister Cecily was responsible for introducing me to Bach. I waded my way through the 48 Preludes and Fugues, which led me to the solo piano works of Keith Jarrett … I loved an eclectic mix of Classical and Jazz in the early days.
My sister was a great influence, being a couple of years older and having a musician’s taste in music, she introduced me to Bowie, Bonnie Raitt, Joni Mitchell, Steely Dan, Led Zeppelin, Chick Corea; she had a massive collection.
Now my biggest influences are Eliane Elias, Michel Camilo and the Dave Weckl Band. I’m sure I’ve left out loads; I’m a subscriber to the US magazine Jazz Times, and every month I discover someone new and very cool!
Describe your musical style …
The style of my current trio is a mixture of Latin Jazz, Pop, Fusion and Classical … how does that all work? Come along to Wingham Akoostik Festival and find out.
What is your most memorable gig, and why?
That’s a really hard one to answer. So many gigs just blend into each other, and the odd crazy nights stand out in my mind. Every musician has a gig story to tell. Phillip and I spent more than 6 years playing to audiences in Japan … now, most of those gigs became like the movie Ground Hog Day: same outfits, same elevator ride to the top floor, audience looking the same etc. etc. etc.
But on one occasion I found myself being stared down by a most stunning looking black American woman with long dreadlocks and wearing a huge black overcoat. She was so close to me she was almost on stage, and her shiny, red lips were smiling widely at me.
I thought, “Hello … here’s another looney!” I finished the song and she approached me on stage, took my hands into hers and asked me my name. I told her my name and she said to me, “I haven’t heard a singer like you in years. Your voice is so pure, and I wish I could sing those high notes like you. I want to help you.”
I smiled and thanked her and then asked her name. It was Roberta Flack … and I almost fell over. Well, that really broke the spell of Ground Hog Day, and we were on a high for weeks!
Who are the other band members?
My husband, drummer Phillip, and Warren McAlister on bass guitar.
Phillip has a bio too long to mention; however, his playing speaks for itself. He always leaves you wanting more and hanging on every drum solo.
Highlights from Phillip’s extensive career include albums with Jackie Orszacksy, Tommy Emmanuel, 1927 and Electric Pandas.
Warren has been immersed in the Australian music scene throughout his career, both as a player and as music technology guru.
Passionate about groove, feel, tempo and electronics, he continues to create tools for the contemporary musician – changing the way we work with modern recording systems.
A recent escape from the city to the beautiful Blue Mountains provided the opportunity to reconnect with me and Phil – we’re long-time friends.
Do you think live and local music is dead?
That’s an interesting topic. I feel the new wave of computers/YouTube and easy downloading of music has made the live music scene even more important. It is really a band’s only chance to sell a hard copy of their album and to gain the respect of true listeners. Recordings can be so untrue, and so many acts simply can’t perform live these days. I hear so much music now that has been ripped from other composers in the generations before – nothing seems original at all any more. Live is the only true representation for me; it’s not dead.
You also have a music school, when and where did it begin and how does it operate?
Yes, my husband (drummer) Phillip Campbell and I started the Waratah School of Music in 2002 in Katoomba (Blue Mountains). It’s great passion of both of ours; we have no kids of our own, and we love the relationships we have been able to build with the kids who come to the school.
It’s a very contemporary school; we run normal one on one classes and also have workshops and summer camps. From our experience in the industry we have been able to invite guests to the school like Jon English, Josh Pyke, Garth Porter and most recently, a wonderful cabaret band from Berlin.
We try and stress the importance of playing in bands and facilitate young musicians to perform as often as they can. We organise a lot of fundraisers with the kids; they raised $3,000 for Haiti and $2,800 for QLD floods. It gives them a worthy reason to perform, and it is an incredible experience for them.
We are lucky to live in a very arts and music based community in the mountains. We have wonderful venues for the kids to perform … hoping to bring them up to Taree in the near future too.
What would be your ‘words of wisdom’ to someone hoping to pursue a career as a musician?
Determination and the will to not give in. You need a driving passion to be a musician; it should come from the heart … a passion you simply cannot live without. But remember: it’s good to have another line of work up your sleeve to make ends meet, because even though a musical career can be extremely rewarding creatively, it might not buy you all your dreams.
What can people expect from your show?
An eclectic mix of music from our album Sunshine Embrace and a selection of covers that have been dissected, rung out and spun dried sunny side up!