Skip to main content

Campbell, Sarah Elizabeth

Sarah Elizabeth Campbell

Folk singer, songwriter

For the Record

Selected discography

Sources

Contemporary folk singer Sarah Elizabeth Campbell was described by Mary Chapin Carpenter in the liner notes for Running With You as someone who writes songs from her heart. Carpenter also added, She sings them that way too. Campbell is distinguished by her hauntingly poignant voice, touching lyrics, straightforward vocal style, and depth of feeling. Her second release in 1994, Running With You, was nominated for a Best Folk Album of the Year NAIRD Award for independent musicians, and Campbell remains one of the most popular local musicians in her home town of Austin, Texas. Her unvarnished vocal quality sets her apart from many other folk singers, along with the strength and passion discernible at the core of her music. Campbells music reflects her life. In an interview with Contemporary Musicians she said, The songs I write are about things going on in my life. Theyre not songs or situations that I just dream up. I view it as a cheap form of therapy.

Campbell was born in Austin, Texas, in 1963; her mother sang and played pianoalthough not professionallyand her uncle was musically inclined as well. Campbell was one of three children. Her brother was also musical and became a guitarist for Delbert McClinton. Campbell recalls a childhood filled with music, but much of it was church music from the local Methodist church. She sang in church as a child and recalls singing and eating a lot. She liked all types of music throughout her childhood and young adulthood, but was especially fond of Ella Fitzgerald, Etta James, Marcia Ball, Tracy Nelson, and Bonnie Raitt. She was also influenced by The Beatles, Elvis Presley, and Billie Holiday. Campbell began performing in public around the age of eleven or twelve and instinctively knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that she was meant to be a singer. There was never any other career option for her. She made her debut as the Virgin Mary in a church play.

Campbell considers herself a wild child when reflecting upon her youth. When she was sixteen and still in high school, all of her friends were in their 20s and 30s. Campbell said, I flunked everything but art and music in high school. She began to pursue a singing career in earnest around the age of sixteen. Marcia Ball was her idol at the time and she used to hang out at the Split Rail in Austin in order to see Frieda and the Firedogs. She said, I was a part of that crazy Austin music scene back in the early 70s, not as a performer, but as a sixteen year old in awe. Then I started singing and writing songs and pursuing my music career with much more seriousness.... Music has always been my passion. Campbell had little trouble performing before a crowd, and after five years or so in Austins limelight, she decided to move on.

When Campbell was in her early twenties she left Austin for Boston, where she lived briefly before moving to northern California. Once she was firmly ensconced in her new home, she joined a group in northern California called Fiddlesticks that specialized in bluegrass and folk. She said, It was an old-timey bluegrass band. There were four people in the band, and I was the singer, guitarist, and sometimes a banjo player. Campbell stayed with the band for twelve yearsbefore striking out on her own, and although Fiddlesticks never released an album, they did garner an avid following in northern California. Campbell became a regular on the folk festival circuit after leaving Fiddlesticks, and performed at the Strawberry Musical Festival in northern California, the Kerriville Music Festival in Texas, and folk music venues across the country. She was also invited to perform at Switzerlands Frutigen Singer/Songwriter Festival, where she left an enduring impression. Campbell generally spends half of each year on the road, usually touring between April and September.

Campbells debut album, A Little Tenderness, was released in 1990 on the small, independent, California-based label Kaleidoscope. Kaleidoscope was noted primarily for the Kate Wolf catalog, and a woman in Wolfs band named Nina Gerber was Campbells former guitar player. Gerber produced A Little Tenderness, and the album served to place Campbell in the national

For the Record

Born May 13, 1963, in Austin, TX; one of three children.

Played with the folk/bluegrass band The Fiddlesticks for twelve years; released solo album A Little Tenderness, Kaleidoscope, 1990; released Running With You, DejaDisc 1994; contributed two songs to DejaDiscs Pastures of Plenty: An Austin Celebration of Woody Gunthrie; contributed Sad Situation to Threadgills Supper Session; her original songs have been recorded or performed by Jim Messina, Rick Danko and Levon Helm (of The Band).

Addresses: Record company DejaDisc, 537 Lindsey St., San Marcos, TX, 78666, (512)392-6610; fax (512) 754-6886; Home3809 Red River, Austin, TX 78751.

spotlight. Her first release was well-received, and she was content with Kaleidoscopebut the label folded after the owners wife suffered a major stroke. In 1994, Campbell released her second album, Running With You, on the Austin-based DejaDisc label. DejaDisc also bought Campbells first album in order to rerelease it. Campbell was one of the top four finalists forthe independent NAIRD music award for Running With You; it was in the running for the Best Folk Album of the Year NAIRD Award. In 1994, after DejaDisc moved its base to Nashville, Tennesee, Campbell left the label. She returned to her hometown of Austin and immediately reestablished herself as a premier local performer. She performed with her band and several guest artists each week at Austins La Zona Rosa. She also hosted Bummer Night there, where one rule applied: sad songs only. As a result, the crowd moaned, cried, complained, and whined along with performers each week. Some of the guest artists at La Zona Rosas Bummer Night have included Rosalie Sorrells, Peter Rowan, Tish Hinojosa, Odetta, Townes Van Zandt, Steve Young, Tom Russell, Kevin Welch, and Butch Hancock.

Campbell contributed tracks to two Austin music collections. She contributed two songs to DejaDiscs Pastures of Plenty: An Austin Celebration of Woody Gunthrie, which earned some of the highest praises for the album, and she contributed Sad Situation to Threadgills Supper Session. Campbell recorded Running With You in Austin and used Bill GinnLeonard Cohens keyboard playeras one of her producers; the other producer was Marvin Dykhuis, guitarist with Tish Hinojosa. Half of the albums twelve songs were written by Campbell, and in addition to her own material she included songs by John Prine, Karla Bonoff, Greg Trooper, Tom Russell, and Pierce Pettis. Campbell also included the first song Peggy Lee had a hit with, Waiting For The Train (To Come In) as well as the Boudleaux Bryant classic Love Hurts. John Hagen from Lyle Lovetts Large Band contributed cello, Betty Elders contributed backing vocals, Paul Sweeney was featured on mandolin, along with Paul Pearcy on drums, Dave Heath on bass, and guitarists Brian Wood and Rich Brotherton.

Campbells greatest forte is songwriting; her original songs have been recorded or performed by Jim Messina, Rick Danko and Levon Helm (of The Band). Campbell generally mixes her own original compositions with those of her favorite writers, and tends to favor material that soothes heartaches and eases dark, melancholic yearnings. I am drawn to sad songs, Campbell admits, I think my voice is built for it. That torchy stuff is easy for me to sing.

Selected discography

A Little Tenderness, Kaleidoscope, 1990; rereleased by DejaDisc in 1995.

Running With You, DejaDisc, 1994.

Sources

Online

Sarah Elizabeth Campbell, www.allmusic.com/cg/amg.exe (June 3, 1998)

Sarah Elizabeth Campbell, www.eden.com/~dejadisc/campbell.html (June 2, 1998)

Other

A Contemporary Musicians interview with Sarah Elizabeth Campbell on August 18, 1998.

B. Kimberly Taylor

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Campbell, Sarah Elizabeth." Contemporary Musicians. . Encyclopedia.com. 18 Feb. 2019 <https://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Campbell, Sarah Elizabeth." Contemporary Musicians. . Encyclopedia.com. (February 18, 2019). https://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/campbell-sarah-elizabeth

"Campbell, Sarah Elizabeth." Contemporary Musicians. . Retrieved February 18, 2019 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/campbell-sarah-elizabeth

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.