Richie Campbell ADD

Interview with Richie Campbell

05/11/2015 by Gardy Stein

Interview with Richie Campbell

Just about 11 years this young man is now active in the Reggae biz, and already he counts among the most widely renowned European artists. His Youtube-Videos collect millions of clicks, in his native country Portugal he is a celebrity that easily fills huge concert halls and the ladies regularly go crazy when he cracks his sweet smile at them. We are talking about Ricardo Costa, who has taken on the artist name Richie Campbell in honour of his early idols Turbulence and Admiral T. During the last nine months, he has in all quiescence fabricated an album that came out as a secret release last Monday, entitled In The 876. Crafted by the skilled hands of Niko Browne (son of Mainstreet Records legend Danny Browne), this brilliant production is on its way to hit the streets and dances worldwide.

Of course, Reggaeville had to catch up with the hard-working singer who even sacrificed a Champions League Match to talk about his new album and "the 876".

One day after the album release, how are you feeling, how are things going?
Everything is perfect! It's 2 days into the album and the response has been crazy. We went number one on iTunes Portugal just two hours after the release, which is a great achievement. It's not even the Reggae Charts, it's the national charts, so... We're happy!

How did the idea to do a secret release come up?
Well, it's not something completely original, as you've probably seen other artists do it before. Kendrick Llamar did it, Dre did it, Beyoncé did it... I was reading an article in Fader Magazine talking about the death of release dates, basically saying that the problem with these release dates now is you tell people your album is coming out the next month. So people know the date, they are used to these things and then they just forget about the date and then when the album comes out there's not a lot of buzz about it because people knew about it so they will eventually check it out... But if you don't talk about it and just release it right away one time and just make sure that every media, personality and every newspaper tuned in to the same thing on the same day - we just started to realize that this surprise effect, that factor is much more important. It's proven very effective, because the mere fact that it's a surprise makes it more interesting to check out the album.

And how difficult was it to keep it secret with so many people involved?
Well, we just didn't think about it too much. We were like 'Let's just tell everyone to keep it a secret and trust that people will help us out.' And no one leaked any information, that was great!

You said that you had great reactions already in Portugal, what about the rest of the world?
We're getting some feedback of course, but this whole press work was done predominantly in Portugal because this is our main market. We wanted to serve Portugal first, so we can now focus on the international market. It's one country versus the world (laughs). Reggaeville is always one of our partners in whatever release we make, and Niko Browne is taking his part in Jamaica, Rodigan is giving us a little help too, so... I mean, we give thanks. This whole surprise thing was for Portugal and now we have time to work outside of Portugal. I'm not as relevant in other countries as I am in Portugal.

Oh but you are! Speaking about Jamaica, you chose the title "In the 876" which is the area code of Jamaica. Is it a common slang term of referring to the island?
That's what I realized, yes. In Portugal we have 351 but nobody even mentions 351 ever... But 876 is more... I don't know, it's like you see it everywhere. Like, people will have an instagram account that says XXX876 or Newspapers will say 876, websites too... And I started to realize that instead of naming the album "In Jamaica", it would be much more interesting if we'd give it a little twist to make it look better. And it's also something interesting to talk about when people in Portugal ask me why is the album called that way.

Yeah, I guess a lot of people there might not know.
They have no idea! (laughs) Which makes it interesting again, because they are curious about it.

How long have you been there to work on the album?
Actually, Niko Browne came to Portugal for a month in October and we were doing the pre-production, talking about the album, sketching out how we want to do it and thing... And then I went to Jamaica for the whole of December and I came back for Christmas and went back for the whole of January. It was basically two months working non-stop in the studio. The worst trip to Jamaica I've ever done because I was stuck in the studio all the time! I didn't get to go out. All I got to do was to go to Gloria's to have some steamed fish and go to Hellshire beach to have some fried fish but… it was as if I wasn't even in Jamaica!

So you haven't been there for the Reggae Month?
Oh, I've been there last year... actually I think that whenever I go, I go there for the Reggae Month. I performed at the Bob Marley Celebration at Emancipation Park, that was during the Reggae Month of last year.

When will you go back, will you make some promotion for the album in Jamaica as well?
It all depends on our schedule on this side. We want to do a lot of promotion here in Portugal, so... we have a lot of shows in summer already, in Portugal and outside as well, but I am hoping to have some time around October and November to go back to Jamaica and push the album while it is still fresh.

I'm looking forward to see you on Reggaejam! Playing for the German Massive...
I'm feeling at home already in Germany, that's the place I've been to the most performing. Last time was unfortunate because I was there at SummerJam the day after or two days after Germany beat Portugal in the World Cup. I wasn't very happy about it...

Let's come back to the tracks on the album. The instrumentals, have they been recorded by the 911 Band?
Yes, most of them, under the direction of Niko Browne of course. We had some of the best Jamaican musicians to back them up, though. We have Dean Fraser on it, Lee, another guy that works with Sherita and he's just crazy too. We have Hector from Zinc Fence recording some percussions, and Shaggy's guitar player. I mean, my band did the basics and Niko just went in and had them do the overdubs and made everything just sound perfect!

You managed to get Sherita as well. I was told she is the most requested background singer in Jamaica right now!
I was told the same thing, that's why I said let's get her! I mean, as I said, Niko was very important in all these relationships, because obviously I don't know as many people as he does in Jamaica. So, he made sure that we only worked with the best.

And that is true for the features as well. Was that Niko's contacts again or your own?
When we went in to write the album, we didn't really plan on which collaborations we were going to have. We just decided to write the songs, record the songs and then see... we wanted to have collaborations, but we wanted to listen to the songs first to see who fits where. So, Jesse, I knew him already, and we met him the first day over in Jamaica, and we've been talking about him for that song in particular. He was thrilled about it, so it was fun. And Sasco, it was the same situation. We heard the song and thought 'Assassin a go kill dis one!' And Niko has a great connection with Sasco, so he came to the studio and was thrilled about the song himself, so he immediately wanted to do something and just record it. And then it was Toian, because we needed a girl. I wrote the chorus, but we needed a girl to sing it and Niko suggested Toian as well. Niko was very important in the connection between me and these artists.

And Sara Tavares?
She is my favourite Portuguese artist. I always wanted to do something with her, but her genre of music is very different from Reggae, it's world music. If you search it out, you'll see that she has some amazing music. So when we recorded that song, it sounded like something that she would do. And when I showed it to Niko he was like 'Wow, we have to get her on the album!'. And I think she killed it. I mean, you might not be able to understand what she's saying, but she killed it.

How did the idea of the voice messages come up?
Well, I always wanted an album to have interludes or something interesting apart from music, apart from just songs, tracks. I didn't know exactly what. But then... during the process, me, Niko, Ben and Jesse, we've been talking through WhatsApp, so we had millions of messages that we've sent to each other during that time. So we went back to our conversations and went through them and we just found a couple of them... some of them we had to record again because of the quality, but it was basically the idea to put in the voice messages that we exchanged during the production of the album. I was very happy with it.

And which songs will we see on video?
One of them will drop tomorrow - Feel Amazing [CLICK HERE TO WATCH!]. We shot it in Kingston already. And then one of them is planned, but I can't really tell you yet. I prefer to wait on the people's reaction and see which song people like the most, because I'll spend my time on the song that people like, you know.

Was the cover picture shot in Jamaica as well?
Of course! Actually it was shot in the set of Feel Amazing! You know Paint Jamaica? The Life Yard? That's where we shot Feel Amazing, they have all these murals there... And that's where we shot the cover picture too. We just set up the Soundsystem, we had people dress up like the 70ies and so on... the vibe while we were shooting that, I think it comes across!

Yeah, I like the guy in the front left...
I'm going to leak a video of when he came out, because everybody was just dropping on the floor when he came. But that's Jamaica, people and their styles...

Apart from this album, what other projects do you have? I read about a documentary you wanted to do the last time you went to Jamaica.
No, actually that documentary never came into fruition completely. We ended up using some of the material for a news piece on TV in Portugal, so we did use them, but it was in Portuguese so we never really promoted it so big which was unfortunate. We ended up having so much other things to do, but we still have those images and some day we will definitely go through them again and join them with something else. I always wanted to do something like that!

What about the plan to do an album of cover songs of Alton Ellis and Dennis Brown and stuff, is that something you will still pursue or are you too busy right now?
Actually, that's one of the projects I've been working on for the longest. You see, I have some tracks already recorded, but I really want to get the right production and the right collection of songs... There are so many artists that I really love and respect to an extent that I will not release anything if I don't feel like it fulfils my expectations. Alton Ellis, Dennis Brown, Garnett Silk, all these artists, I always wanted to sing some of their songs... and I do, sometimes. But that project will only come out when it's a 100% perfect!

Is there any artist that you would like to work with or record a song with in the future?
Well, I would like to work with a lot of artists... but my choice for collaborations or whatever stems more from personal relationships than music, because I can like your music but if I meet you and there is no vibe, I will not force a collaboration just for the sake of having you or feeding off of your reputation or something, you understand? So, all these artists... I would work with Jesse every day of the week, because he's just that type of person. Making music with him is so much fun. He's somebody that appreciates music as much as I do, so I would definitely work with him all over again. Sasco the same thing. Gentleman, I'm looking to work with Gentleman and I will soon, because he taught me a lot and he is a great inspiration for me as well.

And besides the music, what do you do in your free time, when you are not in the studio?
There is no free time! All I do is studio and work and play Fifa on the PS4... that's all I do (laughs). If you want to be up there with the greats, then now is the time to work. That's basically all I do, and my free time is spent on studying other artists or going to shows or going to dances or reading a lot about stuff that will enrich me personally so I have more stuff to write about... So everything I do, I do it from a perspective of bettering myself as a person which will in turn make me a better artist, too.

I think you are on a good way, because in Portugal you are so big... I was shocked by the masses of people seen on your live DVD. I think the position you have in Portugal is a privilege. German Reggae artists don't get that, except Gentleman maybe.
I was asked about that the other day because, as you can imagine, as the mainstream artist that I am in Portugal, every time I go to an interview people ask me 'Why Reggae?' and this and that... Even today I am surprised that I achieved this amount, this status in Portugal. I say how much the world would be a better place if every country had a mainstream Reggae artist! Because instead of gangster HipHop or Pop singers or whatever, sometimes they just sing, it's just music. For me it's such a great joy to realize that I live in a country where I get to be counted among the top artists and I get so sing real music, message music, you know... it's crazy.

And it's just the beginning! We are looking forward to hear more of you in the future. Thanks so much for your time! Is there anything else you want to say?
If you know me already: Whaa gwaan? If you don't know me, go get the album! I'm very proud of that album. I mean, it's just real Reggae music again and we naa sell out fi anyting and we went in and put the best effort we could. All in all it's a good Reggae album and a positive message, so, people, just listen to it and have fun and I hope to see you in whichever country you de!