Aussie crooner, David Campbell, is about to embark on his biggest regional tour to date and is stopping at Sawtell on his way through. We catch up with David to talk touring, Broadway and Shout!
Tell us about your initiation to the stage.
I guess it was in high school. I was raised by my grandmother, and we didn’t really have the money to do music. It cost extra to do the music curriculum at my high school, so I used to hang out at the music room all the time. That meant that I could try and get in to choirs and do all the free stuff. A couple of guys were putting a Rock band together and they’d heard about me showing off in the back of the choir, and they asked me to sing in their band. So I thought this was the greatest news ever. In my head, I’d basically been signed to an international record label! And that’s how it began …
You’ve done some work at the Sydney Opera House. Tell us about working there.
The Opera House is one of those places where you always pinch yourself when you walk in to it. I think you do that as an audience member because you’re so in awe of it, but as a performer when you walk in there, especially if you’ve got a full house (which is wonderful), you just are in awe of the place.
You did a stint in New York and working on Broadway …
Well, I moved over there to get more work. I wasn’t getting much work here, and I started doing auditions and dipping my finger into the water. It just started snowballing really quickly. So I moved over there and worked on Broadway, off Broadway, and workshopped Broadway shows, and it was just an amazing rush. I got to work with some incredible people like Steven Sondheim and Bea Arthur and all of these amazing legends. You’re hanging out with people that you’ve only ever read about. So it really is like a dream.
When did you realise you’d made the big time?
I don’t know if you ever really feel like you have. When I met the Queen, I felt like that was a really big moment, but I meet a lot of queens! Unfortunately with this career and the way that the industry is now, it’s about what you do next.
My attitude is to never rest on your laurels and try to forge ahead and see what’s going to happen next. I think that the minute you do let it go to your head, it falls apart. The only time I ever did that was after Shout. I thought, “Oh this is great, I’ve done Shout, I’m on top of the world!” It all just slowly crumbled around my ears. It was a harsh but a good lesson to learn. I think you’ve always got to keep moving like a shark, or you die.
What has been the highlight of your career so far?
I guess Shout was a career highlight. It was such an important show for me to be playing an Australian legend (Johnny O’Keefe), when you’re the son of an Australian legend and representing Australian music from the guy who basically created it. Being part of an all Australian show that was selling out across the country was amazing. It was a really great time, and I don’t think I relished it enough.
You briefly mentioned your father there, Jimmy Barnes. Obviously he wasn’t involved in your childhood so much. Since he’s become a part of your life, how has he influenced your work?
Just his work ethic, for a start. He really is one of the greatest and hardest workers I’ve ever seen. He treats people well, and he works really hard. He works on his craft and himself a lot, and he never takes anything for granted. I really respect that.
As his son, I respect him anyway, but I respect his work ethic as a performer. It’s taught me a lot, and his way of working is actually the right way of working in this country.
Have you done a lot of work together with him?
We’ve done a few things. We’ve done some tracks on albums, and we’ve done some little shows here and there. I really want us to get off our butts and do more, but it’s about finding time to do it. He’s always busy and I’m always busy … it’s really hard.
Tell us about the album you’re touring at the moment.
It was released on Mother’s Day last year and it went top 10, which was great. But this tour is more an amalgamation of the last ten years, which includes this album. So it’s Broadway songs as well as a lot of Swing stuff, some good loving stuff, some Shout … it really is a something for everyone show.
What was the best thing about recording the album, David Campbell on Broadway?
We did a documentary with it, which was on Foxtel. Hopefully we’ll release that on DVD later this year. But it really was something that’s a companion piece to the making of the album. It’s where we interview people like John Kander, who wrote Chicago and New York New York, and we got in to the songwriters’ heads about why they wrote these songs and why write for Broadway.
When I told Sony that I wanted to do this album and they agreed, I turned to my wife and said, “Let’s do a documentary, then we’ll do a Broadway album, then we’ll do a big tour with a symphony.” And she just shook her head like I was crazy. But we pulled it off, and all the parts of it were great.
The tour that you’re doing is apparently the biggest regional tour that you’ve done to date.
Yeah, we’re doing 3 states in 2 months.
What’s different about this tour?
Mostly the regional aspect of it. We’ve been doing a lot of small tours up to far north QLD and some RSLs in NSW, but we’re taking this out on the road a bit more now. That’s what’s so different about it; it’s that we’ve never been to these places. It’s sort of a greatest hits (well I don’t really have any greatest hits) out of the last four albums that I’ve done, as well as Shout.
Any words of wisdom for those who want to get involved in stage productions?
Work hard at it, and don’t take no for an answer.
Where’s a good starting point?
Don’t listen to your family! Don’t listen to Mum and Dad when they say, “Oh, you’ve got a lovely voice”. Actually go out there and just work. Work in front of an audience, because an audience, particularly in Australia, will tell you the truth. They’ll say you’re rubbish, that was great, what are you wearing?! They’ll let you know straight away.
My advice would be get out there, get some lessons and start working straight away. I believe in apprenticeships, and I believe in doing it on the job.
Thanks David. Good luck with the tour. David Campbell will be performing at Sawtell RSL on Thursday 19 May. For more info, contact the club on 6653 1577.