Portuguese reggae star Richie Campbell sets his sights on breaking onto the international scene.
Richie Campbell releases his third album ‘In the 876’ this August, the name is taken from the telephone area code of Jamaica. Anticipation for the album is growing in reggae circles, with UK DJ ‘Sir’ David Rodigan giving tracks significant airplay. Reggae Roots Review caught up with Richie to find out more about the album, the reggae scene in Portugal and what influenced the album.
Portugal is not particularly noted for its reggae but listening to Jamaican sounds in the family home helped shape the young Richie’s tastes. ‘The main reason why I got into reggae was my mother’s influence growing up,’ he says. ‘Being English and having lived in the UK during Bob Marley’s prime, she became a big reggae fan so there was always some Bob, Dennis Brown or Alton Ellis playing at home when I was a kid. So even though I listened to a lot of different music growing up in Portugal, when I started singing there was really no doubt about what genre I was going for.’
The influence of these strong vocalists runs through the album and for more modern artists Richie cites Sizzla’s Da Real Live Thing, Protoje’s The 8 Year Affair and Jah Cure’s Freedom Blues as three albums he couldn’t live without.
As well as the strong song writing it’s the vocals you remember from the album and tracks like ‘Man Don’t Cry’ and ‘Standing Firm’ show off Richie’s powerful voice. You can hear the vocal lineage running through the album, from the 70s toasters to the Dancehall kings of the 90s. But Richie does also have a soulful side and tracks like ‘Give It All Away’ feature some sensitive lyrics and show that Richie has a strong sense of respect and moral maturity. He tells me that Luther Vandross, Donny Hathaway and Stevie Wonder have influenced his singing and you can certainly hear that.
The main theme of this album is positivity and making the most of life. On first listen you are hit by the upbeat summer feel to the music, stand out track ‘I Feel Amazing’ with its positive lyrics, bouncing rhythm and never give up attitude certainly sets the scene for the record. It reminds me of crossover reggae hit ‘Shine’ by Aswad and it will no doubt be a hit as well.
This summer feel sounds like it reflects Portugal’s attitude to reggae. ‘The reggae scene in Portugal is strange, and very seasonal. During the winter you have a few small dances for around 300/500 people but in the summertime you see a lot of Reggae artists everywhere. I think it has a lot to do with our weather and that surf culture that seems to be associated with Reggae – similar to what happens in California.’
The album sounds very musically ‘tight’ – you can tell that this is a band that is used to playing together. This is typified by ‘Best Friend’, with its confident feel and slick production – definitely another hit single in the making.
Gigging is obviously a very important part of Richie’s career and he recently played some shows in England. ‘Yeah that was like a dream come true because I have a special place in my heart for England, half of my family lives there so they got to see me perform for the first time. We played the Secret Garden Party, The Garage in London and Kendal Calling. It was a great feeling also to see that we connect with the English audience the same way as we do with the Portuguese crowd, we’re planning on coming back again soon and focusing on promoting my music over there because I have a good feeling about the UK!’
Richie has had great success over the years in Portugal, his previous album ‘Focused’ spent six weeks at number one in the Portuguese charts. But what are his expectations for ‘In the 876’, does he see this as his international ‘break-out’ record? ‘That is definitely the plan for this album, we started focusing on performing outside of Portugal which is hard because we usually have the summer fully booked, so we have to make some sacrifices and save some dates to tour internationally because that is our main focus now, and we’ve been seeing some great signs of our working paying off and reaching a broader audience,’ he says.
So what about the future? Are there any plans to delve into deeper heavier reggae sounds, maybe 876 in Dub? ‘I love every style of Jamaican music so I will always be open to experimenting with different sounds, it’s just a matter of finding the right person and vibe. I don’t really plan a lot of these things, I much rather let it happen organically. If I meet someone and the vibe is right and they happen to be into Dub then, it’s on!’
That would be well worth a listen if it ever came to fruition and it will certainly be interesting to see how Richie follows up this cracker. But in the meantime grab a copy of ‘In the 876’, it’s the perfect summer accompaniment!
I love Richie’s positive attitude and uplifting tunes, what do you think? Let me know in the comments.