Songwriting camp — a gift you give yourself: Q&A with Kate Campbell

Kate Campbell is the daughter of a Baptist preacher from Sledge, Mississippi, but since making her recording debut in 1995 with the heart-rendingSongs From The Levee, singer/songwriter Kate Campbell has been known for a body of work sustained over 13 albums. She has played the prestigious Cambridge Folk Festival (England), Merlefest, Philadelphia Folk Festival, and Port Fairy Folk Festival (Australia), She’s also been featured on National Public Radio’s Morning Edition, All Things Considered, and Live From Mountain Stage.

Kate is also known for her work teaching songwriting at camps and retreats around the US and we’re thrilled to have her back at SummerSongs this year from August 1-7! Here’s what she had to say about her classes and the power of songwriting camp:

Q: What can people expect from your class “Just One Song“? 

A: Through the years, I’ve heard from a lot of people who say they would love to be able to go home after camp with just one finished song under their belt. Then there are those who say they’ve been working on the same song for 25 years and I say, it’s time to write something new!! I do concentrate a lot on the lyrics, though I can help with all aspects of the songwriting process, but this class is for those who would love to have one completed song after the weekend or week is over — it might not be the perfect song, but they’ve got verses, a chorus, maybe a bridge and the feeling that “I got this done.”  You know, it’s a cool feeling to have some closure when it comes to an artistic endeavor, so I’m hoping this class will help some people have that sense of closure with at least one song.

Q: What about your other offering, which you call “Fixing and Finishing“?

A: This class is more specific, sometimes the devil is in the details when it comes to songwriting. Folks might have a song, or a good bit of a song, but they’re not quite happy with it. It doesn’t feel finished. Maybe they’re not getting the response they want when they sing it at a show or an open mike, or the feedback they’ve gotten at a workshop isn’t what they hoped for. On the other hand, there might be a lot of things they like about the song — maybe they like the title, there are verses they like, but something isn’t right. There’s something missing, like a piece of furniture a builder has made that just isn’t right. Sometimes it’s a really tiny fix, like the song didn’t need so many verses, or the chorus had to be tweaked. But it’s a class that helps you take a look at the song and get you where you want it. If you’re having trouble getting to the finish line with your song, this class is for you.

Q: What is so great about attending a songwriting retreat or camp, in your opinion?

A: First of all, you’re giving yourself permission to work on your songwriting and have a good time. Second, you’re with other people who are hanging out talking about music. We’re all kind of caught up in it, which is great. Also, I’ve been teaching at camps and retreats for a long time and it’s so exciting to get to the end of the week and sure, some weeks aren’t perfect for everyone, but there’s something so terrific about someone who gets up and sings a song that they wrote for the first time. It’s like a gift you’ve given to yourself. And the environment spurs that on. I always go away with stuff I haven’t imagined, sometimes it’s surprisingly tiny but you just end up in a different space somehow because you came to camp.

SummerSongs , founded by singer-songwriter Penny Nichols in 1999, offers seasonal songwriting camps (summer and winter) for adults on both the East and West coasts of the United States. The songwriting camps take place in the Catskill Mountains of New York and on the beautiful California Central Coast, overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Both locations are perfect havens for songwriting and creative inspiration. 

Join SummerSongs East from August 1-7, come for the weekend or all week! 

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