As a sophomore in college, I have only begun to grasp the idea of how many doors of opportunities are just waiting to be opened. Needing to get involved with at least one organization on campus, I recently took it upon myself to get involved with a university-affiliated campus newspaper in the arts and entertainment section for, you guessed it, music.
Browsing through my emails one night, I stumbled upon a message from my editor informing the staff writers of upcoming pitches and story ideas. One pitch stood out from the rest: a feature on a local solo musician who happened to be a student at the same college I was attending. In my moment of brief excitement and toying with the idea that this could be my foot in the door at the paper, I contacted the artist, set up an appropriate time for an interview and even began doing my artist homework. Unfortunately, things fell through and I could not write the story for the paper.
I couldn’t let this missed chance go to waste and I came up with a solution: write it for all of you Earmilk readers.
Without any more delay, it is my pleasure to introduce to you all to Ross Campbell, the 20-year-old, Gainesville-based solo artist and the brains behind the ambient and experimental Silver Wren.
Conceiving the solo project earlier this year, Campbell released three EPs over the course of six months. Windows In The Wreath, Campbell’s most recent release, is a collection of polished songs taken from his two previous EPs. Garnering praise from several music sites for his singles, “Estranger” and “Crystalline,” Campbell is just only getting started.
After exchanging several emails over course of several days, I caught up with Campbell for dinner in downtown Gainesville. Soft spoken and not afraid to share his thoughts, Campbell gives Earmilk an opportunity to learn the history of the young musician as well as his future endeavors including details on the release of his official debut album.
EARMILK: You’re from Tampa right?
Ross Campbell: Yeah, that’s right; born and raised in Tampa, Fla.
EARMILK: How did you initially get into music?
RC: The music scene there, I guess, is indie rock. The bar scene is really big for music. When I first started playing music, I actually played for a hip-hop group called Anonymous playing electric guitar. I had a lot of fun doing that. After that, I played bass for a funk-metal band called Suggestion. After I graduated from high school, I said I wanted to start recording. I had some graduation money and I decided to buy some basic recording equipment.
EARMILK: How did you come up with the “Silver Wren” as your name?
RC: I’ve always had a fascination with silver; it’s my favorite color. Silver is also known to have healing properties. To me, there is something pure and mystical about silver. Wrens are notorious for being inconspicuous. While imitating other birds, they are known to be experimental with their songs.
EARMILK: When did you start Silver Wren?
RC: I started Silver Wren back in March when I came back from studying abroad in Japan. I was actually supposed to stay there until May, but when the tsunamis occurred, I was forced to leave. I was back at my home in Tampa for three months after that with nothing to do. So, I decided to start recording and make a music project and that’s where Silver Wren was created.
EARMILK: Has being in Japan influenced your music?
RC: Yeah I definitely think so. Being there made me hungrier to experience new things and funnel those experiences into my own music. Living in Florida for a good portion of my life, I realized that there is so much out there and I really want to learn more. Japan was a catalyst to really motivate me to grow up.
EARMILK: With the equipment at your disposal, what was the process of recording your early work?
RC: I would start by recording acoustic guitar, sing to it, then a wave of obsessive compulsive would flow over me and I would be like,”I need to add all this other stuff.” My earlier recordings were really hectic and I’ve really been trying to hone it down for Silver Wren so I can write acoustic/folk songs with experimental aspects.
EARMILK: Do you record a variety of different instruments in your songs?
RC: It depends on the song. I may use the acoustic guitar for one song, then use effects, and then just take it from there. The most instruments I use would be whatever I have at hand. I play a number of different instruments on top of guitar including oud, banjo, piano and I’m currently working with synth. For percussion, I tap on my guitar or I tap on my desk and then I use pulse modifiers to mess with the sound.
EARMILK: What influences do you draw from when writing your music?
RC: Most of the lyrics for Windows In The Wreath were from daydreams I usually had. For “Crystalline,” I wrote about people-watching. Seeing so many interesting people around me, I feel like I could share experiences with them. There is this barrier, however, that holds everyone from each other that we all can’t get past; almost like everyone is crystallizing themselves. Like that song, I write about day-to-day observations that are easily relateable.
EARMILK: How do you feel about other artists remixing “Crystalline”?
RC: I think it’s fascinating. Expensive Looks remixed the song and it was interesting to see how he completely changed the mood of the entire song. I really appreciate remixes.
EARMILK: Who are you influenced by when you’re writing your music?
RC: Sufjan Stevens has influenced my writing, but Animal Collective‘s soundscapes has really influenced my music.
EARMILK: Since March, you’ve released three EPs so far, correct?
RC: Yes, that’s right. The first two were pretty much two to three song “mini” EPs while Windows In The Wreath was an EP taking songs from the other two and putting it all together.
EARMILK: How has the reaction been from your listeners and fans since the release of Windows In The Wreath?
RC: Most people describe it as a “trip.” A lot of different textures, almost all my growing pains, were put into the EP. “Estranger” has the distorted percussions while “Windows In The Wreath” is a lot warmer. When people listen to Windows In the Wreath, they tell me it’s really easy to see my progression as a person from March up until now.
EARMILK: Since formation of the project, have you performed for a large crowd yet?
RC: No, I usually just play around my friends and the songs I wrote for Windows In The Wreath are very difficult to play live. After I record my full release, the songs on the album will be much easier to play on a live set. I want to start playing shows in Gainesville at the start of January.
EARMILK: When are you planning on releasing your full debut?
RC: I’m looking at late December. I’m almost done recording. I’m currently mixing it and I’m deciding how I want it to sound. I’m thinking about self-titling the album because I feel that I am much more in synch with these songs. There will also be nine songs on this LP and fans will be able to download it from my Bandcamp for free.
EARMILK: How was the recording process for Silver Wren?
RC: I started recording following the release of Windows In The Wreath and all the songs came in as surge. Much like the changing weather. I want to write an album that reflects on the feeling of ending summer and the beginning of the fall.