From West KY to Music City: Cody Campbell Releases First Self-Titled, All-Original EP

Aug 29, 2020

Cody Campbell began his musical career at two years old at the Kentucky Opry in Benton, Kentucky. Since then, he has had a prolific career as a touring rhythm musician and backing instrumentalist. This year, Campbell released his first self-titled, all-original record. He speaks with Tracy Ross about his new release, musical beginnings, and working in Nashville. 

Campbell's father, Clay Campbell, opened the Kentucky Opry in April of 1988. Campbell Sr. would frequently call Cody up to the stage to sing with the house band "long before I actually had any musical skills," Cody says with a laugh. "I still don't even consider myself a singer, but I love it [now]. In my teens, I got to a point where I enjoyed it more."

"As far as the instrumental side, I began taking lessons from a classical teacher at age four," Campbell continues. "It took me several years before I could even play anything both hands together. I played learning by ear. A couple years into that, [I] started trying to learn to read music. At age eleven, I started trying to play...with my dad's band. I wasn't improvising at that point -- I would have a song that I learned, usually from sheet music, and I would come out and play a couple songs. When I was twelve or thirteen, he actually needed a piano player. I was too inexperienced...but he didn't want to hire someone else. He wanted to get me in there. That's the greatest musical opportunity I could've had because I was just kind of thrown blindly to it. At first, he would have me play the easy songs. I'd play a few songs just as a rhythm piano player as a member of the band. Before too long, I was playing on every song."

Campbell would continue performing with his father's band at the Kentucky Opry for thirteen years. During that time, Campbell also began playing with local musicians and WKMS veterans, including Bawn in the Mash, Nathan Blake Lynn, the Solid Rock'it Boosters, and John McDaniel [also known as Johnny Mac]. "I've probably done over a thousand gigs with [John] if you count the times when we played with my dad's band."

At the end of 2011, Campbell moved to Nashville and began touring with a '50s and '60s rock n' roll revue. While he doesn't play much within city limits, he's "still in shock about how many great players there are down here." After moving to Madison with his wife, Campbell began recording at a studio just up the road from his home called Cinderella Studios. 

"[The studio] is run by Wayne Moss. He's played on tons and tons of records, hit songs...he plays bass and guitar. He calls it the 'oldest continuously running studio in Nashville.' I don't know if it really is, but when you step into that place, you'd think it is. I love the smell...fifty-year-old dust. You can walk in there and look and see that nothing has changed since the '60s. It's like wandering into a time warp. It's a really vibey, cool place. It was just an amazing situation getting to record there. That happened because of my friendship with John McDaniel," Campbell says. "I ended up recording ten or twelve different projects with ten or twelve different artists [at Cinderella Studios] with me being a sideman. I finally did my own thing and made a record there myself."

The self-titled release was written over several years. Campbell doesn't consider himself a songwriter, "but I've always wanted to do that," he says. "I've always wanted to be in a band and do that. I've been in bands, but I write bass parts and piano parts. I don't really write the songs. I wrote my first song when I was 26, so like eight years ago. A year or two later, I wrote a couple more, then a few more years later, I wrote the rest of the tunes for the album. I guess once I wrote enough for an EP...I kind of had it in my mind that I could release it [all] or at one time."

Cody Campbell's recent self-titled release includes "eight original tracks featuring a staggeringly impressive lineup of supporting musicians moving through a variety of musical styles, from traditional country and western to swing." For more information or to buy an album, visit Cody Campbell's website