Friday, February 23, 2018

Dominique Campbell

Marching to the beat of her own music


Dominique Campbell. Photo Ayanna Kinsdale

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As I walked into the air-conditioned comfort of the Exit Marketing studio, 17-year-old Dominique Campbell swung her chair around to greet me as her father sat nearby.

Her manager, Geddes King, explained that Campbell was in the process of changing some of the music in one of her songs because "it didn't sound right". No one in the room could pinpoint the 'error' but apparently, that was Campbell; very much the perfectionist. Her drive, attention to detail and focus belie her age.

As her father left, her mother arrived and everyone formed 'Team Dominique' with the make-up artist, Nakesha, applying her make-up while I polished her nails and her mother decided on a hairstyle. A self-confessed tomboy, Campbell sat patiently as she was primped and preened, being the epitome of a confident yet humble young lady.

Settling into the formal interview after the photo shoot, Campbell said. "I've been involved in track and field for most of my life. I played competitive football and was even on the national team."

Asked whether she prefers sports or music, she replied, "I let things flow because music never leaves. I'm always writing, producing or recording a song. Most of it is naturally developed but I took some classes to help with my breathing while singing and that helped a lot. It sort of gives you a foundation."

"I got into music out of curiosity. I went online looking for Trini producers and was led to Exit Marketing and they were looking for new artistes. I wanted a taste of how to record music and get accustomed to the studio. Recording is not like signing in the bathroom; you have to think about your range, clarity and projection. You have to do the groundwork."

Referring to her manager, she said, "Geddes would make me do drills to see where I could improve but he makes me feel comfortable and I'm glad that he's given me this opportunity."

Campbell represents a new type of triple threat as she does sing but also writes and produces her own music. "If you see me staring into space, it's music. I play the drums and guitar, as well as the piano but not formally. I play by ear and somehow I learn to play what I create."

Listening to some of Campbell's tracks, her voice effortlessly changes from folksy to pop to deeply 'haunting'. At times she can sound like Rihanna and I asked her how she felt about that alignment. "It's nice to be compared to such a successful artiste but I don't really like being compared like that." Continuing, she said, "Some artistes are packaged and put out there. I consider myself an individual artistically and I don't mind taking advice to guide me and help my appeal but I'm not prepared to show something that I'm not."

Asked about being faced with a situation where foreign managers might want her to dress differently from her usual style, she said, "Whatever they'd want to me to wear should represent me correctly, nothing too sexy."

Her favourite artistes include Adele, Justin Bieber, Tracy Chapman and Alicia Keys. I love Beyonce for her performances; she puts on an epic show. She is good entertainment but I don't fit there; her style isn't me."

A student at the Upper Six level, Campbell's music is a fusion of different genres and influences but sounds uniquely her own. She does not sound the same on every track which is commendable for a new artiste.

She recently released a single titled, "Take Me Back" and the music on this track is what I'd describe as 'happily haunting'. "I love different genres and I like songs with some kind of depth mostly but I also do songs about partying and having fun. I focus on emotions and my voice speaks to the mood of the song." She will release her second single, "Can You Feel The Beat" within the coming weeks.

The experience continues with the support of many. "I didn't expect my mother to be so supportive because she's traditional in the academic sense. Even though at first she was hesitant, when she realised how serious I was, she thought I should give it a chance."

Her mother interjected, "I've noticed her persistence and I was cautious but really impressed that she had sought a producer on her own so it was just about the next step. I need to give her that unconditional support. I am very, very proud of her. Her passion gives me hope in young people."

King also sang her praises. "Dominique is talented in so many ways and I know she'll go far. She is so focused and dedicated, especially for someone her age. She's always thinking about what she can do to improve a song or advance her career. I am very proud of her."

Campbell intends to further her studies, hopefully on a football scholarship. Balancing school work with a music career is something that simply has to be done. "Right now I do my homework before classes and I am at the studio on a Sunday sometimes. I would usually spend about four hours at a time at least four days a week. It really is a commitment.

"Aspiring artistes have to understand it's a long process before you go 'up there'. There's a development process.

"I want to touch people with what I create. At one point, Michael Jackson, Elvis and Bob Marley were unknown but they made their own paths and left their mark. If you spend time on your goals, why would you fail? This is just the beginning."

Although Campbell says that she's not a fashionista, she does have a desire to start her own fashion line, so much so that she has already designed her logo.

Campbell proves that hard work and determination will never go out of style.