Armed with confidence, brains and beauty, urban/R&B songstress Paula Campbell has a story to tell. Life gave the twenty-something student of the game lemons and she made a fierce pitcher of lemonade. Growing up in Baltimore, Maryland, Paulas home life was anything but stable, yet she continuously kept the faith and her debut CD, I Am Paula Campbell on Sony Urban Music/Epic Records expresses songs from the heart and soul of a real survivor.
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Nicknamed Sparkle Campbell by her neighborhood peers after the character Irene Cara portrayed in the 70s Joel Schumacher cult classic Sparkle, Paulas journey mirrors that girl with big dreams of singing, overcoming obstacles along the way. Ive always wanted to do it; Ive never had anyone push me to do it, its just my calling, she acknowledges. Having moved around to live with family friends throughout her adolescent and teenage years, Paulas surroundings could have easily negatively impacted her. They all sold drugs, got high or were generally hustling; all of them did something [connected to the streets], but none of them tried to influence me to go that route. Citing Stevie Wonder, Teena Marie and Sheena Easton as major musical influences, young Paula used to mimic their songs and it was their music and the music she began to create within, that ultimately saved her.
Before her major label signing, Paula Campbell had been pounding the pavement for several years to create opportunities for herself. From studying the LP credits of the latest artists and cold calling A&R executives, to taking label meetings to get signed, Paula was learning about the players behind the scenes. A mainstay throughout the Baltimore/Washington, D.C. region, Paula participated in talent competitions and new music showcases all across the states. Having penned the lyrics to her songs, Paula won Best Female Vocalist three years in a row at the Baltimore Superfest, in addition to having been one of the top 8 finalists of the Baltimore Idol competition. After independently releasing the single How Does It Feel, Paula found support from local radio station WERQ, where the song shot to number one for eight weeks. The buzz she generated led to the Lisa Lisa remake Take You Home and the release of her independent LP, Who Got Next, in 2004. It was also during this time that Paula connected with her manager Greg Baker, a former Sony promotions rep. Serving as the opening act for the likes of R&B heavyweights Al Green, Ann Nesby and Musiq Soulchild, Paula also held her own opening for hip-hoppers Kanye West, Bone Crusher and Chingy. Those early accolades continue to be reflected in Paulas music, revealing with a smile, youve got to have a hip hop feel because in Baltimore, were a little bit rough.
By late 2005, Baker was re-introducing Paula to the executives at Sony and the timing couldnt have been more perfect. She played her hometown hits for the executive team and the ink couldnt dry fast enough before she was whisked into the studio and the self-explanatory CD I Am Paula Campbell was being created. Co-executive produced by the production team who brought success to Musiq Soulchild, Carvin Ransum Haggins and Ivan Orthodox Barrias for Karma Productions, the star pupil got a chance to learn. There is a difference when you get with these people who already have done it and they know what theyre doing; you learn if you take the time out to listen. And listen is just what Paula did. Although Paula went from writing all of her own songs and sharing her experiences, to co-writing, she explains, even the songs that were brought to me that had already been written, told my story one way or another. I Am Paula Campbell is exactly that, every last song on the album is exactly who I am without taking out a line or switching it up. The way I am, take it how you want to take it, read in between the lines, it is me to a tee. Its all me.
Borrowing a little help from newcomers and label mates on a couple of cuts, Paula mixes her feminine energy and her keep it real attitude. On The New You produced by Dre & Vidal, Paula hammers out a duet with singer Noel, and Ray Ca$h spits a verse on the Carvin & Ivan produced Can You Hear Me Now. Producer and gospel artist Warryn Campbell lends a helping hand on the mid-tempo Thank You as Paula shouts out all the non-believers of her past. Nobody believed in me until my adult ages, she reminisces. The fact is that you can believe in yourself and you can be who you are, and people will begin to believe in you if you continue.
Carvin & Ivan also contributed the melodic Wont Love You Back, a tale of a woman who is caught up between wanting to share her love with a man who cant return the affection because of his calling to the streets. Shelter is a soulful ballad of heavy chords and bass that speaks to Paula opening her heart again after closing herself in to avoid hurt and pain, as she honestly acknowledges, I need to be able to let go, and I havent yet been able to reach that point.
Every woman will be able to relate to the anthemic Hit List, as producer Brian Kidd uses pulsating drums while Paula drives the point home in song and spoken word. In her past, she used to allow men to get under her skin to the point that she wanted to make them pay for what they did to her. We give our hearts to a man and he plays games. I had a couple of situations that lead me down that road.
Navigating through the passion and compassion of I Am Paula Campbell, Paula Campbell is very clear on her purpose. I came from nothing in terms of people believing in me. Nothing in terms of I didnt have a mother and father around. Nothing in terms of I lived without lights and I lived in a shelter. These are things Ive gone through and to come from that, I take the stand that, I dont know who made you, but God made me, and He made me big, He made me huge. On Change, The Labratz euphonic production allows Paula to tell a tale of faith that she possesses the power to change her situation. Drawing inspiration from her dearly departed loved ones her grandmother, Uncle Larry and best friend/boyfriend Chris the people who always told her she could be something, Paula concedes I was born for a reason and I believe that through my music and through who I am, it will make people see that, wow, I come from here and I dont have to stay here. No, you can change your life if you try.
Now serving as an inspiration of her own to her eight year old daughter Dominique, Paula notices the same qualities that she possessed throughout her life in her daughter. Shes not afraid to be herself, not afraid to speak up, she is fearless and she wants it all. These qualities are also what Paula Campbell wants her audience to learn from I Am Paula Campbell, an understanding of being able to be you and accept who you are without any pretenses. I Am Paula Campbell is timeless, it is classic, and I am someone who will always be around.
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