There is a significant amount of talent trying to make it big in the music industry. Having the ear and know-how to separate the good from the great in this business is what makes a successful music executive. Right from the moment Rob Stone first discovered L.A.-based, by way of Portland, artist Mcamp (real name Michael Campanelli), he knew he had something special. In an exclusive interview with EARMILK the two share insight on the varying perspectives of initial interactions between an iconic music executive and an aspiring singer-songwriter.
In his nearly 30 years in the music industry, Stone has put together quite the body of work; having worked with artists like Notorious B.I.G., Pharrell Williams, and Usher during his time at Arista Records in the '90s. Co-founding prominent music publication The Fader in 1999 provided Stone with a multimedia platform that has since morphed into a record label, a film studio, and its own TV outlet with original programming. In addition to running Fader, Stone also is the co-CEO of full-service marketing and creative agency Cornerstone. With this experience and industry know-how, any artist that catches his attention is certainly an artist to be on the lookout for.
"When I first met Mcamp in L.A., he was really comfortable in his skin," shares Stone. He wasn't trying to impress me or talk himself up but he was really genuine" Relating to his first in-person meeting with Campanelli and his mom at lunch near USC he continued, "He (Mcamp) was talking about past relationships with girlfriends and was open about everything, but that's just Mike." Stone quickly moved to get the young artist into a major studio session with legendary R&B producer Babyface, with whom Rob had previously worked with at Arista.
Understandably nervous at entering his first major studio with a revered industry legend, Mcamp says he shook off whatever nerves he carried within moments of Babyface handing him a guitar. "That was frickin' terrifying" he confesses, " I honestly don't remember playing or singing, I just remember picking up the guitar and putting it down." Describing the session as one of the coolest moments of his life, Campanelli was able to gain invaluable experience and savvy from the Grammy-winning producer as well as an extremely impressive co-sign.
Although the rise to stardom hasn't always been smooth sailing for Mcamp, he has come an incredibly long way in a relatively short time. Stone provided him with an expert analysis of the challenges of a competitive industry. "I told him early on, go to the (USC) campus center, break your guitar out, and just start singing. I promise you 95% of the people there aren't going to listen to you, but you're going to connect with one person or two people there, or hell even zero people there but you're going to learn so much about your music" he explains. "When you put yourself out there, you're gonna have to deal with rejection," he shares. "Most people don't realize that most successful people have been mostly unsuccessful. There's like one or two breakthroughs that make you successful."
These ruminations on success and failure are insightful and vital to the development of a young artist's career. "Working together with Rob has been ideal because he's seen it all, he knows what to look out for and he has my best interests at heart" Campanelli relates, "I lucked out because some guys (in the industry) might not be as honest in trying to help my career but Rob is like the nicest guy ever."
Mcamp's newest single "Sexy in the Morning" is another throwback Motown reminiscent gem for the laidback but prodigious singer-songwriter. "I came up with the idea at the beginning of quarantine" he remembers, "I made like three different beats for the song but none of them really worked for me. It wasn't until I moved to L.A. in the Fall and was quarantined with Covid that the song came together in my hotel room. The final inspiration checkmark for me was when I met my girlfriend, that finally gave me the real-life experience I needed to write the song" he explains.
"Sexy in the Morning" truly encompasses the sonic direction of the Oregon native, with Timberlake-esque crooning over bright, relaxing synth-work and upbeat, poppy drumbeats. Mcamp, as always, handles all the production himself after truly squeezing all the experience and growth he could out of the last 10 months of isolation. "It's been nice not having any distractions" Campanelli explains, " I spent all day every day working on music, producing, writing. 2020 was my most productive year ever because I had to make music to survive. If it wasn't for that, I don't know what else I would've done. I probably would've watched everything on Netflix" he laughs.
It's this type of interaction that really personifies what industry legends are beginning to take notice of in the young artist. Music is his soul, his work embodies him and it just seems to come effortlessly. "His potential is limitless to me" Stone muses, "I just want to give him all the tools and get out of his way and let him make music."
With all the tools and support at Campanelli's disposal, the sky truly seems to be the limit for the young superstar in the making. With an infectious personality that inevitably radiates from his music, Mcamp seems destined to be a household name while he follows (and simultaneously) breaks the mold of the modern R&B star.