On Sweet Whiskey, Seattle, WA country artist (you read that right) Miller Campbell has boldly declared her intent to claim a prominent place in the canon of western music. It would serve us all well to take Ms. Campbell at her word. Armed with a voice at turns clear and bright as high mountain air and round, warm, and rough in all the right places, Campbell sings with a natural assuredness usually only found in artists with decades of experience. She gets it honest, but almost never got here at all.
Born into a musical family (Miller is Glen Campbell's cousin), she grew up a classically trained musician steeped in musical theater. A statuesque natural redhead, Campbell soon grew tired of being told she was too striking for the chorus line and started singing at open mic nights while in college. “At this point I didn't even know my history with Glen and that side of the family. I was drawn to country music as the songwriting style was so similar to musical theater.”
With a fake I.D. and big dreams, Campbell immersed in the Seattle music scene. At nineteen she formed a band called Twisted Dixie and things started to go their way in a big way. “We were HOT in the Seattle scene” laughs Campbell. They played huge venues, casinos, rodeos and were soon selling out in their home town. While writing their first LP Campbell got some unexpected news. “I learned that I had a fatal condition that demanded immediate double jaw surgery” she explains. Campbell was put on a liquid diet and wasn’t allowed to speak for eighteen months. Unsure if she’d ever be able to sing again, she focused on songwriting and her classes, graduating the University of Washington with two degrees and honors at 21.
After graduation Campbell was recruited by the C.I.A. Two weeks before she was scheduled to deploy to Ankara, Turkey she came to the realization she just couldn’t imagine a life not suffused with music and quit. She got a sales job, and, overachiever that she is, was soon made national director. Crisscrossing the country on business, Campbell dropped in on open mics whenever she could.
Trying to find more time for music, Campbell posted an online ad. Within a week she was called in for what she thought was a backup vocalist role. Upon arriving she discovered it was for a backup guitarist position. Knowing only one cover on guitar (Miranda Lambert’s “Mama’s Broken Heart”), she gave it her best – and got the gig. She quit her job, got bought a new guitar, and spent 10 hours a day learning how to be a real player.
The tour fell through, yet the experience inspired Campbell. With the encouragement of her brother John she struck out on her own as a solo artist. A month after she made that choice John Campbell died unexpectedly from an irregular heartbeat. “He was autistic, and my absolute soulmate” relates Campbell. “He was the life and soul of the project, and the only reason I began work on this record. Without his encouragement, belief, and memory, I just can't imagine having the courage to do this. The song “One Step” is written in his memory.”
Written in Battleground, WA and Nashville, TN, Campbell rounded up a crew of star players to help bring her vision to life, including Tim Hanseroth (Brandi Carlile), Harrison Yount (Kacey Musgraves), blues artist Amber Sweeney, and Andrew Joslyn (Macklemore). The record was recorded with producer Geoff Ott (3 Doors Down, Ra Scion) at London Bridge Studio in Seattle, WA. “It was extremely important to me to record in WA” says Campbell. “I want to show the world what country music in the PNW is really all about!”
Campbell pulls no punches in the honesty of her art. “I hope that people get a genuine feel for who I am from this record” she says. “It truly follows the story of my last year and a half, which I think is something a lot of modern records lack. Above all, I hope I can make a name for country music in the Northwest. We have incredible talent, and our own unique story to tell.”
Campbell and her bands first show was in January 2017, and once again it looks like our heroine is on the way to achieving her vision. From festivals and rodeos, to country bars and honky-tonks, fans are giving themselves over to an artist that writes form the heart and sings from her very soul. Take a spin with some Sweet Whiskey and you just might get swept away as well.
Photographer: Hanna Hanseroth Photography