“The sign of your salvation is a light that shines within,” sings Nashville-based troubadour Matt Campbell on the song The Night That I Found Jesus. It could rightfully serve as the theme for Campbell’s latest full-length project, The Man With Everything. It may seem like a boast, but with each passing song it becomes clear there is a redefining of what it means to have “everything.” An ambitious undertaking for a relative newcomer in a Nashville obsessed with commercial success and manufactured appeal.
“I came to Nashville to be heard,” says Campbell. “If you have something to say, take it to the marketplace, take it to the town square.”
Part poet, politician, and provocateur, all qualities are on display in his latest offering. Recorded and produced with Joseph Lekkas (Flour Sack Cape Records), The Man With Everything is a thoughtful, yet unflinching portrait of a songwriter striving to understand his place in the world. It’s also a collection of songs drawn straight out of American culture. It doesn’t hurt that he knows how to turn a phrase better than most.
Originally from Colorado, Campbell began playing while a member of the US Coast Guard. Moving to New York City, he began to write and perform regularly, eventually recording songs for what would become his first release, The East 3rd Street Waltz in 2005. After releasing another album and a seven song EP, Campbell was on the move again. Landing in Chicago, Campbell started his own label and production company, The Chicago Talking Machine Co., released several more albums including a live album recorded at the legendary Old Town School of Folk Music, and also produced several short films and live music residencies. After five years in the Windy City, Campbell was ready for another challenge and set his sights on Nashville.
At 41, Campbell isn’t reaching for pop stardom, but he wasted little time making his mark in Music City. As an officer of American Legion Post 82, Campbell’s direct efforts helped start a revitalization of the post as a hub of activity for musicians on the city’s East side. Working as a bar back between tours, Campbell soon became known as “The Robert’s Troubadour,” going from taking out the garbage to gracing the stage at the legendary country music outpost of Lower Broadway. “I still take the garbage out sometimes,” laughs Campbell. That relationship led to hosting “For The People,” a weekly radio show presented by WSM 650AM that turns 1 in November. And now, he has his “Nashville” record to add to the mix. Not quite 5 years have passed.