When his phone pinged several years ago, Campbell Entertainment Group founder Craig Campbell opened a text from a number he didn’t recognize: “I’m coming home late from the studio. Will you pick up some milk and bread on your way home?”
“Who is this?” he wrote back.
That exchange was perhaps a prelude to a new chapter in Campbell’s professional life. Mindy Campbell thought she was texting the artist Craig Campbell. Now the two men with the same name are working together in a potentially confusing manner: Music journalists are receiving press releases about Craig Campbell the artist from the address of Craig Campbell the publicist.
Or, as the publicist likes to call himself, Campbell the O.G.
“I’m the new G,” Campbell the artist announces.
The arrangement accompanies a new chapter in the artist’s career. Following a stint at Broken Bow, he has relaunched as an independent artist on his own Grindstone label. He released his first single, “What a Girl Will Make You Do,” on Feb. 12, recalling the home-life theme of his 2010 debut, “Family Man.”
“When people hear this song, they will know me,” the artist says. “That had a lot to do with picking this song.”
For listeners within the business, they also have to know which Craig Campbell they’re addressing. It’s not exactly a new problem, though their current working relationship heightens the dynamic. In the mid-2000s, Campbell the new G. first found out about Campbell the O.G. while trying out for the USA Network show Nashville Star. Judge Tracy Gershon told the artist that a publicist was already working with the same moniker. The two were destined to collide as the new G. made a name for himself.
“As I started singing demos and making my rounds musically, that’s when the confusion started, because I think people were not distinguishing in their phones who was who,” the artist says. “So I’d get calls for him, he’d get calls for me. It was a lot of fun for a while.”
There was, for example, the time the new G. received press guidelines from a fellow artist.
“John Rich called me one time. He said, ‘Look, I will do an audio interview. I will not do a video interview,’ just right out of the gate,” remembers Campbell the artist. “I said, ‘Who do you think this is?’ He said, ‘Who is this?’ I said, ‘This is Craig the singer.’ He said, ‘Oh, all right. I’ll call you later.’ And hung up.”
Sometimes the singer has inadvertently received inside information.
“Somebody called me about an artist who had gotten arrested in the middle of the night,” he notes. “I still have the voicemail, basically saying, ‘We need to cut this off, you know. We need to nip this in the bud before it gets too far down the road, blah, blah, blah. Just wanted to give you the heads-up. When you wake up in the morning, you’re probably going to hear about it.’”
Along the way, the two Craig Campbells became friends, thanks in part to publisher Jimmy Metts, who lived next door to the publicist. When the artist became a regular on Lower Broadway, Metts talked the publicist into frequent visits to the club.
“I would go down to The Stage downtown with Jimmy and listen to Craig play,” the O.G. says. “He’d be on the piano or he’d be on guitar, just all over the place, and I thought he was just so cool. He was so entertaining. I was working at Sony [Music Nashville] at the time, and I tried to get A&R people to go down to The Stage and listen to him and never could get anyone to go down.”
Campbell the publicist has, however, been able to get press coverage for artists through the years, and that’s the main reason the Campbells are linked up now. Campbell Entertainment currently represents Tenille Arts, Gretchen Wilson and Skip Ewing, and his past associations include Patty Loveless, Dixie Chicks and Billy Ray Cyrus. Campbell the artist knew what he was getting.
“With this particular decision, I didn’t have to ask anybody,” the new G. says. “I knew that he was great.”
Since the artist doesn’t need tour press during the pandemic, he has hired the O.G. PR guy on an a la carte basis as he introduces new music into the marketplace. The music comes with a story: In addition to the full-circle return to family-man themes, the Grindstone imprint overlaps with another business Campbell the artist is establishing with Mindy — Grindstone Cowboy, a coffee shop in Eagleville, Tenn., that they hope will eventually become a chain.
The artist also hopes the Campbell/Campbell business relationship grows.
“I’d like to get to a point where I can put him on retainer, like it should be, ’cause I know [a publicist’s] value,” the artist says. “I’m glad to have him on the team at the moment.”
Part of being on the team in this case means being as transparent as possible to avoid confusion with media, particularly reporters who do not regularly cover country who may think they’re getting an email from the artist Craig Campbell as releases show up in their inbox. The Campbell Entertainment executive often signs his emails “Craig Campbell,” “Publicist” or “CC O.G.”
“I’ll have to be really careful when I do make those pitches and emphasize that I’m his publicist,” the O.G. says. “And that I’m not his dad.”
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