When talking with producer/musician Troy Campbell about the House of Songs, a sort of musical think tank that pairs local musicians with visiting artists from Sweden and other countries, the first thing you notice is that he is focused, intense, and earnest. He is beating the drum that is the heartbeat of the project, and to date nearly a thousand musicians have benefited from his efforts.
The House of Songs is located in a cozy South Austin home near downtown, and is purposefully designed to create comfort and camaraderie between artists of different cultures to stoke the creative fires as they co-write songs and play concerts together.
The House, brainchild of Campbell and financed by several musician’s unions, was started in 2009, and can boast songs charted by Austinites in foreign countries, including one penned by Austin’s own Aimee Bobruck that is among the top 20 in contention for the prestigious Eurovision contest, now in it’s 60th year.
Campbell, now in Lulea, Sweden filming “City of Songs,” a tv pilot about people who make instruments carved out of ice, relates “The goal here is to elevate the artists experience, put them in a little isolated place where everything’s taken care of. We need to get these Vikings and Pirates and Cowboys together and form something new. A lot of my favorite artists here in town are now touring in Europe and Canada and Asia, based on friendships and being open.”
AMFM: WHERE WILL THE HOUSE OF SONGS BE IN TWO YEARS OR FIVE YEARS?
TROY: We’ve already thought it out. We’ve actually reached a lot of those goals. What we think right now is that our artists need to be “of the world” so we’ve created a non-profit called Export Texas Creative that we’ll launch during SXSW 2015. The whole goal is to help artists of all disciplines in the state of Texas. to say, show their films in another country.
Initially we’ll put together some success stories. Other countries have export support for creative arts.
We do have different charities here, but I want to make sure that there is a database of all the information of the artists in Texas and anywhere in the world that is interested in the brand. I also want each artist to be more thoughtful about being a business person.
AMFM: HOW OFTEN DO THE ARTISTS ROTATE THROUGH THE HOUSE?
TROY: It can be non-stop, we try to take two or three days break in between. We re-set the house completely so that when you come here it’s your house.
For example, the artists that arrive today, they get picked up at the airport, they are greeted. They are never to feel like a tourist, we actually ask them not to bring guitars and use our guitars (Gibson is our sponsor). If they need a specific guitar we can recommend a local music shop. We have everything we need pianos, grand pianos, computers, bikes. Everything I would like if I was traveling and needed to create.
AMFM: WHAT IS MATT THE ELECTRICIAN’S ROLE IN THE HOUSE OF SONGS?
Matt is one of my favorite songwriters.
I knew a lot of artists, – and I was a filmmaker at the same time, and I thought if I only used the people I know, how is this going to break out of that cycle? So I was noticing different artists in town that worked the same way I do. If they liked music, they would champion it. They never felt threatened. Matt was one of those guys. He would have different artists open for him, and I’d see him write about them. Then I’d go check them out because I trusted his taste. – he didn’t just say something wildly. If they had real talent, he would get excited like I would.
I asked him to coffee, because I had a crazy idea. I sat down and before I even started he said “Yes” before I could even tell him what the idea was. I said “I haven’t told you!” and he replied “My wife just said to say yes.” The last two things you asked me about I didn’t do, and they turned out really cool.
I told him a little about the idea, and I was still forming it when I asked him, “Can you name me four artists that this (idea) could change their life or their perspective? Artists I haven’t met?
Matt said I could name you ten, maybe more. And that’s where we started. I brought in a few people, but Matt would bring in a Danny Malone.
They would come in, see this house, meet these artists, and it would blow their mind. Suddenly they would give of themselves, even if they didn’t co-write.
MATT: I’ve been involved in the House since the beginning, and over the years have done a lot of co-writing, but I’ve helped Troy by pitching ideas for new performers, younger performers. I just know a lot of people here.
TROY: Now he’s going to officially be the guy who matches up the artists. A lot of people would think that would be a little overwhelming, but Matt now has the opportunity to go check out more artists.
He’s been all over the world with the House, and we’ve been really grateful, because his records have charted some hits (overseas) and he’s made some serious bucks going over to these places. For me to see a friend grow, and watch it all unfold – that’s what I do.
My job is to be here and to be friendly, and excited. At the end of the day all you have is what you care about.
AMFM: ABOUT HOW MANY ARTISTS HAVE BEEN THROUGH THIS PROCESS WITH THE HOUSE OF SONGS?
TROY: Over the big picture, about 600 foreign artists. But if you look at how each of them interacts with our artists then it’s easily over a thousand. Also, we have easily a thousand songs that I know have been written here. We have some that are currently in contention for Eurovision and the Grammys.