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 in Christ, they not only manage to keep a level head but do what is
in their power to infiltrate the secular with the sacred.
— interview by Melanie Clark —
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." 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 town, 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 was 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]
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
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!
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