Sign up for newsletter
 

Shawn Camp sets off fireball

By David McPherson, June 2006

There ain't nothing like the sound of a hound dog getting ready for a hunt. It's a sound Nashville songwriter Shawn Camp knows well. The yelping and yapping of a dozen beagle hounds, owned by the late, great Jimmy Martin, even make their way onto his new disc "Fireball" (in a song aptly-titled "Beagle Hound"). Before the memorable Martin left this world, Camp had the fortune to join the King of Bluegrass and his dear-old dogs for some good-ole rabbit hunting a couple of times.

"One of the mornings, he was taking me out to the dog pen, and I turned my little mini-disc recorder on, and it only worked for a minute, and all I had was these dogs barking," he recalls. "I didn't think about it too much, then I ran across it when I was making this record, and I just couldn't help but put it on the front because the song was called 'Beagle Hound.' That's how it was...he had about a dozen beagles out there, and they all had famous country singers' names like Hank Williams. He also had a goat named Rhonda Vincent...he had a whole barnyard full of livestock, and these dogs were going nuts. He has a tone to him, so you can tell it's him hollering."

"It was really a highlight," he adds. "I got to play fiddle for him one time ...just one show. He did one more show after that. That was really a treat to get to know him, and I sure did love his singing."

On "Fireball," released in late March on Camp's own label, Camp croons his way through 13 songs that lean more towards his first true love of bluegrass. "I was raised on it," he says. "I've always loved country music too. This record has a lot of electric instruments and a lot of honky-tonk stuff on it too. I think a common bluegrass thread runs through it, but there is also a lot of stuff plugged in too."

"Fireball" came about because the songsmith had a lot of songs that he had been "piling up."

"Over the course of the last few years, I've been focused on becoming more of a performing artist instead of just a songwriter," he says. "The only way to do that is put a record together and send it out to people and then get places to play. I had quite a few things already recorded that I really felt needed to go on this package, and it really started coming together...I don't really know how."

Helping him keep on moving and get his music out there is that Camp owns a record label (Skeeterbit), which he founded in 2001 with the release of his solo debut "Lucky Silver Dollar." "At this point in time, major labels seem to be more of a hindrance than a help," he comments. "With the Internet and the ability to move music so quickly, whether it be MP3s or downloads...the big machines are not all they're cracked up to be other than having the money to promote somebody. That's the only drawback, and if that's all there is, then artists can hire some promotion team to do the same thing that a major label would be doing, and you still have your records, and you can put them out when you desire to put them out instead of having to take a committee and having them vote on when something should be released or if it is good enough to be out. I think the world is moving too fast for those big major labels now."

Camp - an Arkansas native - is a seasoned veteran of Music City who hasn't let the fast pace of country city overtake his dreams. He arrived in Nashville in 1987 as a 20-year-old frenetic fiddler, who was asked by the Grand Ole Opry's Osborne Brothers to join their act. He later played for Jerry Reed, Alan Jackson, Suzy Bogguss, Shelby Lynne and Trisha Yearwood before going solo in 1991. He released a self-titled album for Warner in 1993, but got dropped before releasing another.

Like most struggling songwriters who arrive in this Tennessee town following their dream, Camp has had his share of highs and lows, but his perseverance has paid off with songwriting success, having penned number one singles for the likes of Garth Brooks ("Two Piņa Coladas") and Brooks & Dunn ("How Long Gone").

"It's had its ups and downs, but at least I'm not the weirdo that plays music," he says. "People come and go. It's pretty weird. There is a pretty good size group of people that have remained. But sometimes you think back in your mind, and you come upon a memory of somebody, and you wonder what became of them. People drop out of the music business all the time, and you never know unless you were close to them what became of them."

"Music is an emotional thing," he continues. "If your heart and soul is involved in your dream, it can be a real heartbreaking thing when you get turned down or when nothing happens...that can be just as bad as completely being turned away. If you believe in something enough to move to this city and try to be a part of it and you end up doing hard labor instead, it can be a frustrating thing, especially for someone who is educated, spent time going to college, and they have a trade they could be doing, but they are following their dream. It's right on the borderline of heartbreak at all times."

Like most honky tonk and bluegrass records, "Fireball" features its share of heartbreak songs with other typical country themes of fast women and fast cars. All 13 songs were also co-written; this partnership of the pen is something Camp finds fuels his muse.

"I love it," he says. "It's a lot of fun. Probably 80 per cent of the songs I've written have been co-written. I write a little bit by myself, but most of the things I write by myself never leave my house because they are so personal. When you are with somebody and have a co-writer there you have fun all day, and you bounce ideas off each other, and you know from one moment to the next how far along you are in the song and how good that song is and if it measures up to the next one."

"Plus, you've got their whole side of the song...they have publishing companies also and they are working on each side of town towards getting that song recorded by somebody. It's a partnership that certainly moves your name around a lot, and that's been really appealing to me from the word go."

Besides his new disc, Camp is also excited about the success that Josh Turner is having with his sophomore disc "Your Man" since Camp contributed four of his compositions to this record. "Each spare moment, I have I try to make something up or write a song," he says. "There are no weekends with the music business. You do it every day. You better do something towards it, or it will fall by the wayside."