Craig Campbell

Craig Campbell

"I'm gonna change your tomorrow, tonight," sings Craig Campbell in his new single. Though he may be telling tales of romance and the sparks that happen after dark in “Tomorrow Tonight," Campbell's never taken a backseat to anything. He’s certainly never taken a backseat in his career as one of country's brightest rising stars who exists in a perfect sweet spot between tradition and modernity; neither as a songwriter; nor as a family man. He's always been the kind of person to change his own tomorrow, tonight. That doesn't mean the road to "Tonight" has always been easy. There have been bumps along the way for the Georgia-born artist, on his path from the small town of Lyons to Nashville's Music Row. But through radio hits like "Keep Them Kisses Comin’," "Fish" and "Family Man," and countless shows, he's kept his eyes on his mission – to bring his fans true country music with a spin all his own, through timeless songs that tell his life story. And with "Tomorrow Tonight"(co-written with Justin Wilson and Vicky McGehee) Campbell's ready to share the next chapter: where that timelessness meets the here and now. "It encompasses all of what I love about country music right now," he says of the track. "It has a balance of what you think of as more traditional, and also more modern sounds. I really believe in findinga way to meet in the middle – it lets me be proud of the music I make and am writing. And I feel like there is a great spot out there for music like this right now." Ushered in by cascading guitars and a sweeping mid-tempo chorus that could fit just as easily into the arms of a chanting arena as an intimate living room, "Tomorrow Tonight" effortlessly embodies the neo-traditionalist tag he has come to personify. While some country artists are truly vintage, resurrecting a bygone era, and others are infusing their sound with rap or electronica, Campbell is what happens when these worlds meld in harmony. He loves singing about romance and fatherhood; but he also likes being playful, sexy, even funny at times. "Tomorrow, Tonight" is the perfect amalgam of all these sides – catchy and loose with an unshakable emotional drive and a chorus that you can't help but sing along to. "There are a lot of sides to me that people haven’t yet seen," he says, currently at work on his third record. "You can expect some great music with a little more energy, and a lot more fire." He'll certainly show these other sides on his forthcoming LP, which signals a whole new era for Campbell – new label, new songwriters, new producer (Jeremy Stover, known for his many successes with Justin Moore) and a new outlook that lets him explore all the facets of his unique niche in the country landscape. And the timing is perfect. While the genre shoots off in directions left and right, Campbell's a singer capable of melding both the old and the new into something purely special, purely his own. There's a palpable energy in the tracks, from "Hangin'" which fuses a honky-tonk spirit with a full-throttle, hard-rock energy, to slinky vibes of "Upstairs" that's edgier – and naughtier – than anything he's done
previously. The guitars are bigger, the sound rounder, the vision more complete. It's Campbell like he's never been heard before, but it's actually the truest to himself yet. Campbell's kept pushing even through the difficult times, back when his original record label folded. "It was very deflating," he admits, but he kept persevering. His sophomore LP, Never Regret, gained him comparisons to Alan Jackson, Travis Tritt and Clint Black, and "Keep Them Kisses Comin’" climbed into the Top Ten of Country radio. It wasn't long after the shuttering of his former label Bigger Picture that his current home, BBR Music Group's RED BOW, snatched him up nearly instantly. RED BOW recognized that it was crucial to keep that classic-country-bred, smooth-as-molasses voice singing. Growing up in a strong Southern Baptist home, Campbell fell in love early with the sounds of Country radio, and built a foundation not just as a singer and performer, but as a songwriter. It was a conversation with Luke Bryan, for whom he once played keyboard, that really helped him set his priorities clear. "He said, 'man you need to be writing songs, and you need to be writing with different people, twice a day,'" recalls Campbell. "That's where you can define yourself as an artist, with people writing songs that tell your story. And nobody is going to sing them better than you.'" That dedication to the craft made him not only understand the importance of crafting songs like "Tomorrow Tonight" with trusted collaborators, but also to keep writing, constantly. It's an ethos that recently led to Garth Brooks himself cutting his track "All American Kid" for Man Against the Machine."That was such a huge, huge honor," said Campbell. "I didn't believe it was happening, even when he was recording it." "Tomorrow Tonight," is the blueprint for Campbell's road ahead, full of songs that tug at heartstrings, push boundaries and seep in with infectious melodies. "All the songs we are writing are all very committed and current," he says. "But it's still me, singing. That's the main thing I want people to say, at the end of the day: that I'm a great singer, who truly loves country music." Tonight, tomorrow, and forever.

Connor Christian

"Every night I have a new hometown," sings Connor Christian in the title track of the latest release from Connor Christian & Southern Gothic, New Hometown. Those words could be the mantra of many touring bands, whose lives become a blur of highways, hotel rooms, stages and crowds. But in the case of Connor Christian & Southern Gothic – "CCSG" as their fans affectionately know them – those words are more than just a metaphorical description of the troubadour lifestyle of a band on the road. They are a nod to the beginnings of a band – not just its members, who come from places as far and wide as Los Angeles to Russia – but also its music, an amalgamation of roots-rock, country and Americana.

"We don't like to box ourselves in," says Christian. "But we hear from fans all the time that our blend of sounds and influences is one of the things they love. When we get on a stage, it just clicks. It's seamless. And based on the way people are reacting, it must be working." It's working indeed. From the fiddle-driven and harmony-rich opener "Sheets Down", to the country-ballad swoon of "Only Need You", "(She's) My Salvation" or "Back in Dixie", to the unapologetic, raunchy swagger of "When I'm Gone", or the instrumental twin-fiddle blast of the aptly-named "Fiddler", New Hometown is an 18 song joyride. Produced by Christian and John Briglevich (Goo Goo Dolls, Edwin McCain), this is roots music crafted by a restlessness of spirit, born from the travels of a true troubadour.

Connor Christian was born in Los Angeles, but before he was a teenager, had lived in South Korea, Indonesia and Belgium. At the age of 14, he left home with a guitar and a backpack, and continued his travel and musical growth in Pennsylvania, Florida, Georgia, South America and even Africa. By the time he settled in Atlanta, GA in 1996, his life and his music were steeped in culture and influence from his well-traveled youth, and a tradition of diversity. And it was in that tradition that he began crafting what would become CCSG.

Connor met drummer Shawn Thacker in 2004. Thacker, a Rome, GA native, was raised as many rural Southerners were – surrounded by guitars, fiddles, mandolins and banjos. And, of course, KISS. "Hearing 'Detroit Rock City' by the flashing lights of my uncle's 8-track player was a life-changer," says Thacker. Suburban Washington, DC native and bass player Joe Abramson, who cut his teeth on '60s British blues and "pretty much anything with loud guitars," rounded out what initially began as a trio, the first incarnation of what would later become CCSG.

Continuing in the spirit of New Hometown, next came classically trained violinist (turned fiddler) Elena Martin, born and raised deep in Soviet Siberia. Aside from her fiddle work, Martin is beloved among fans for her huge smile and infectious on-stage energy. Multi-instrumentalist and Syracuse, NY native Jeff Spirko completed the lineup, joining in 2010. Spirko moves with ease between guitar, mandolin, banjo, fiddle and piano, but he's not alone in his multi-instrumental talent. Christian, in addition to his vocal duties, plays guitar, piano and mandolin, and Martin plays piano and mandolin when not blistering the neck of her fiddle. The band's ability to move between so many instruments adds not only a great dynamic to the music, but a level of excitement to their live show as well.

"Live, there are definitely some moments that might look like a fire drill. We have a song or two where some of us change instruments mid-song, so to the uninitiated, it looks chaotic. But it adds to the excitement. And it gives us so much flexibility on stage to do different things, and change the texture of the show from song to song."

CCSG has spent the better part of the past three years on the road. When not headlining, they've shared stages with such artists as Zac Brown Band, Tim McGraw, Willie Nelson, Corey Smith, Big & Rich, Uncle Kracker, Gloriana, STYX, ZZ Top, Heart, Foreigner, and more. The diverse nature of the artists with whom they've toured again reflects the diversity of the band's sound. "It works," says Christian in regard to the varying nature of the audiences. "We've played to country crowds, rock crowds, young crowds, old crowds. We've played to jam band audiences and we've played bluegrass festivals. The response with all of them has been fantastic."

Fantastic enough for Billboard Magazine to notice. CCSG was named "Artist on the Verge" in Billboard's Best Bets of 2012 issue. "It's pretty crazy," says Christian of the accolade. "I hope it's a harbinger of things to come."

And if the momentum gained in the past year is any indication, CCSG indeed has big things to come. The release of New Hometown on February 12 will be preceeded by the release of the video for "Sheets Down", directed by Mil Cannon (Usher, Pink, John Mayer, Collective Soul), and supported by the band's continued "never-stop" approach to touring.

"We've traveled the world," says Christian. "We find the people, the stories - there's always something familiar, no matter where we go. So when we get to play songs that are shaped by those people and those places, somehow it always feels like we are home, no matter where we are."

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