On May 6, Craig Campbell performed at the Grand Ole Opry and shared excitement with the audience that his single, “Keep Them Kisses Comin’,” was No. 11 on the Country Airplay chart and poised to become his first top 10 hit. Two days later news broke that Campbell’s label home since 2009, Bigger Picture Group, had laid off most of its staff and was seeking new financing. It was essentially shuttering.
But instead of resigning to defeat, Campbell is digging in, determined to keep the momentum rolling on the highest-charting song of his career. And with him, the label’s former promotion staff and other ex-employees from the company’s marketing and management arms are continuing to work the single right alongside him, even without paychecks.
In a statement issued May 12, they called it “the right thing to do.” It’s an inspiring move in an industry better known for quickly moving onto the next big thing. Campbell says former Bigger Picture VP of Promotion Matt Corbin told him, “We owe it to ourselves and you to get this song at least top five.”
Equally inspiring is the fact that country radio appears to be rallying behind Campbell, too. The single remained bulleted at No. 11 on the May 12 chart, and Campbell says he has gotten messages of support from many friends in radio. Among them is Clear Channel EVP/GM, National Programming Platforms Clay Hunnicutt, who forwarded to Campbell a message he’d sent to all of the country stations in his group. Paraphrasing Hunnicutt’s email, Campbell says the radio executive told his programmers, “Just because this happened to Bigger Picture, we can’t leave Craig out there to dry. This is a hit song. It’s testing, so don’t take it off your playlist.”
When he got the news about the label’s shutdown, Campbell says he felt more frustrated than sad, given how well the single had been doing. But he also admits, “The idea of losing that momentum was kind of scary."
He’s been in the label’s Berry Hill office at the beginning of the week of May 5 and picked up on “a funk in the air that I couldn’t put my finger on. I knew we had some money issues, I just didn’t know it was this bad,” says Campbell.
He’d been discussing purchasing some new lights for his shows with with label president Michael Powers, so when Powers called Campbell to personally share the label’s bad news, the label head broke it to the artist with some gentle humor by telling him to consider the lights a parting gift, as Campbell recalls the conversation.
Campbell says one of his first thoughts was one of accomplishment: “'Wow, we’ve done a lot of things over the past four years that a lot of people didn’t think we could do. It’s just ironic that we’re [finally] on the edge of our huge song when this happened.' ”
But he has maintained not just a positive attitude, but also a fighting spirit about both the single, and whatever is next for his career. Campbell wants radio to know “this is a minor speed bump, I’m still here and I’m still working harder then I’ve ever worked ... I’m giving it all I’ve got for sure.” And he’s extremely grateful the label's former staff is doing the same, despite the circumstances.
“Four-and-a-half years of my life with Bigger Picture has been absolutely amazing,” says Campbell. “Michael Powers, he’s the one that basically found me and signed me. He’s responsible for a lot of my dreams coming true, so I will always have a special place for them in my heart. But I’m not slowing down at all ... Me and my lawyer and a couple of other folks are diligently in pursuit of finding a new home and finding someone to pick this song up and run it into the end zone.”
As for life after Bigger Picture, Campbell says he’s excited to see what’s next for him, “Good things are coming my way. I’m very confident I’m going to end up at a really good spot,” he says. “We have really good momentum. My social media stuff is just skyrocketing, and we already have some interest from some folks. We’ve just got to figure out the next step.”