Interview With Warryn Campbell
A Ministry of Making Hits

There are many folks in the entertainment industry who by virtue of what they do for a living, take daily walks on the wild side. However, for those who are rooted and grounded Warryn Campbellin Christ, they not only manage to keep a level head but do what is in their power to infiltrate the secular with the sacred.

Mega-producer Warryn Campbell has produced major hits on both sides of the fence, among them chart-topping hits for Dru Hill, Yolanda Adams, Dawkins and Dawkins, and Shanice, and it doesn't take a magnifying glass to see his obvious commitment to music. What you will come to know is that he is as greatly committed to God, and he takes time to share with us that it's not so hard to maneuver through this world when Christ truly lives inside.

Campbell started out like so many in the music industry —at church. He is the son of a preacher and spent his early years playing and singing in different places. " That's where my roots are. That's where I started, playing at a lot of different churches. I sang in a group when I was younger, my little sister and me. From the time I was born, I played in church, whether it was drums, bass or organ. That's my foundation for everything I do."

"At first I was one of those cats that said 'I'm never going to play a secular music.' [Because] my dad's a preacher, I grew up thinking it was bad until he sat me down one day and explained to me. I guess he heard me saying this, and he said 'Look you're gifted and God has given you this skill. You use what He's given you as a living. You like to do music. You can do secular music. Just don't get your occupation mixed up with your salvation.' "

And Campbell seems to be able to do that well, probably better than most. He went on to do some session work at hard-hitting Death Row Records "I did a lot of records like Tupac and a lot of DJ Quik's stuff. DJ Quik was kind of mentoring me." Warryn Campbell However, there are things that Campbell says, learning from experience, he wouldn't do again, "A lot of times I was doing music tracks and I didn't know what [lyrical content] was coming afterwards. I would ask for the credits before they put the record out. I'd go to them afterward and tell them 'This song here, take my name off of this one. Take my name off of that one.' At the time all I was thinking about was that I didn't want my dad to see my name on this."

Following that experience, he spent some time on the road with R&B crooner Brandy. When he came home, he decided to invest in some equipment and start kicking out tracks!

He caught the eye of Jon Platt at EMI. "I was in a unique situation with my publisher because most publishers acquire your publishing after it's made a lot of money. Let's say you had a song and the song went double platinum and made a lot of money. And now you want a publishing deal. What the publishing company would do is acquire a piece of your publishing for a substantial amount of money. In my situation, I hadn't had any songs out. I was just an up and coming writer and Big Jon signed me to a developmental type of deal to where he [helped] develop me as a writer. He started placing my songs and got me in the studio. He'd send them out and pound the pavement for placement. It took about the year and a half. He was grooming me and coaching me on my writing. But that was a unique situation and not a lot of publishers do that. A lot of them are not willing to take that route. I'm definitely blessed, because it doesn't happen like that. I was completely free and untied with no production deals, no publishing deals or anything like that. I just happened to be in the right place, at the right time with the right person. He saw something in me that I didn't see in myself."

And because of the example Platt set for him, Campbell is now able to extend that helping hand to others. Happily for us, this means some great new Gospel artists, producers and collaborations.

"Right now I'm finishing up my Gospel group, Mary, Mary. They are the first act signed to my production label. I've known them for a while just seeing them around Mary, Marytown, and then they were introduced to me through a mutual friend. We started working together doing songs and the next thing I know, we had an album pretty much done." Mary, Mary has a highly anticipated spring 2000 release coming out on Columbia Records, but their smash hits "Yeah" and "Time to Change" on Yolanda Adams' Mountain High...Valley Low are an early taste of the writing talent that they exude. " We signed them to the publishing company and they just started writing a bunch of songs for Yolanda Adams, the Dr. Dolittle Soundtrack and 702. So they've been busy."

On the Gospel front, Campbell's also been busy shaping the forthcoming gospel project by Dru Hill's Woody, also slated for release in 2000. "Woody's album is hot! It's straight Gospel. Coming from Woody's point of view, he's like 'I'm just a guy who loves God and this is just an album giving thanks.' " Guest spots on this one include Dru Hill, Case and Jive's ‘Pentecostal Poppa’, BBJay.

As for the sometimes questionable subject matter that is present at times on the projects Campbell contributes to, one has to consider that sometimes the ministry isn't in the song. Oftentimes, exposure to artists and industry folk can be an opportunity to minister by example, or by contrast of lifestyle. "Everybody knows that I come from church, and thay my dad's a preacher. But it's definitely a lifestyle thing to where if everybody's cussing and drinking, and after awhile they're going to notice that you're not doing the same things that they're doing. I was working with Heavy D who is a good friend of mine. We had been working together for about two weeks and one day he [asked me why I don't cuss] I was like 'No, it's just something that I don't do as a Christian'. So that opened the door and he knew something was different. When it came time for him needing prayer or something Heavy Dwas going on his family, he came straight to me. [Sometimes] your sermon is your life. It's the way I live in front of these people. They see me doing what I do. [I'm] a praiser."

It's this concept of music being different when it comes to "just being a job" that is arguable. Some offer that music is a form of ministry that should be held to a higher standard. To this Campbell says, "Music does touch and reach a lot of people being a multimedia business; but at the same time when you work at an office you're reaching whoever's in that office. You may not be reaching the same amount of people but you're touching somebody. And [undoubtedly] everybody that you're around isn't saved. And how big it is doesn't really matter to me, whether you're touching one person or you're touching a million people. You can sing to a hundred people and only one may really feel what you're doing. There are whole lot of stigmas and stereotypes of what Gospel should be and what music should be and who should do this and who can do that. But my thing is that everybody should just do what God has YOU to do and don't worry about everybody else's stuff you know?"

So what is it that God would have Campbell to do? "Right now I know God has placed a calling on my life, through my music to touch people. Right now I'm not a preacher but I realize there's a message, especially when doing Gospel. There's a certain standard that He's set. Right now my ministry is to make hits. That's my ministry! To make as many hits as possible, so that in the future people will respect me that when I'm ready to put my own record company together, I'll have people's respect to let me do what I do."

So in this cross-genre life, Campbell manages to remember his Source, and tries to shine a little Light on the world. No doubt, no matter where Warryn Campbell travels and ends up, he's got a praise on his heart and will make sure it makes the track listing!

— interview by Melanie Clark

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