With focus in his eyes and precision in his fingertips, Jack Campbell carefully searches for that one perfect note. A strum here. A pluck there. Both satisfied and unconvinced, Campbell wonders what words will accompany the pitch. “Music works differently all the time,” Campbell said. “I go through stretches where I can’t write anything. Sometimes I feel like jamming, and I can only write instrumental parts. Sometimes I can only write lyrics and put it with music later.”
Through the entire tedious task, one thing is obvious: Campbell was born to be a musician. That explains why he started at such a young age. He’s been hooked since kindergarten when he had a friend whose stepdad was a music producer in Chicago.
“[My friend’s stepdad] always would have us work with the programs and produce music,” Campbell said. “It wasn’t the best, but it was super fun, and I just kind of picked up the guitar after that, and I’ll be doing this forever.”
Once a guitar was in his hands, Campbell took a unique path to master it. Instead of learning entirely through lessons, he mixed professional and personal instruction to develop his style and expertise. As he points out, the latter learning course was the one he really enjoyed.
“I went through some stretches where I took lessons when I was younger, but it was only fun when I was doing stuff that wasn’t related to the lessons,” he said.
That’s why he loves music. Instead of simply playing songs by other artists or learning music from other people, Campbell likes to listen to all kinds of music and find the right combination of sound to depict his own style.
“It’s been a long musical journey for me,” Campbell said. “I love the Presidents of the United States of America, and my first favorite band when I was little was the Beatles.
“In the past couple years, I’ve started studying different kinds of music like jazz,” Campbell said. “You come to this point eventually where you realize that music is music, and you break through the archetypes to make music that you like no matter the genre.”
Campbell has always used his craft as a way to express himself through his voice and instruments, and his inspiration is often something that people can relate to: attraction to another person.
“When you’re my age and hormones are crazy, that’s usually the strongest emotion,” Campbell said. “I’ve written some songs about video games and cartoons, too, but it’s usually about girls to be totally blunt.”
As a senior at Duluth East High School, Campbell has taken his musical ability beyond just playing to himself and writing songs. Not only is he involved in music programs at school, but he has also recorded numerous songs, has a band and even plays shows around the area.
Campbell has been a part of several bands, including one that started when he was a freshman in high school. After a couple of years in that band, Campbell met a drummer and a bassist, and the three eventually formed the band Campbell is currently in. While the group doesn’t always have a ton of time to practice, as the other two members are in college, his band still gets the opportunity to play shows.
“We haven’t practiced at all this month, but we have four shows coming up,” Campbell said. “We’ll always do a bunch of shows at once, go down to the cities and do a couple shows, then just kind of chill out. We’re not trying to accomplish anything besides playing good music.”
Since hectic, clashing schedules don’t lend much time for practice, Campbell has taken the art of producing albums into his own hands.
“I play all the instruments on all the songs I have recorded right now,” Campbell said. “It’s kind of scary. I’ll do the guitar first, then the drums because those are the anchors for everything.
“It usually sounds pretty bad at that point,” Campbell said. “Once I put in the bass line, it either comes together or doesn’t work at all. It’s kind of a gamble.”
Once it gets to that point, Campbell has to make an executive decision: Go on with the song and try to adjust it to sound right, or nix it and start from step one. What he decides is often based off his own intuitions and those of others.
“There’s some songs that I’ve thought were really bad, but other people have heard the demo and think that it could be really good and I could make it really good,” Campbell said.
When it’s all said and done, Campbell expects the product to be something that not only shows off his talent but something that fits together and makes him nod his head to the beat.
“Really it’s all about whether or not it grooves,” Campbell said. “For me, that’s what a good recording and song is all about. It has to be locked in and not sound forced. That’s music.”